The Beverage Alcohol Community convened again this year to share best practices; learn from peers and industry experts; and troubleshoot, problem solve, and collaborate to find a way to solve a common issue – getting their products to market faster while remaining compliant.
Last week, we held our third Beverage Alcohol Community Symposium (BACS) in New York. This event, which started humbly four years ago with just ten attendees who met in a conference room, has grown to almost 100 members of the beverage alcohol community. The community convenes each year to share best practices; learn from peers and industry experts; and troubleshoot, problem solve, and collaborate to find a way to solve a common issue — getting their products to market faster while remaining compliant. The discussion at this year’s symposium was focused on change across the globe, the country, the industry, and within the companies and institutions that were represented in the room.
Thank You to Our Sponsors
We want to recognize our incredible partners who are working with us, and we want to give a big shout-out to the amazing sponsors who supported this year’s Beverage Alcohol Community Symposium. Thank you to Hinman & Carmichael, VIP, and PRO for their support of this important industry event.
Thank You to Our Community
Our team loved getting a chance to interact with the members of the Beverage Alcohol Community who attended this year’s event, and we hope you did too. We’re excited to share a recap of the event, especially for those who weren’t lucky enough to attend. If you did attend and would like to share any highlights from the event, we’d love to read them in the comments!
Federal Product Approval Updates
The TTB’s Janet Scalese, who directs the Advertising, Labeling, and Formulation Division (ALFD), gave an update on the TTB’s process streamlining which included improvements to COLAs online, changes to TTB.gov that will hopefully increase first time approvals, and the top 10 labeling errors that the TTB sees. Scalese noted that the most frequent errors are seen with the Brand Label Mandatory Requirements with Appellation. She also shared some news that was met with applause: Congress approved a $5 million funding allocation to the TTB to support its goal of achieving a 10-day turnaround time for labels and formulas.
NBWA’s Chief Economist Lester Jones and WSWA’s Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Jake Hegeman did a “deep dive” into the economic, legislative and regulatory changes that our industry is facing, including changes in demographics, taste, technology, and knowledge. Jones discussed how demographic changes — like the changing landscape of alcoholic beverages consumed — are affecting the beverage alcohol market. He explained that producers and suppliers are competing for the same “share of stomach” and that the younger generation prefers beer and spirits equally.
Hegeman agreed that consumers and their demands are changing, and this is driving technological changes like on-demand delivery services. Consumers’ knowledge is also changing, and we are seeing this affect producers, suppliers, and even chain retailers in the industry who will be required to label menus with calorie counts for food and alcohol beginning in May 2017.
Toward Understanding Liquor Control: The State of Beverage Alcohol Regulations
Alex Koral, Sovos’ Compliance Research Manager, kicked off this jam-packed session with a discussion of the modernization of beverage alcohol, specifically in how products are sold. Recent trends in selling alcoholic beverages include models such as growler and self-service sales, self-distribution, grocery store sales, and retail direct-to-consumer sales. Two states — New York and Pennsylvania — have recently passed modernization bills.
Elke Hofmann of Elke A. Hofmann Law explained some of the recent changes in New York’s move to modernize its beverage alcohol laws, including expansion of Sunday sales (in the so-called “brunch” bill), allowance of craft producers to sell their own products as well as others’ products, and the creation of an importer license.
Alva Mather of Pepper Hamilton LLP reviewed Pennsylvania’s introduction of a number of changes that aim to modernize its beverage alcohol laws. These changes include an expansion of the number and combinations of outlets for sales, relaxation of direct-to-consumer shipping requirements, and increased support for craft and in-state manufacturers through an allowance to sell their wine, any beer or any liquor.
Sovos’ Junior Counsel, Lauren Whitney, explained that many states are leaving interpretation to their Departments of Revenue, and that these changes are offering producers and suppliers the opportunity to be a part of the conversation and the change.
Innovation and Diversification
Smuttynose Brewing Company and Portsmouth Brewery founder Peter Egelston began this session with a review of innovations throughout the history of the brewing industry. He explained that all beverage alcohol producers and suppliers grapple with the tension of being bound by the physical universe with a brick and mortar location, yet wanting to explore technological changes and meet customer demand through innovation and diversification.
Jacqueline Ryfiak, New Holland Brewing Company’s Marketing Coordinator, agreed that innovation is key, but that it’s hard to keep up with consumer demand for new products. She shared some of the initiatives that New Holland has undertaken to stay innovative and relevant — including the creation of unique and interesting products through recycling and reusing barrels for aging, and turning lemons into lemonade when faced with an innovative accident.
Lisa Funston, Compliance Manager at Total Brand Solution, concurred that innovation and diversification can amount to growth, but cautioned that regulatory level planning is essential for success in this industry.