I was fully prepared to do a whole bunch of client work on this quiet day after Easter, but then Jaycee showed me a new Industry Circular. It is 2018-2, entitled Expansion of Allowable Changes to Approved Alcohol Beverage Labels. It adds some interesting new allowances, beyond the many set out here and here and here, etc. At first, the Circular looked pretty text-y and so it was hard to gauge the significance. To make it more visual, I prepared the above. It is easier to comprehend if you click on it, to expand it into its full glory (with all due apologies to Four Roses for monkeying with their back label). TTB seems to be on a roll, to expand the allowable revisions. It is quite a departure from the agency of a decade or two ago, not especially enamored of such changes. I wonder to what extent these allowable revisions are having a marked impact on the number of labels submitted.

To understand the image, the green lines show allowable revisions, and the red lines show revisions that would not be allowable without a new COLA. The lines go in order and roughly correspond to the order in the Circular:

    1. I made the label a bit bigger to accommodate the new text, and this line is just showing it’s ok to change the shape and size of an approved label, based on an earlier announcement (item 3, here).
    2. It’s ok to add, delete or swap among the TTB-approved instructional statements. This one is on the list so it’s ok.
    3. Similarly, it’s ok to add, delete or swap among the TTB-approved responsibility statements. This one is ok to add, on this back label, because it’s on the list.
    4. Once again, ok to add, delete or swap among the TTB-approved environmental statements.
    5. I have added a food pairing recommendation and it’s ok because it’s pretty in line with those allowed on the list.


  1. Even though this one is very similar to 1., it’s not ok because it’s not on the approved list.
  2. This one is quite similar to 2., but not ok because it’s not on the list.
  3. Similar to 3., but not on the list so not ok.
  4. Similar to 4., not not ok because not on the list.
  5. This one is a bit trickier. This indicates a change from a glass bottle to a bag-in-box. The Circular says:  “TTB wishes to caution industry members about using this allowable revision when changing between different types of containers, for example, when changing from a keg label to a bottle label, or from a bottle label to a bag-in-a-box label.  Labels for different types of containers usually look very different and may contain label information specific to the container type (e.g., instructions for serving from a bag-in-a-box container) or different graphics. … These restrictions make it unlikely that you will be able to use a label approved for one type of container for a different type of container without submitting the new label to TTB for approval.” Here, the front v. back probably changed, and it’s arguable that the spigot side would be the brand label, so it’s not an especially good idea to assume ARTAL alone would save anyone.

If you have any great ideas for how to expand the list still further, let us know.

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