“We’re putting an ingredients label on our packaging,” the full-page ad in a Sunday edition of the LA Times reads. “Because it’s the right thing to do. Because you deserve to know your beer’s ingredients.”
It’s an ad for Bud Light. Not a small-production craft beer, which one might expect to tout this sort of credential. But for “America’s favorite light lager,” the stuff of college parties and tailgating. The beer giant also put out a press release announcing the move. In the months following, a heated debate about what should and shouldn't be included in the labels of our favorite adult beverages has been brewing (pardon the pun).
Ingredients labeling has become the norm in the food industry because it’s required by the FDA. However, to date, the adult beverage industry does not require ingredients to be listed or nutritional information outlined on labels unless a specific health claim is being made such as “low carb” or “low calorie.” In fact, current law allows for a laundry list of additives -- some of which sound, well, distinctly chemical, that can be used but don't need to be included on the label. While we are seeing the occasional brand volunteer these details, there are no current regulations requiring alcohol brands to go beyond the basics on their labels.
This includes the wine industry.
It’s one thing to list “water, barley, rice, hops,” on your packaging in the name of transparency, as Bud Light has now promised to do. But what if your ingredients include things that are barely pronounceable, even if they are essential parts of the winemaking process and totally natural? As consumers increasingly demand not only transparency, but food made from ingredients that don’t look like they belong in a lab, how does the wine industry stand to fare?
The issue is clearly a sensitive one.
My Top 1 Takeaway from This Year's Unified Wine & Grape Symposium... Because There Only is 1 and it's BIG
Another Unified Wine & Grape Symposium under the belt. The conference -- which attracts 14,000 attendees each year making it among the largest trade shows in North America -- had a different feel to it this year. It wasn't that the programming varied much. The sessions on winemaking and business and marketing were all there, as were the giant expo and the keynote addresses. But, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't an ominous element of -- dare I say it? -- foreboding that served as a backdrop for what normally feels like an upbeat gathering?
Around this time, I usually try to do a round-up of key trends and interesting insights that cropped up throughout the three-day event. In fact, this article actually started out as a Top 5 Takeaway piece. But this year, so much of it felt like noise distracting me from the one point that rang through like a gunshot in a crowded space.
Adapt or die.
That’s it, folks. And here’s why:
Attention to detail. As a business owner — especially in the hospitality space — this should be a huge priority. How many of you can truly say you’re paying attention?
There are nearly 10,000 wineries in the United States, most of which have tasting rooms or offer some sort of consumer experience. In an industry that can at times feel constrained by tradition and etiquette and a constant undercurrent of judgement, it may seem hard for a winery to break out of the mold and explore new ways to engage with their customers. What does it take to stand out? I visit countless tasting rooms a year. Here are some interesting moves I’ve come across in my travels that have made my visit truly memorable.
I’m about to say something that could make me very unpopular among my colleagues.
Do we really need to drink so much in this drinks business?
Hear me out. Ask anyone who knows me how I feel about the consumption of alcohol — specifically wine — and they will likely describe me as an enthusiastic imbiber. No matter the time of day, I rarely turn down a tipple. In fact, I often can’t remember the last time I literally had ZERO alcohol in my day. My evenings and sometimes days include wine, as I do firmly believe in wine’s rightful place during a meal…and while preparing said meal… and of course while patting one’s full belly while reclining on the couch after said meal…and…and…
But, the more I have been thinking about the balance between the industry I am so passionate about — wine — and my other area of interest — wellness — I find myself wondering what responsibility we have as wine (or beer, or spirits) professionals to drink better.
What do I mean by this?