Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages - Bottle Sizes

The TTB has been quite busy these days. They’ve been looking at a number of rules and regulations that have been cobbled together since the 21st Amendment was signed and Prohibition came to an end in the 30s. The comment period for Notice No. 176 Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages just came to a close on June 26, 2019 and right on its heels the TTB has started on another round of items they are considering changing. The latest item up for consideration is bottle size.

UPDATE: TTB has made a final ruling on this. They decided to keep most of the standards and add four new bottle sizes for spirits. You can get the details here – TTB Issues Final Ruling: Keeps Distilled Spirits Bottle Sizes and Authorizes 4 New Sizes.

TTB Proposes Deregulation of Bottle Size – Shift to Min and Max Only

The TTB is proposing to eliminate all but minimum and maximum standards of fill for distilled spirits containers and thus eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements and provide consumers broader purchasing options. The proposal would maintain a minimum standard of 50 milliliters and a maximum standard of 3.785 liters. The minimum would guarantee that the label would be legible for distilled spirits and the maximum container size would maintain a distinction between bottled and bulk products. Beyond that, it would be wide open like most other consumable goods in the United States.

On July 1, 2019 the TTB published two deregulatory proposed rules in the Federal Register proposing to eliminate all but a minimum standard of fill for wine containers (Notice No. 182), and all but a minimum and maximum standard of fill for distilled spirits containers (Notice No. 183). The term “standard of fill” is used in the TTB regulations to refer to the amount of liquid in the container, and the current regulations prescribe certain specific standards of fill for wine and distilled spirits containers sold within the United States. Here are the current standards.

  • 1.75 liters
  • 1 liter
  • 750 milliliters
  • 500 milliliters
  • 375 milliliters
  • 100 milliliters
  • 50 milliliters

The latest proposal is intended to eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements and provide consumers broader purchasing options. And therefore manufacturers broader options as well.

Measurement – Metric, Standard or Both?

In addition the TTB is proposing to amend the labeling regulations for distilled spirits and malt beverages to specifically state that distilled spirits may be labeled with the equivalent standard U.S. measure in addition to the mandatory metric measure, and to specifically state that malt beverages may be labeled with the equivalent metric measure in addition to the mandatory standard U.S. measure. This revision will formalize TTB’s current policy and align the distilled spirits and malt beverage labeling regulations with the wine labeling regulations, which currently allow wine to be labeled with the equivalent U.S. measure in addition to the mandatory metric measure.

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TTB Notice 182 and 183 Comment Period Timeline

The TTB is now looking for comments on these proposed deregulatory actions and seeks comments on the relative merits of alternatives, such as adding new authorized standards of fill or developing an expedited process for adding additional standards in the future. For example, standards of 720 milliliters, 900 milliliters, and 1800 milliliters could be added to accommodate a foreign petition seeking access to the U.S. market without incurring the fixed costs of changing its current bottle sizes.

All of these approaches would be intended to eliminate restrictions that inhibit competition and the movement of goods in domestic and international commerce.

The comment period for “Elimination of Certain Standards of Fill for Distilled Spirits; Amendment of Malt Beverage Net Contents Labeling Regulation” is open now and closes on August 30, 2019.

Is this a Good or Bad Idea?

The comments for this will be interesting to watch. From a manufacturer point of view it makes perfect sense. If you would like to design a custom bottle that lands at 695 ml because it’s in the shape of a dragon that’s great. Makes perfect sense. This could open up lots of creativity in bottle designs.

On the other hand, it may create some confusion for consumers when trying to comparison shop at their local liquor store. If you think people stand and stare at bottles in the bourbon isle now, wait until the bottle sizes start to vary. Let’s see mash bill, age, type of wood, proof, and oh yeah ounces, I mean milliliters. Some consumers may need a chair.

From a distributor and retailer point of view this could be quite a challenge as well. If there are no standard sizes suddenly a box with six bottles may not fit on a storage shelf. If retailers have a difficult time now trying to carry all the local craft brands with standard sizes having nearly unlimited sizes could create some havoc on the shelf.

Having said that, the idea of less regulation sounds like a great idea!

What do you think? Great idea or asking for chaos?

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TTBs Distilled Spirits Conversion Table

As with many things in life it sounds simple until you have to do it. Here is the TTBs conversion table when comparing liters, ounces and some of the old standard sizes like pints. Kind of puts this in perspective. Having said that, it would certainly be simple enough to add a few of the international sizes to this conversion table.

Bottle SizeEquivalent Fluid OuncesBottles Per CaseLiters Per CaseU.S. Gallons Per CaseCorresponds To
1.75 liters59.2 Fl. Oz.610.50 2.7738061/2 gallon
1.00 liters33.8 Fl. Oz.1212.003.1700641 Quart
750 milliliters25.4 Fl. Oz.129.002.3775484/5 Quart
375 milliliters12.7 Fl. Oz.249.002.3775484/5 Pint
200 milliliters6.8 Fl. Oz.489.602.5360511/2 Pint
100 milliliters3.4 Fl. Oz.606.001.5850321/4 Pint
50 milliliters1.7 Fl. Oz.1206.001.5850321, 1.6 & 2 Oz.
Official Conversion Factor: 1 Liter = 0.264172 U.S. Gallon

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