Regional NCSLA Event in Baltimore Delivers “Perspectives in Alcohol”

This October, NCSLA held their Northern/Southern Regional event, which was an overall success to say the least. Besides incredible hospitality from the Maryland Comptroller, attendees enjoyed networking opportunities with leaders from regulatory agencies, alcohol beverage law firms, and suppliers. There was an incredible amount of knowledge sharing and problem-solving at the event. I’ve summarized the event here for those of you that couldn’t join us.

While there were many educational and inspirational aspects to the event, the session with state regulators from Florida, Delaware, and Maryland going head-to-head with private attorneys on best practices with states agencies was definitely a highlight. Mike Halfacre facilitated the “debate,” which was appropriate, as he’s seen both sides of the arguments the former director of the NJ ABC and current counsel at Genova Burns, LLC.

Of course, my favorite part of NCSLA was the COLA Freak Out session. This was a continued discussion from the annual event in San Diego, which focused on a common problem that highly impacts our industry: Formula and Label Approvals. TTB requires formula and label approval, which can take up to 90 days. Then, every state has a unique set of requirements to register these new brands and labels. Those approval times can take months. Additionally, the poor visibility into the status of these new products is enough to drive any company and compliance manager crazy. Other individuals in the company, like salespeople and brand managers, are eager to get these new products on the shelf, and these state approvals are often the only thing in their way.

The session was especially useful because it focused on solutions, instead of just the problem. The group discussed unique approaches on how to help the TTB and each state remove barriers. One helpful suggestion was a database of all COLA and state registration requirements, so we can educate states about the differences in their laws and administrative policies. Another idea suggested was to curate a list of problematic words that are not allowed on labels to prevent “needs correction” or rejected labels from the TTB. For example, ‘rejuvenate’ is a no-no because it suggest that the alcoholic product is healthy.

Other Solutions:

  • Creating training and education materials for regulators and suppliers
  • Communicate TTB changes to states
  • Stop requiring the UNIMERC
  • Prioritize states that need process and legislative changes
  • Use recent positive change in Louisiana and Florida as case studies and models for other states
  • Create industry label advisory group
  • Decouple label approval from distributor appointment letters

I loved hearing these discussions, and it was great to report these ideas to the ShipCompliant team. As you hopefully know, many of our products come from the suggestions and feedback of our clients. Currently, we are building Label Compliance Checks, which is a helpful solution to reduce rejections from TTB. We are hoping to address the “time to market” problem our clients face. This new tool works by running a label’s text through a series of logic tests to make sure all TTB requirements are met. We’re excited to be part of such an interesting time in the industry. We love collaborating with our clients, and would love to have folks join us on the mission to make compliance an easier process. If you’d like to help us, please contact patrick@shipcompliant.com

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