Craft Brewers vs. The Big Breweries: A Label Battle Brewing?

Are you aware of the label disclosure controversy?

Large breweries are planning to disclose ingredients, calorie counts, and other consumer-friendly information about their beers, but some craft breweries want to make the move more slowly, like a sip at a time.

The Beer Institute, which represents the mega-brewer business as well as some smaller interests, is supporting a move to add nutritional information to labels as a voluntary step, even as the FDA has delayed plans for mandatory calorie information on beer served in restaurants, according to Draft magazine.

Since the big breweries do everything by formula, complying with such a move to add calories and ingredients to beer packaging may be considered relatively easy.

That's not the case for craft brewers, the Associated Press reports.

The Brewers Association, a trade association of craft brewers, says that while it favors transparency in labeling, microbrewers may have some problems with full disclosure of nutritional ingredients and calories.

For one thing, the craft brewers have small-scale seasonal products with varying ingredients, and that makes it more difficult for smaller brewers to accurately specify the ingredients on labels. When the ingredients change so much by batch, it's difficult to pinpoint each ingredient.

The Brewers Association says it has been working with the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a plan to be included in a USDA nutrient database by beer style rather than individual brands, the AP reports.

As the craft brewers try to figure their way forward, the Beer Institute is moving ahead. The Beer Institute, which represents big breweries such as Heineken, MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch, HeinekenUSA, the Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries and the Craft Brew Alliance, is seeking compliance for voluntary disclosure by the end of 2020.

Bottles and cans and/or secondary packaging (six-pack carriers, 12-pack cases) will include information like calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, alcohol, by volume and a freshness data, either in the form of a traditional nutritional label, directions to a web page containing that information or a scannable QR code that links to that information online, the Beer Institute told Draft magazine.

The Beer Institute wants its members to reveal as many details as possible to consumers.  It is asking brewers to show when a beer was brewed, and also point to a website or include a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone for more information.

The Beer Institute and its member companies believe this is a step in the right direction to demonstrate a commitment to quality and transparency through these voluntary measures, says Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Beer Institute in a statement.

Beer is the most popular alcohol beverage in the United States, and I look forward to brewers and importers including a serving facts statement along with disclosing all ingredients in their products, he says.

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