In 2011, over 146,000 alcoholic beverage label applications were submitted to the Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), an almost 10% increase from the prior year. Yet, while the amount of label applications goes up, the resources available to the TTB for processing these applications goes down due to budget cuts. The need to get a product to market as fast as possible comes in conflict with the importance of keeping alcohol beverage products in compliance with federal labeling regulations. As more applications are submitted, the risk for a crippling review process increases. Currently, spirits and wine applicants must wait 28 to 30 days respectively on a pending label application, a particularly aggravating ordeal for applicants wishing to make minor changes to an existing label.
For example, did your marketing department want to add an award to that COLA you just got approved last week? Is the logo of your winery just a tad too far to the left? Did your 2012 Chardonnay increase in alcohol content from 13.5% ABV to 15% ABV? Is the idea of waiting a month to get a new COLA for any of these scenarios leaving you feeling queasy, too? Well, never fear, the TTB doesn’t like the idea of waiting for a new COLA in these situations either. On July 5, 2012, the TTB unveiled the latest Application for Certification/Exemption of Label/Bottle Approval, Form 5100.31. With a longer list of allowable revisions, the TTB anticipates a decrease in the amount of submitted label applications. With a decrease in the amount of submitted label applications, labels for new products and products with major changes can be reviewed faster. At least, that’s the idea behind the effort put into revising the application.
A key component to the success of these changes depends largely on industry members utilizing their new found label freedoms. Because the entire application process requires no fees, there is a potential risk that many applicants won’t take the time to educate themselves on these new allowable revisions, and instead continue to flood the pool of submitted COLA applications with unnecessary requests for additional COLA approvals. In order for this process to work efficiently, industry members need to understand these updates. Two resources from the TTB are, “Allowable Changes to Approved Labels”, which displays examples of allowable revisions and, “TTB Public Guidance 2012-2”, which simplifies the language of the “Allowable Revisions to Approved Labels” table. By utilizing this new form to its utmost potential, along with many other proposed changes outlined on the TTB page devoted to COLA streamlining efforts, the industry may see a faster and easier application process in the near future.
Here is a quick comparison of the new and old table of Allowable Revisions, with updates highlighted in red:
What are your thoughts on the new form 5100.31?