The Beer Institute – an industry trade group that represents major brewers like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors – is urging its members to add nutritional information to their product labels. The association wants beer manufacturers to make this information available by the end of 2020.
Much like the Nutrition Facts label present on processed foods, the proposed beer label would include information on the amount of calories, carbohydrates, and proteins in each beverage. The Beer Institute is also asking brewers to include additional information about when a beer was brewed and what ingredients were used.
The beer labels could alternatively include a QR code, which could be scanned using a smartphone to give consumers more information on the product. According to Michael Jacobson, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, the label changes still don’t go far enough to ensure manufacturing transparency.
“Brewers are allowed to artificially color, flavor, sweeten, and preserve their products, as well as use foam enhancers,” said Jacobson. “If the industry takes pride in its ingredients it should list them on labels and not simply on the web.”
According to the Beer Institute, its member companies brew more than 80 percent of all beer sold in the US. A few of its major members – including Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and HeinekenUSA – have already agreed to implement the new labeling changes.
Some say that the label updates could be difficult for smaller craft breweries to comply with. While the Brewers Association, a trade association of craft brewers, says they support transparency in beer labeling, the additional information may be hard for microbrewer to comply with, as they generally sell small amounts of often seasonable, or small-batch products.
Profit margins in the craft brewing industry are tight, so the labeling requirements could be a financial drain on these companies’ already-limited resources. The Brewers Association has reportedly been working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on their own, in an attempt to get various beer styles – as opposed to distinct brands – added to the USDA nutrient database.
“I think this is where the industry is heading,” said Nick Petrillo, a beverage industry analyst for IBISWorld. “Consumers want to know what’s in the products they use.” Petrillo thinks the new labels could be a bonus for big beer makers, who will be able to substantiate the low-carb claims on some of their beverages.