Everything You Need To Know About Hard Seltzer Label Requirements
Hard seltzers seemed like a fad at first, but it’s clear that this recently created beverage category is here to stay. It’s estimated that the worldwide market will reach $14.5 billion in sales by 2027, more than triple current yearly sales.
It’s gained most of its popularity due to being perceived as a “healthier” alternative to traditional beers, containing fewer calories and carbs, with brands like White Claw seeing explosive growth over the past several years.
But, while this may be a great business opportunity, it’s also confusing. With so many different options for producing and marketing these beverages, meeting regulatory labeling requirements and customer expectations at the same time can be difficult. Here’s what you need to know to correctly categorize your beverage, meet label requirements, and attract customers.
How Are These Beverages Classified & Who Controls The Labeling Regulations?
When formulating a seltzer, you have a choice of four bases: sugar brew, neutral malt (NMB), grain neutral spirits (GNS) and wine. Each base has its advantages and disadvantages, including flavor, cost and tax rates. But the base you choose determines which government agency regulations you have to follow for your product labeling.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) controls the labeling of most alcoholic beverages and classifies all hard seltzers under their jurisdiction as beers. However, wine with less than 7% alcohol and beer that isn’t made with malted barley or hops, including sugar brew, falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Some states apply TTB label rules to all beer, even if it’s sugar-based. Depending on how you manufacturer your seltzer, it could fall under one or both agencies’ jurisdiction.
TTB Hard Seltzer Label Requirements
Hard seltzers are made from either brewed malt or brewed sugar (where the fermentable ingredients all contain no malt), which can affect how it is regulated. Under the US IRC (Internal Revenue Code) code 27 CFR Part 7, the brewed malt formulation is considered a malt beverage while the brewed sugar formulation is considered a beer.
According to the TTB, both are categorized by the agency as “beer.” If the hard seltzer is made with brewed malt, the TTB also considers the product a “malt beverage.” Federal beer regulations (such as the FAA – Federal Alcohol Administration Act) apply to both types, however, any federal malt beverage labeling and advertising rules would only apply to the latter.
Beverages that fall under TTB regulation must have a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) before reaching the market. That means the final label design must be submitted to the TTB before production. Along with this, both require a Brewer’s Notice, as well as TTB formula approval if flavors and colors have been added to make a flavored malt beverage (FMB) or beer.
Once the submitted design is approved, the label is legal to use. If changes need to be made to the label, a new COLA needs to be submitted.
Your labels should include the following:
Brand Name & The Brewer’s Name Or Trade Name
If the beverage is manufactured in the U.S., the formula for the drink must be approved by the TTB before production using a Brewer’s Notice application. The brewer’s name or trade name used on the beverage label must be the same as the one used on this application.
Alcohol Beverage Container’s Net Contents
Volume is listed the same way as any other beverage, with one exception. Containers that hold exactly one pint, quart or gallon must have their net contents listed by these names, not by ounces.
The Beverage Product’s Generic Name
Your product label must include the generic name as well as the brand name. TTB has a list of generic names and their qualifiers that you can find here.
Production Location Of Hard Seltzer
If you have just one facility, you can print the facility address directly on the label. For manufacturers with multiple brewing locations, a batch run number or other identifier can be used, as long as it can be traced back to the original facility. The country of origin and a statement of importer must be included for seltzers made outside the U.S.
Specific Ingredient Disclosures
Warning statements are required for products that contain FD&C Yellow No. 5, saccharin or aspartame. A statement of sulfite content is also required if the product contains 10 parts or more per million of sulfur dioxide, something you may run into with wine-based drinks.
Alcohol Health Warning Statement
27 CFR Part 16 lists that any alcohol beverage over 0.5 percent alcohol by volume must include a Government Warning Statement.
Optional Inclusion: Nutrition Facts Panel
A nutrition facts panel, like those found on non-alcoholic beverages and foods, is not required. However, you can choose to add this panel, if you’re marketing to nutrition-focused consumers.
FDA Hard Seltzer Labeling Regulation Requirements
FDA labeling requirements are covered in the Federal Code of Regulations 21 CFR 101.
Unlike TTB-regulated alcoholic beverages, these seltzers must include a nutrition facts panel and ingredient statement.
The principal display panel also has stricter regulations.
This panel must cover at least 40% of the area on round containers. The panel needs the brand name, a generic product name, and the net contents in ounces and milliliters.
While FDA labels don’t need to be pre-approved, the agency will find your business if your label doesn’t conform to regulations. If you’re new to selling FDA-regulated products, it’s a good idea to work with a consultant who can check over your label design and make sure it conforms to all legal requirements.
Labeling Choices to Better Inform Consumers
Alcohol content rules vary by state, so there isn’t a standard way to display this information. However, it’s good practice to include alcohol content on the label, both to meet regulations in future markets and to inform consumers. While listing proof is optional, these regulations always require alcohol content to be stated as a percentage of volume (ABV).
One of the reasons consumers choose seltzer over other beverages is its high alcohol content compared to its total calories. In most cases, these beverages have the calories of a light beer and just as much alcohol as a regular beer.
Calories must be listed on FDA-regulated drinks, but not TTB-regulated ones. Even if calories are optional on your product, including this information can encourage sales based on the audience.
Most seltzers are gluten-free, making them a great choice for celiacs and wheat-sensitive people looking for an alternative to beer. Malt-based seltzers can be labeled “gluten-free” as long as the product was only made with sorghum. If the NMB base was processed to remove gluten, it can be labeled with the following statement:
“Product fermented from grains containing gluten and [processed/treated/crafted] to remove gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.”
Choosing A Labeling Machine For Hard Seltzer Labels
Whether you want to use glass, aluminum or plastic for your seltzer containers, CTM Labeling offers the equipment needed to produce high quality labels for virtually any product. A popular option for craft brewing and hard seltzer manufacturers is a labeling machine specifically for glass bottles.
This particular labeling system can be set up to apply up to 5 labels per bottle, including wrap, neck and front and back labels. The labeling station rolls each bottle during the application, and can handle up to 45 bottles per minute.
For can labeling, our 360a WR Wrap System is a must-have. This machine can label round containers in a range of sizes, and can save several label configurations. Once the containers are calibrated, manufacturing can easily switch between different can sizes—from narrow 12-ounce brights to “crowler” cans.
Need to print production information onto labels? Our 3600a-PA Printer Applicator can fit around your existing conveyor belt system and can be configured to add labels on any side of your products, letting you use this machine for bottles, 6 pack cartons or boxes.
We Make It Easy to Label Your New Seltzer Line
Are you looking for a way to fit labeling into your seltzer production line? Talk to CTM Labeling Systems. We have experience handling labels for a variety of suppliers, including beer labels, hard seltzer labeling requirements and more.
Our local distributors work directly with you to create a solution that delivers the quality you want for your bottles and cans while keeping pace with production.