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Bacon Labeling 101

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After a full day wrangling booze labels, I heard a good story about bacon labeling on the way home from work (bringing home the bacon, as it were). The radio story emanated from a Bloomberg web story, “Why Supermarket Bacon Hides Its Glorious Fat.” The story touches upon the intersection of our love-hate relationship with fat and with government, and also upon labeling issues and wily businesspeople. Explaining that bacon has “one of the most unusual and underappreciated packaging formats of any supermarket product” it says:

The standard one-pound package shows the bacon slices fanned out, with only their leading edges exposed. The industry term for this is a shingle pack—a reference to the way the slices overlap. Because those front edges tend to feature more lean muscle than the fattier back edges, and because the face of the top slice is invariably covered by a paperboard flap containing the manufacturer’s logo and other branding information, the consumer sees a relatively unbroken field of red protein, creating the illusion that the bacon is leaner than it is.

Lest the bacon packaging hide the fat too much, the U.S. government requires the packaging to show the real story, at least on the back window. The window allows the consumer:

to see how the bacon truly looks in all its fatty glory. … [T]he shingle pack doesn’t just present an idealized bacon fantasy—it also provides a built-in reality check. It’s hard to think of another package that engages in such a clever sleight of hand on the front and then gives away the game on the back.

The story also has a nifty video about the machinery used to slice the bacon slabs optimally. In a radio version of the story, Lukas says the shingle pack is “ingeniously deceptive.”

And if you don’t think bacon shingles have a lot to do with booze marketing, you should take a peek through this window.

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food


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Spirits Make the World More Beautiful

lemon

I have not looked at The Dieline in a while, so it’s time to catch up. This website does an excellent job of showing the best and most creative package and graphic design from around the world.

I am struck by what a huge percentage of the posts relate to food packaging — and alcohol beverages in particular. Below is a fairly random sampling, the last 27 posts, covering the past five days (in September of 2014). Fully 11 of 27 (40%) directly relate to alcohol beverages; I put those in black. The other foods are in medium blue, and the unrelated posts are in light blue.

  1. Coffee beans
  2. Juice
  3. Beer
  4. Mezcal
  5. Tattoos
  6. Lemoncello
  7. Gewurztraminer
  8. Rum
  9. Gardening products
  10. Biscuits
  11. Whisky
  12. Juice
  13. Playing cards
  14. Energy drink
  15. Chopped tomatoes
  16. Chocolate
  17. Salsa
  18. Chocolate
  19. Water
  20. Fruit bars
  21. Oat drinks
  22. Beer
  23. Spirits
  24. Spirits
  25. Invitations
  26. Wine
  27. Wine

The Dieline’s tag for all beverages is here. Which ones seem best and worst to you? This one is pretty darn good in my opinion. Also, this Skyy label, which seems to glow in the dark and react to the music, is nicely done.

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alcohol beverages generally


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Of DSS, SOC and LabelVision

jack

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?

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distilled spirits specialty


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Proof: Booze Makes the World More Colorful

buzz

For quite some time, I have noticed that alcohol beverage packaging tends to be prettier than lots of other packaging. Now, perhaps, I am on the verge of proving this hunch, though the manner of proof, in the form of a BuzzFeed article, may be a bit light on evidence.

The article shows the “34 Coolest Food Packaging Designs Of 2012.” Of this sampling, fully 20 are beverages. Of those, no less than 13 (more than a third) are alcohol beverages. Not bad, considering all the other categories represented, such as chocolate, cheese, jam, pasta, and bread.

Within the alcohol beverage category, I think the Slamsey’s Gin (as above) and Dancing Pines Bourbon bottles look good. I did not notice US approvals for those two, or most of the others on the list, so far. So this may be a harbinger that there is plenty of interesting work to look forward to in 2013. Of the products listed, Kraken Spiced Rum is the most familiar, and the US approval is here.

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alcohol beverages generally, distilled spirits specialty


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Trampy Beer and Wine, and a Vigorous Defense Thereof

Some of the Clown Shoes beer labels, such as Tramp Stamp and Lubrication, are leading to lots of controversy. This got us to reading about the graphic designer for both. While we reserve judgment about the labels at issue, the blog post by the label designer for Clown Shoes is so good and vigorous that we wanted to cover it here. The designer of the label on the left is Stacey George. She is based in Massachusetts, and she talks about the issues in a July 6, 2011 post entitled “Sometimes, a Pipe is Just a Pipe.”

“Are Clown Shoes’ labels offensive?” Sure. Why not? Offensive is a subjective term. If you look at the labels and find yourself offended, there you go. Do you have the right to say so? Abso-friggin-lutely! Shout it from the highest mountain, or your Twitter account, or your brothers’ website, whatever your bullhorn is, use it, loud and proud. Here, let me loan you a sandwich board and a bell, you can be offended Town-Crier style, I got your back.

My labels for Clown Shoes—which were named Best Craft Beer Art of 2011 by PourCurator.com—are not illustrated with a sexist intent. For instance, a Tramp Stamp is a tattoo placed on the lower back of a woman to emphasize her sexuality. In Germany, they call it, Arschgeweih, meaning, “Ass Antlers.” Can you imagine if we had named a beer Ass Antlers!? We have nicknames for these tattoos because they have a purpose. The woman who has one is confident in her sexuality and she is enticing the viewer to appreciate her. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and likes how she looks is a sexy woman. Sexy is not sexist. In fact, sexist is rarely sexy.

As a woman, and an artist, I have a hard time with [the] images being labeled chauvinistic. Chauvinism is an attitude of superiority over the opposite sex. I’m not designing women who are inferior, I’m designing women who celebrate who they are. So, who is bringing the inferiority? The viewer? The offended? It’s a complicated question.

Stacey George probably did not design the wine label on the right. But while we are appreciating Stacey’s work, and thinking about tramps, we wanted to include at least one more tramp-related label. Stamp du Tramp is bottled by Greg & Greg, Inc. of Sebastopol, California.

Are Clown Shoes’ labels offensive?” Sure. Why not? Offensive is a subjective term. If you look at the labels and find yourself offended, there you go. Do you have the right to say so? Abso-friggin-lutely! Shout it from the highest mountain, or your Twitter account, or your brothers’ website, whatever your bullhorn is, use it, loud and proud. Here, let me loan you a sandwich board and a bell, you can be offended Town-Crier style, I got your back.

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Posted in:

malt beverage, wine


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