“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.