To start a business in the U.S. that will produce and/or import beer, malt beverages, wine or distilled spirits, you need the approval of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). One of the key factors you need to determine is whether the TTB must approve your formula(s) before granting you a certificate of label approval (COLA).
The good news is that the majority of alcoholic beverages don’t require their formula to be approved by the TTB. However, it is likely required if:
- You add ingredients that will change the color or flavor of the beverage.
- You use a process not covered in the TTB regulations to make a beverage.
Fruit wines would be an example of this, as would citrus-flavored beers and distilled spirits with ingredients added to make them a distinctive color or to make them spicy.
Who is responsible for obtaining approval?
For domestic beverages, the producer is responsible for obtaining approval of the formula. For imported beverages, the business that has the Importer’s Basic Permit is responsible for obtaining the information from the producer and submitting it to the TTB.
The approval process involves submitting an application for the formula and a sample of the beverage for lab analysis. The TTB provides detailed information about what beverages and ingredients require approval and instructions for submitting the necessary documentation and samples on the Public Guidance page of its website.
Why do some formulas require approval?
The federal government requires formula approval for the types of beverages discussed here to confirm that there are no prohibited ingredients or chemical amounts in excess of those allowed by law. The TTB also provides producers and importers with a “suggested statement of composition for labeling purposes.”
It’s always wise to have experienced legal guidance throughout the early stages of a new business and whenever you make changes in your products, services or processes. Dealing with government regulations at every level can be challenging and frustrating. By ensuring that you’re in compliance with all requirements, you can expedite the process and help ensure that your business gets off the ground successfully and continues to grow and evolve.