Labels on alcoholic beverage containers must comply with both U.S. and Florida laws and regulations.
The reason these laws exist is to ensure container labels accurately represent the beverage inside. Beverage manufacturers must include specific information on the product labels. Florida manufacturers must also comply with the Florida Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco’s (ABT) label registration process and, in some cases, the federal Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) label approval process.
Required Label Information
The contents of a beverage container, whether a bottle, can, growler, or keg, must be adequately described by the container label. United States law and Florida law both require certain information to be included on container labels. To comply with both laws, Florida beverage labels must include the following:
- Brand name
- Class (lager, ale, etc.)
- “Florida” or “FL” (required for malt beverage only)
- Manufacturer name and address
- Net contents in ounces (“oz”)
- Alcohol content (“alc/vol” or “alc by vol”)
- Disclosure of any of the following:
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 (color additive)
- Carmine (color additive)
- Health warning:
“GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.”
Additional requirements apply when beverage container labels include additional language. For example, federal law allows labels to include disclosures about major food allergens, ie., wheat or nuts, but such disclosures must include all major food allergens used in production.
Label Registration in Florida
1. Florida Beverage Labels Must be Registered with the ABT
Florida law requires that a beverage container label must be registered with the ABT whenever the alcoholic beverage is sold or transported within the state. The ABT’s online label registration system is fairly easy to navigate. This process requires information about the manufacturer, the brand name, and the location of the text “FL” or “Florida” on the label. Registration requires the manufacturer to upload the label or keg collar image. The image can either come from the TTB’s COLA system (if the label is registered with the TTB) or it can be uploaded directly to the ABT’s label registration system.
Why is “FL” or “Florida” required to appear on every beer can, bottle, and keg? This regulation has been required by laws since1959 and was created to insure that all packaged beer destined for Florida complies with Florida law, including tax collection.
2. Registration Isn’t Complete Until the Fee is Paid
Florida’s annual registration fee is $30 for beer and distilled spirit labels and $15 for wine labels. Registration is not complete until the registration fee is paid and a registration number is issued by the ABT.
Must every experimental or one-off beer served in a Florida brewery taproom have a registered label? Technically yes, but this might be impractical. A brewery should ensure that all registered beers being distributed or regularly circulated in the taproom contain a registered label.
3. Registration Does Not Equal Approval
Unlike the TTB, the ABT does not actually approve the beverage container labels registered on their system. Unfortunately, just because a brewery completes their registration and receives a registration system, it does not confirm that the registered label actually complies with Florida law.
Federal Label Approval for Wine and Spirits and for Beer Sold Out-of-State
For wine, spirits and beer destined for sale outside Florida, the container label must also be approved through the TTB’s Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) process. Before getting to the COLA process, however, the TTB, requires formula approval in some cases.
1. Non-Traditional Beverages Required Formula Approval
Formula approval is part of the TTB’s broader Pre-COLA Product Evaluation process. The TTB requires formal approval, most often, when a beverage contains adjuncts or other additives, such as flavoring and coloring materials. Beverages made using traditional ingredients and processes are generally exempt from formula approval. The TTB’s Formula Approval Tool is a handy quick-reference for those beverage styles and situations that require pre-COLA formula approval.
2. The TTB’s COLA Process
What’s a unique labeling situation? Pre-filled growlers are subject to federal label requirements, while growlers filled at the point of sale are not.
3. Formula and COLA Processing Takes Time
The TTB does not impose a fee for using formula approval or label processing. However, approval is not immediate. As of this writing, formula approval is approximately 64 days, while label approval processing time for wine is 14 days, for beer is 17 days, and for spirits is 52 days. Up to date information is available at Formula Approval Processing Time and COLA Processing Time.
4. Small Changes are Allowed Without New Label Approval
Once the TTB approves a beverage label, the manufacturer can use the Allowable Changes Sample Label Generator to determine what modifications are allowed and do not require a new label approval. Generally, a new label approval is required when a change is made to the class, type, or appellation of the label, or when label graphics or wording are added or changed (unless they are only holiday themed).
Label Registration & Approval is Not Trademark Protection
Registering a beverage label with the ABT or obtaining TTB label approval provides no additional intellectual property protection. It is not a substitute for federal registration of a trade name (for the manufacturing and brand names), trade dress (for the design of the container), or copyright (for the text and graphical design on the container).