The Trouble with Labels

Let’s talk beer labels.

You already know that everything surrounding your beer is a potential marketing tool: from the brew itself right down to the name you choose for it, the words you use to describe it, and the beer label you design for the cans or bottles that will contain it.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is the federal agency that regulates alcoholic beverage labeling. Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations is where brewers can find what they may print on a beer label, what they may not print. and what they must print. (Not only the words themselves, but also the font, font size, and color).

Redesigning a label can cost a brewery in dollars spent on a new design. But more than that, it costs a brewery in time. Instead of receiving approval and proceeding with bottling or canning, the brewery has to correct the old label or create a new one, then resubmit to the TTB, and await results.

How can you help ensure your label submission sails through the approval process? Here’s a few tips.

Read the Directions

One of the top reasons for labels failing to receive approval is missing supporting documentation. For instance, if your beverage is made with an ingredient made from more than one component, you need to submit an ingredient specification sheet. You can find details on required supporting documentation here, along with a number of other guidelines that you should read carefully. Take your time putting your application together, so you’re sure you’re not leaving anything out of your submission. It doesn’t do you any good to submit it quickly if the TTB finds a mistake and you have to resubmit.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

As we already said, the TTB has strict guidelines for beer labels. The last thing you want is for your label to be rejected because you left out a period on the mandatory warning label (that actually happened to a brewer in the Northwest).

Be Smart

Every brewery wants its beers to stand out on the shelf. And with so many brews available on the market, breweries have to be clever in the names they choose and the designs they come up with. The results can be a lot of fun for consumers—if those names and labels pass inspection by the TTB.

Do a little research to find out what has caused breweries trouble in the past, so you can avoid those problems. And don’t try to be too clever. It’s not a great idea to try to sneak in a reference—whether visual or verbal—to sexuality or drug use. Consider carefully before referencing a beloved figure in the name or label design for your beer (religious figures, for instance, or characters who entertain children).

Have Patience

No matter how carefully you approach a label design project, though, it’s possible the TTB (or a state) may not approve it. This could result in a re-design and re-submission, or the failure to distribute in a particular state. Remember that label design is a process. And just like the brewing process itself, it takes time… and is worth the wait.

For more than 25 years, Beall Financial and Insurance Services, Inc., has been helping corporations and individuals protect their most important assets. The agency’s client base covers a spectrum of niche businesses, such as craft breweries, that require specialized insurance packages and knowledge. With California offices in Redlands and Newport Beach, Beall Financial and Insurance Services serves clients nationwide.