Brewers Association Promotes Small Producers and Competition in TTB Listening Session

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Brewers Association (BA) general counsel Marc Sorini testified today, Thursday, February 29, 2024, as part of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) Public Listening Sessions on Alcohol Beverage Labeling and Advertising.

Citing that this hearing was one of the outcomes of the president’s 2021 executive order on competition, Sorini stressed that rules must protect small and independent businesses, of whom the BA represents. Out of the 9,500 breweries across the United States, approximately 75% produce less than 1,000 barrels of beer per year, and the median small brewery produces roughly just 400 barrels per year.

Sorini encouraged the TTB to work to ensure that the final rules avoid stifling creativity or disproportionately impacting small businesses. They can do so by recommending that the methods for calculating and validating measures like alcohol content and nutrients should not be so expensive that they substantially alter the economics of small-batch products, and that tolerances for measures should be flexible enough to allow for the wider variations typical in small-batch products and the products of small businesses.

Sorini’s testimony also highlighted the BA’s commitment to transparency and support for on-label disclosure of alcohol content and major allergens, and accessibility of other nutritional and ingredient information either on-label or off-label via an on-label QR code. With respect to alcohol content, consumers know and understand alcohol by volume, as it has been mandated for spirits and most wine labels for decades. For allergens, on-label disclosure when a product contains one of the nine major allergens (as established by Congress) would help sensitive consumers. Nutrient disclosures can build on the TTB’s longstanding “statement of average analysis” rules mandated for light beers. Finally, ingredient disclosures should focus on what remains in a product and not ignore the substantial transformation that ingredients undergo during fermentation.

Sorini finished his testimony by again encouraging the TTB to consider small producers when they issue their rulemaking, asking them to establish one effective date for implementation of all new labeling requirements, and to authorize a three-year phase-in period to allow companies to update their labels, packaging, websites, etc.

This testimony is another example of the BA’s active role in promoting and protecting small and independent breweries. Ensuring that labeling practices are fair and equitable and do not stifle small producers’ ability to compete or get access to market is an ongoing priority for the association. The government affairs team will continue to work with Congress and federal agencies to ensure the voice of small and independent breweries is heard in Washington, D.C.

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