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)
The surgeon general warning alcohol text
Don’t forget to include the health warning.
Here is the exact text of the surgeon general warning for alcohol text:
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.
Note that additional requirements apply when beverage container labels include additional language. For example, federal law allows labels to include disclosures about major food allergens, i.e., wheat or nuts, but such disclosures must include all major food allergens used in production.
There are different rules for cider and low-alcohol wine
Wine (including cider and perry) that contains less than 7% alcohol by volume (ABV) is subject to the labeling laws regulated by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rather than the TTB. Labels for these products are required to include information about ingredients, nutrient value, and allergens according to the FDA’s Food Labeling Guide.
Label Registration in Florida
Register your Florida beverage labels 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 since 1959 and was created to insure that all packaged beer destined for Florida complies with Florida law, including tax collection.
Pay the fees
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.
Does 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.
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.
Formula approval for non-traditional beverages
In some cases, before approving a product’s label, the TTB requires approval of the product itself. This is done through the TTB’s formula approval 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 tools (for beer and for wine and spirits) are handy quick-references for those beverage styles and situations that require pre-COLA formula approval.
The TTB’s COLA Process
This process involves an online system, similar to the TTB’s label registration system. The TTB offers a detailed FAQ, describing both common and unique situations. Labels for wine (including cider) containing less than 7% ABV does not require COLA approval.
How long does the formula and COLA processing take?
The TTB does not impose a fee for using formula approval or label processing. However, approval is not immediate. As of September 15, 2019, formula approval processing time is approximately 9 days if a sample is not rqeuired, and 23 days with a sample. Label approval processing time for wine is 10 days, for beer is 15 days, and for spirits is 29 days. Up to date information is available at Formula Approval Processing Time and COLA Processing Time.
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 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).
Do you need help with label approval?
At BrewerLong, we have helped many clients get their labels approved at the state and federal level. Contact us today with any questions you have or for help registering your beverages.
Because we’re attorneys: This blog post is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis as of August 11, 2019. We disclaim any duty to update or correct any information contained in this blog post, including errors, even if we are notified about them. To the fullest extent permitted by law, we disclaim all representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied with respect to the information contained in this blog post, including, but not limited to, warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title, non-infringement, accuracy, completeness, and timeliness. We will not be liable for damages of any kind arising from or in connection with your use of or reliance on this blog post, including, but not limited to, direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, and punitive damages. You agree to use this blog post at your own risk. Regarding your particular circumstances, we recommend that you consult your own legal counsel–hopefully BrewerLong.