Archive for February, 2009
We like to think of the COLA database as a microcosm for the US economy. This got us wondering whether the economic meltdown has tamped down the number of labels submitted to and approved by TTB.
In blue, above, is the S&P 500 Index from late 2004 through February 23, 2009. It shows the meltdown, from roughly the beginning of 2008 through February 23, 2009; a drop of 712 points or about 48%.
In red are the number of TTB labels approved, during the December through January (2 month) period each year. We picked this 2-month time period because it best allows a comparison to the ugly last month of 2008 and first month of 2009. The red line shows no falloff in the number of labels approved each period, with 14,151 labels approved during the most recently completed two month period (and 11,041 approved during the comparable period from 12/1/2004-1/31/2005). It’s nice to see a graph that’s not headed south, and this should bode well for variety at the store, and many interesting labels to showcase here in the near future.
It is likely that all beer, wine and spirits labels will change dramatically in the near future. TTB has been working on new rules since CSPI and other groups submitted a petition in 2003. The new rules would require a “Serving Facts” panel on every container. This panel would include a lot more information, such as the typical serving size, number of servings per container, calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Because this is a big, controversial change, TTB has received more than 18,000 public comments during the past few years. There are far too many comments for most people to review, and so we will highlight and summarize the most noteworthy comments here. The most recent proposal and comments are here. This is comment 9 in a series; to see others, click on the “serving facts” tag below.
Shape Up America! is a non-profit founded by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D.; its purpose is to promote a better diet. The group’s comment said:
- TTB’s proposal leaves out critical data such as serving size, alcohol in grams, definition of “standard drink,” and a moderation message. Without this, the proposal will fail as a public health tool.
- The information is important to combat the obesity epidemic and to reduce alcohol-related mortality “which is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.” This is long overdue.
- Consumers want and need the information. There is no discussion of the associated costs.
- A “census-balanced” poll of 503 consumers showed that 90% believe the Serving Facts panel should be mandatory. Americans want “complete information about what is in beer, wine and distilled spirits.”
For Dr. Koop’s related video, see this.
The back label says CONTAINS SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM. The front label says PREMIUM MALT BEVERAGE WITH NATURAL FLAVORS AND ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS.
We think this is noteworthy due to the unabashed use of artificial sweeteners. Perhaps this marks a trend toward a much wider use of artificial sweeteners, in beverages so commonly sweetened with sugar over so many centuries. It is partly a liberalization, on the part of FDA and TTB, allowing a wider variety of sugar substitutes. It may also be due to forward-thinking companies getting way out in front of the eventual need to disclose calories and carbohydrates.
IFIC says sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar, derived from sugar and:
can be used in place of sugar to eliminate or reduce calories in a wide variety of products. … Sucralose was discovered in 1976. … In 1998, [FDA] approved the use of sucralose in 15 food and beverage categories — the broadest initial approval ever given to a food additive.
Acesulfame Potassium, according to Wiki, is:
a calorie-free artificial sweetener, also known as Acesulfame K or Ace K (K being the symbol for potassium), and marketed under the trade names Sunett and Sweet One. … It was discovered accidentally in 1967 by German chemist Karl Clauss at Hoechst AG (now Nutrinova). [It] is 180-200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), as sweet as aspartame, about half as sweet as saccharin, and one-quarter as sweet as sucralose. … Acesulfame K is often blended with other sweeteners (usually sucralose or aspartame). These blends are reputed to give a more sugar-like taste whereby each sweetener masks the other’s aftertaste, and/or exhibits a synergistic effect by which the blend is sweeter than its components.
This same label is also noteworthy because it has a famous spirits name (on beer), it has an abbreviated serving facts panel, and it has a moderation message.
We see a lot of labels referring to famous people in general and rock stars more particularly. A few weeks ago we showed Miranda Lambert’s wines. Above, the label on the left is a tribute to Tom Petty’s great song, “American Girl.” The back label, on the right, goes with the same company’s tribute to the Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main St. In all, Rock and Roll Cellars, of San Francisco, California looks to have about four rock-themed labels on offer. We think there is a legal issue in here somewhere. We think the people behind these wines will find it quickly if they don’t have permission from Tom Petty and the others.
An anonymous reader wrote to us about this Zubrowka label as follows:
Free Range Vodka?
As if there weren’t already enough confusion with health food terms like organic, natural, cage-free, and free-range, we’ve found a product that extends the health craze to alcoholic beverages. Meet Zubrowka, bottled with “neutralized” buffalo grass.
What exactly is neutralized buffalo grass? Well, your guess is as good as ours. But if one were to assume that by neutralizing it, it is rendered somewhat inactive or less potent, that begs the question, why bother adding the ingredient in the first place?
So, the purpose of adding a neutralized ingredient is definitely curious, but the label’s image may give us some clues. The image of a large, muscular, and almost fearsome bison dominates the label. One could assume the message here is that by ingesting the very essence of what these imposing creatures thrive on, the drinker would too be infused with virility and strength.