ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
Regulatory and Distribution Law Updates for the Alcohol Industry
ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
Regulatory and Distribution Law Updates for the Alcohol Industry
Federal Alcohol Administration Act
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Avoiding Misleading Labeling

Current conventional wisdom in the craft beer business holds that being local helps sell more beer. This has led many brewers to emphasize their local roots on their labels and in their marketing efforts. In some ways, the trend has a “back to the future” feel, as labels and marketing materials once again feature place names that often became the brand names for many of the first generation of craft brewers in the 1980s. But the emphasis on place can come with a price: the prospect of legal hurdles, including lawsuits, over allegations that a brand name, label, or advertisement misrepresents the beer’s place of production. Legally this subject usually goes by the name “geographic misdescription,” itself a subset of false advertising law. How can brewers minimize their chances of becoming the target of a lawsuit or government investigation alleging that a beer’s labeling or marketing deceived consumers? Read the full article, originally published in the...

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Tied House Laws and Category Management: A Continuing Quandary

On March 16, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published a list of frequently asked questions expanding further on a ruling issued in February on application of the federal "tied house law" to industry promotional activities, specifically category management practices employed by retailers. TTB claims that a formal rulemaking to revise its tied house regulations is not necessary: "TTB Ruling 2016-1 merely provides guidance as to the plain meaning of the existing regulation under 27 CFR 6.99(b). It does not change TTB’s longstanding position, nor does it change the meaning of the plain language of this regulatory exception." So let's look at the plain language: The act by an industry member [supplier or wholesaler] of providing a recommended shelf plan or shelf schematic for distilled spirits, wine, or malt beverages does not constitute a means to induce within the meaning of section 105(b)(3) of the [Federal Alcohol Administration...

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Recent Revisions to Internal Revenue Code Affecting Alcohol Beverages

In December 2015, President Obama signed into law the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act).  The PATH Act amends several provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (IRC) administered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).  Those amendments relate to alcohol excise tax due dates and bond requirements, the definition of wine eligible for treatment as “hard cider” for tax purposes, and cover over of rum excise taxes imported from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  In January 2016, TTB issued an announcement concerning the IRC amendments. Starting with the first calendar quarter of 2017, taxpayers who anticipate being liable for no more than $1,000 in alcohol excise taxes (for sales of distilled spirits, beer and wine) for the calendar year, and who were not liable for more than $1,000 in such excise taxes the prior year, may make excise tax payments annually (rather than the current quarterly payment requirement). ...

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Labeling and Advertising Gluten-Free Beer

In the past decade, millions of Americans have converted to gluten-free diets. Originally a practice dictated solely by the medical needs of those who suffer from celiac disease, gluten-free has entered the mainstream. This article will explore the evolving and somewhat uncertain status of labeling and advertising beer as “gluten-free.” Read the full article, originally published in the July/August 2015 issue of The New Brewer.

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False Advertising Claims

Industry members should take note of several false advertising lawsuits against brewers and distillers. Several industry members are grappling with class action lawsuits, including at least three craft distillers. Compared to national ad campaigns from larger competitors, most small producer advertising is limited. But do not make the mistake of believing that modest advertising efforts eliminate the risk of enforcement actions or other liability. Thousands of industry websites and social media pages make tens of thousands of advertising claims. As companies achieve success, its brands gain visibility and the company will draw more scrutiny from class action plaintiffs’ lawyers, competitors and regulatory bodies. Read the full article, originally published in the May/June 2015 issue of The New Brewer.

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Tied-House Basics for Distillers

Tied-house laws and related trade practice restrictions rank among the most baffling legal issues faced by a newcomer to the spirits industry.  While issues like distribution contracts, labeling requirements, trademarks and taxes all have parallels in other businesses, tied-house laws have few analogs outside the drinks industry. This article, originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of Artisan Spirit, aims to provide a very general overview of these laws so a newcomer can at least spot potential issues.

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Hard Cider for Brewers

Hard cider has shown phenomenal growth in the past several years.  With rising consumer demand, more and more craft brewers are entering this rapidly expanding market. Although hard cider is typically distributed and mar­keted like a beer product, the federal gov­ernment and most states actually tax and regulate cider as a type of wine.  Brewers contemplating the production of cider ac­cordingly must carefully consider the legal issues surrounding cider production and distribution that distinguish cider from beer.  This article outlines some of the most important (though certainly not all) of these issues. This article was originally published in the May/June 2014 issue of The New Brewer.

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New TTB FAQs on Sugar Claims

On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) released new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning sugar claims made on labels and in advertising.  The FAQs articulate, for the first time, a clear TTB policy on the subject and apply to all malt beverages (e.g., beer), wines and distilled spirits subject to TTB’s Federal Alcohol Administration Act jurisdiction. The FAQs are notable in three primary respects: TTB will permit truthful and non-misleading sugar claims, provided that they are adequately supported by testing. TTB will consider a sugar claim the same as a carbohydrate claim and, thus, labels and advertisements making such claims must include a statement of average analysis in accordance with TTB Rulings 2004-1 and 2013-2. TTB will permit products containing less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving to make the claims “zero sugar,” “no sugar” or “sugar free.” The new policy does not apply to certain terms applied to...

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TTB Ruling on Voluntary Serving Fact Labeling

On May 28, 2013, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published a new Industry Circular, Number 2013-2, that authorizes voluntary "serving facts" labeling on alcohol beverages regulated by TTB under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (i.e., it does not apply to wine below 7 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) or beers made without malted barley or hops). The most relevant points: Everything discussed in Industry Circular 2013-2 concerns voluntary labeling statements.  It mandates no new labeling disclosures. The serving facts statement mostly contains the same information contained in the "statement of average analysis" required for "light" and similar products. TTB gives producers and importers the option of adding a statement showing the amount of pure alcohol per serving or per container of a product (e.g., 0.6 fl. oz. of alcohol per serving), accompanied by alcohol content (ABV) information. The serving facts can be displayed in a panel (FDA...

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