Legal Blog

Saturday Side Hustle: Beer Labels

Since we’ve been talking about the perils of food labeling over the last few installments of the Saturday Side Hustle, I’ll make a beer advertising observation that is relevant: Bud Light recently became the first American beer with a nutritional panel on its packaging.

I have often wondered why beer doesn’t have to be labeled the way that food products do. Of course, part of the answer is that beer isn’t regulated the same way. But I’ve also often wondered if it wouldn’t be beneficial to the manufacturer to provide this information, especially nowadays when consumers tend to read nutritional labels and ingredient lists more than ever before.

I do recall when Michelob Ultra hit the market, and Anheuser-Busch – predecessor to Anheuser-Busch InBev, also the manufacturer of Bud Light – implemented a campaign to advertise its low-carb content and low calorie count. I also remember other advertising reactions from AB’s competitors involving comparative ads designed to avoid loss of market shares on the basis of concerns over carb and calorie intake. I also remember an Amstel Light tagline from a long time ago that went “95 calories never tasted so imported…”

What makes the latest Bud Light campaign interesting is the food-like nutritional panel labeling. I think it serves to highlight a trend that has been guiding my blog content of late. The trend is what the food industry calls “clean label” or alternatively “clear label”, which is a term coined to describe products whose labels bear the names of ingredients that are perceived as acceptable to consumers who don’t like chemicals in their food such as preservatives.

I must say, the Bud Light nutritional panel represents a very clean label. The ingredient list goes water, barley, rice, hops. So, while the label indicates 110 calories per 12 ounces of beer (not the lowest out there), it may be that consumers would rather drink a 110-calorie beer that contains those time-honored beer ingredients listed (well, I don’t know about rice, but water, barley and hops for sure) than a 95-calorie beer containing?

What I think is cool about what AB-InBev is doing is that it is informative in a way similar to food nutritional panels consumers are used to seeing, which the Bud Light panels resemble, but the panel doesn’t have to be “compliant” with any specific regulation, as long as the information contained on the panels is true.

For example, the FDA went to giant-sized font for calories per serving back in 2016 for food products, but the renderings of Bud Light’s labels (sorry, I don’t have any actual Bud Light on hand) appear to have a smaller calorie font. They do, however, indicate the total added sugars, which was also part of the 2016 amendments, I’m guessing because the number on that line is zero. The Bud Light labels are limited to macronutrients and don’t get into vitamins, etc.

Who thinks this information should be on all beer? I’m curious.

 

For more information on this topic, please contact Scott Lloyd at slloyd@offitkurman.com.

 

ABOUT SCOTT LLOYD

slloyd@offitkurman.com | 301.575.0357

Scott Lloyd is a registered patent attorney who specializes in intellectual property counseling and commercialization work. He has served as a technology commercialization specialist and advisor to companies in a diverse array of markets, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food and beverage, specialty chemicals, technology, and engineering. In addition, Mr. Lloyd spent ten years as in-house general counsel to small and mid-sized companies, where he managed corporate matters and resolved commercial disputes in addition to intellectual property strategy, and now serves in the same capacity for entrepreneurial clients. He serves as counsel to small and mid-sized business owners seeking to implement growth strategies and succession plans.

While in house, Mr. Lloyd has also contributed to the successful formation of international affiliates of domestic businesses as well as a $400,000,000 business acquisition.

 

 

ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN

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