Calorie Counts, Nutrition Listings Coming to Beer Labels

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Jul 13, 2016

beer imageAnheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors, Constellation Brands and Heineken, which produce more than 80 percent of the beer sold in the U.S., have announced plans to begin providing consumers with more nutritional information about the beers they sell, it was reported yesterday by Forbes and others.

A statement issued by industry trade group, the Beer Institute, is encouraging member brewers to disclose calories, carbohydrates, alcohol content by volume (ABV) and portion size, both on labels affixed to bottles and cans and on websites that will be accessible via a scannable QR code. Major beer makers, which have been trying to reverse declining U.S. consumption for years, will also provide dates for when the beer is produced.

The Beer Institute is calling its plan the "Voluntary Disclosure Initiative," and says it will result in participating brewers listing calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol by volume on their products. The move by the brewers is contrary to what has thus far been largely avoided by the alcoholic beverage industry in terms of increasing demand for more labeling of food and beverage products. Freshness dates will also be included on the packaging.

Like other food companies, beer companies are facing mounting pressure from consumers who are interested in leading healthier lifestyles. A recent Harris poll conducted for market researcher Nielsen found that 72 percent of beer drinkers say they think it's important to read nutritional labels when buying food or beverages.

Currently, beer labels don't offer much information beyond a product's alcohol by volume, and the voluntary reform is drawing praise from government types. "The Beer Institute and the companies that have chosen to participate in the Brewers' Voluntary Disclosure Initiative are providing real leadership in the alcohol beverage industry by voluntarily providing this information," said Tommy Thompson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, in a statement.

"The Beer Institute, and its member companies, believes this is a step in the right direction to demonstrate a commitment to quality and transparency through these voluntary measures. Beer is the most popular alcohol beverage in the United States, and I look forward to brewers and importers including a serving facts statement along with disclosing all ingredients in their products," said Jim McGreevy, Beer Institute President and CEO in a news release. "Providing meaningful information will ultimately empower the consumer when making decisions regarding the beer beverage of their choice."

The BI adds that consumers should begin to see the changes immediately, and it hopes to have all participating brewers in compliance by the end of 2020.

By announcing the voluntary initiative, the BI is preparing in advance of a label discussion set for this fall by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The Bureau is planning to open an online forum that will allow anyone to propose amendments to many outdated rules that could include labeling language.

Diageo, the world’s largest holder of beer and spirits companies, is said to be voluntarily adding nutritional content to its packaging in several dozen global markets, starting with Johnnie Walker "red" for spirits and Guinness and Smithwick’s for beer, Forbes reports. Diageo USA already labels some of its products and notes it will continue to work with the TTB to evolve the look of the panel as it releases more labeled products.

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