Alcohol Labels: 3 Things You Need to Know

Rachel Hoffman | May 16, 2024

Often, the first thing you notice about a beverage alcohol product is the label. The typeface, imagery and colors used were all meticulously chosen to say something about the product and brand. But it takes more than an eye for graphic design to create a beverage alcohol label. There are several regulatory concerns at play that beverage alcohol producers need to be aware of. 

Each alcoholic category has its own requirements for labels, as do some states, so attention to detail is necessary to successfully manage labels and COLAS.

3 Things You Need to Know About Alcohol Labels

Alcohol labels need government approval

A Federal Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) is a federal registration of the label applied to beverage alcohol packaging. With some exceptions for low-ABV wines and select malt beverages, alcohol suppliers and producers must obtain these from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) before they distribute their products.  

As a federal label registration, an active COLA signifies that the label has been authorized for sale by the TTB and that it contains the required important consumer safety information without any prohibited verbiage or images.  

Applications take time

When planning your go-to-market strategy, consider COLA processing times. While the TTB allows for select label revisions that do not require getting a new COLA, often enough any change to a label will entail a new application. Always keep the associated wait times in mind when planning to update a label or product, not just when registering a new product. 

The same can be said for labels that are returned from the TTB without approval. Untrue health claims, government iconography and disparaging remarks that demean a competitor are a few reasons that your label may be sent back for corrections. After reviewing your label, take another look at the TTB’s guidelines, make the necessary changes and resubmit your application, but know that your re-submission will go to the back of the line. 

Multiple state registrations are needed for alcohol labels

If you have a footprint in 20 states and a new label comes out, odds are you’ll need to submit the label for approval in each state. If you have a footprint in one state and are introducing six new products, each of the products coming to market will need to be registered separately.  

Choosing a compliance partner that streamlines the registration process will save hours of your time by pre-populating all required fields and supporting documents for each new locale and product registration. That way, all you need to do is print, file electronically or submit automatically.   

Sovos ShipCompliant’s Market Ready empowers businesses to navigate the complexities of COLA management with confidence. In an era defined by regulatory scrutiny and evolving customer preferences, Market Ready offers efficiency to enable businesses to thrive in a competitive market. 

Take Action

Ready to simplify alcohol labels? Sovos ShipCompliant Market Ready is integrated with the TTB, making managing COLAs and label registrations easier than ever. Watch our video series for a deep dive into the features and benefits of Market Ready.