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Beer Institute Launches Voluntary Calorie-Labeling Plan

By / Jul 13, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The plan by the trade group, which represents the large-scale brewers that make up most of the U.S. beer market, could make things easier on large restaurant chains that will soon face federal calorie-labeling regulations. The Brewers Association is focused on this issue as well, but things are a little more complicated for its members.

The beer industry wants you to know more about the beverages you’re drinking—and with more detail than “great taste” or “less filling” might offer.

This week, the Beer Institute (BI), which represents large brewers, announced its new Voluntary Disclosure Initiative, which encourages its member companies to list calorie counts, nutrition info, and ingredient lists directly on the packaging, through a website, or via a QR code.

Unlike traditional food manufacturers, brewers have not been required to offer nutrition info at all in the past, so the voluntary step is significant.

“The Beer Institute, and its member companies, believes this is a step in the right direction to demonstrate a commitment to quality and transparency through these voluntary measures,” Beer Institute’s President and CEO Jim McGreevy noted in a news release.

As BrewBound notes, the approach comes at a time when the Food and Drug Administration is about to require menu-labeling rules for restaurants. BI’s strategy could help limit headaches for some of its members’ biggest customers.

“It’s to be responsive to an obligation that we know is going to come down on retail partners,” BI Spokeswoman Denise Dunckel told the website.

The initiative, which is aiming for compliance across product lines by 2020, will likely see uptake by beer companies representing more than 80 percent of the U.S. market, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, HeinekenUSA, Constellation Brands, North American Breweries, and the Craft Beer Alliance.

Craft Beers: It’s Complicated

Not included in that list, as you might have noticed if you’re a beer fan, are many of the members of the Brewers Association (BA), which represents independent craft brewers such as Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and New Belgium Brewing Co. (Also represented is D. G. Yuengling and Son, which only recently started being considered an independent craft brewer by the association.)

In comments to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, BA emphasizes that although it generally supports transparency, things are more complicated in the world of craft brews.

“The approach the large brewers have taken may not be feasible for smaller brewers, many of whom offer dozens of small scale, seasonal products every year,” BA President and CEO Bob Pease told the newspaper.

Instead, the association is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a strategy that focuses on beer styles, instead of specific beers.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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