Posts Tagged ‘brand extensions’
It is common knowledge that the beer field is crowded, when it comes to trademarks. But many steps further, even the beer-fish-trademark field is crowded, it appears.
And so on. NPR noted:
American trademark law lumps breweries together with wineries and distilleries, making the naming game even chancier. A widely circulating rumor has it that Yellow Tail Wines, of Australia, came after Ballast Point Brewing Co., in San Diego, for naming a beer “Yellowtail.” Ballast Point’s pale ale is now conspicuously lacking a fish-themed name (a signature, if not a trademark, of the brewery), though an image of a brightly colored yellowtail still resides plainly — and legally, it seems — on the label. A spokesperson for Ballast Point said the company could not discuss the matter.
Well here I sit, writing on day 15 of the shutdown. All the government stuff I need (such as COLAs Online) is unavailable. Thank goodness that all the private stuff is available. It takes a lot of public and private resources to make this blog go. That is, on the private side, I need my web server, my ISP, my WordPress, Google, a bit of AC power, etc.
Increasingly, I also need my LabelVision. LabelVision is a tremendous resource, provided by the people at ShipCompliant. It provides various ways to scour TTB’s label database, even when TTB’s systems are down. LabelVision enabled me to quickly find the WinterJack COLA as above. To find this label, my other and much less appealing options would have been to wait until TTB re-opens someday, or jump in the car and drive around until I find this new product.
I had a sudden need to look at this Tennessee Cider label in order to explore what is new and current in distilled spirits specialty (“DSS”) labeling, and the statements of composition (“SOC”) that go along with this category of spirits. To recap, where you have a common type, set out in the regulations, it is sufficient to mention simply VODKA or RUM or TEQUILA or WHISKEY. But where you have something more like miscellany, it is necessary to provide, on the front label, a “statement of composition.” This needs to appear near the “fanciful name” (and “brand name”) — and needs to match the SOC as suggested on the approved formula (formula approval is required for all DSS products). Most suggested SOCs have the alcohol base, then flavors, then colors, with very little extraneous matter. And so, the “normalized” SOC, here, would be LIQUEUR, WHISKEY, CARAMEL COLOR. Not too enticing.
So, with plenty of marketing prowess, the mighty Jack Daniel Distillery has substantially rearranged the various terms. Even the smallest changes (such as changing WITH NATURAL FLAVOR to WITH NATURAL FLAVORS) can cause delays, needs correction notices and rejections. Here, it seems Brown-Forman changed what would have been the TTB-suggested SOC, to add a whole lot of puff. All these words got added to the SOC: A, SEASONAL, BLEND, OF, APPLE, CIDER, JACK, DANIEL’S®, TENNESSEE. All these words got removed (from the SOC): CARAMEL COLOR. That is, the most-probably-suggested-SOC and the approved-label’s-SOC do not have a whole lot in common. And yet the label got approved.
I am not trying to suggest that there is anything wrong with the label or the SOC at issue. Instead I am using this label as an example of how the seemingly simple requirement, to put an SOC on the front, can raise many legal issues. Should the caramel be shown in the same font and color as the remainder of the SOC? With the caramel moved a line below the SOC, would it be ok to move it a bit more, such as to the back label? At what point does the puff, in the SOC, go too far and crowd out and obscure the true SOC? Could Brown-Forman add the caramel to the whiskey component, rather than the end product, in order to de-emphasize or avoid label references to color? For every approval like this, with a “creative” SOC, how many times did TTB press for an SOC that much more closely matches what is suggested on the formula approval?
Here is Bacardi Torched Cherry Rum with Natural Flavors. It is apparently made with “torched plant aloe.”
The use of aloe as a flavor is curious because it’s not clear how aloe tastes, and various sources say aloe does not taste especially good. This product is one of very few TTB products that seem to contain aloe. Even these find no room for aloe. As of this writing, the other flavors in the line are:
- Dragon Berry
Apart from aloe, this label suggests TTB will allow the term “Rum” to appear larger than “with natural flavors.” And yet, on other distilled spirits specialties, such as an identical product made with a vodka base, it is unlikely TTB would allow “Vodka” to appear in a more prominent way compared to the rest of the statement of composition. It is not clear why TTB polices the term “vodka” so rigorously, but not other comparable terms, such as “rum.” Another example of this is, the government clearly allows “cherry rum” (as above) but would probably not allow “cherry vodka.” This example is easier to understand because, as a matter of law and history, rum is only made from cane products, so confusion is unlikely. But in the case of a “cherry vodka” it would be more difficult to be sure about whether the product is distilled from cherries or just has a cherry flavor. It is possible that “vodka” is more sensitive due to controversy around this Skyy Blue label from many years ago.
First there was Miller Lite, at about 96 calories per 12 ounces (back around 1975).
In later years the non-alcoholic malt beverages (or “near beers”) became more common, with leading brands such as Clausthaler and Kaliber at about 80 calories (as per Skilnik).
Now, in the past year, it appears we have a race to the bottom. That is, Miller Genuine Draft 64 came out about a year ago. It is, not surprisingly, 64 calories per 12 ounces (and 2.8% alc./vol.).
Lower and more recent still is Bud Select 55. It is only 55 calories and 2.4% alc./vol.
This is one important trend over the past 34 years. In a future post we will look at a countervailing trend toward very high calorie/alcohol malt beverages.
All of this leads us to wonder, where will this go in the next 34 years? When the Jonas Brothers hit middle age, will they be drinking Bud Exträ Epic Mega Select 11 (down near the lower limits for the legal definition of beer)? Hops flavored Perrier?
Tea with a bit of ethyl kick seems to be one of the most popular trends of the past year. TTB has approved many brands, and these are two of the biggest.
Southern Comfort Sweet Tea Cocktail is classified as a liqueur, at 15% alc./vol. The back label proclaims it — “exciting.”
Jack Daniel’s Sweet Tea is classified as a malt beverage with natural flavors. It has 2/3 less alcohol. Google Maps says the products are made 5 miles apart, in Louisville, Kentucky.