If it appears like the United States wine market has become more saturated over the past couple of decades, here is one measurement that supports this impression: The number of wine labels approved by the Federal government. Before we dig into the details, it is important to note that many COLAs are approved without ever hitting the market. Additionally, the rule governing when a label must be submitted for approval is that the approval must be obtained before the wine is bottled.
Using LabelVision, we are able to uncover a number of interesting and useful data points about the American wine market. For example, while the number of label approvals increased by 140% during this 17-year period, total wine sales in 1997 vs. 2013 increased by only 70%. Do wine drinkers have access to a far larger variety of wines than ever before? Between 1997 and 2013 the number of wine labels approved annually increased from 36,000 in 1997 to 93,000 labels approved in 2013—a 140% increase. During this same time period, the U.S. population increased by roughly 15%.
The data also tells us that domestically made wines have increased their share of total wines during this time period, though approvals of imported wine labels have outnumbered domestic wine label approvals every year. In 1997 domestic wine labels represented 28% of all approved labels that year. By 2013 domestic wine labels had risen to 36% of all approvals and reached its height in 2010 when they represented 42% of all label approvals.
While LabelVision allows us (and you) to very accurately determine how many wine, beer and spirit labels are being approved annually along with the trends over time, we can’t exactly determine the cause of label approval increases or decreases from one year to another because of the requirements surrounding COLA approvals.
Label approvals during a given year might be a factor of the size of the global vintage from 1-4 years prior, to the state of the economy during a recent period, and even to TTB efficiency in approving labels. For example, the number of labels approved in 2013 bears no relationship to the amount of wine produced from the 2013 harvest. A 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon label might be submitted for approval in 2014, 2015, 2016 or even beyond depending on when it is released and when the producer gets around to submitting the label for approval.
It certainly appears that the U.S. marketplace for wine has become much more crowded with a greater diversity of products. Wine makers may see it as more competitive, consumers may see it as more variety on the shelves. Either way, we are looking forward to using LabelVision to keep up on COLA trends.
Alabama has joined the likes of seven other states (Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, South Dakota, North Carolina, and Washington) as the latest state to accept label registrations via Product Registration Online. Alabama typically requires licensees to fill out and submit a Brand/ Label Registration Request form to the state ABC. Licensees using PRO don’t need to fill out this form by hand; instead all the information is transmitted electronically to the state. Like other PRO states, licensees will receive approval emails and be able to look up their registrations in the public facing label database. Best of all, there are no state fees for using registrations via PRO, and, the Lorax will thank you.
Here is what you need to know about registering products in Alabama:
- Wine and sparkling wine labels equal to or under 24% ABV need to be registered
- Malt labels under 14% ABV need to be registered
- Alabama is a control state for spirits, and wine over 24%.
- There are no label renewals in Alabama.
It’s that time of year again; the Kansas label renewal period is upon us. Kansas has pushed the renewal period back by a month this year so licensees will be able to renew previously approved labels from June 1st through July 31st. But, that doesn’t mean that you should procrastinate! Just like last year, Kansas will be utilizing the PRO system to offer a quick and easy substitute to laborious paper submissions. Licensees will be able to submit electronically with three simple steps; check which products they would like to renew, review the selection, and make a payment. It should take only a few minutes to complete. That will be one more item checked off your to-do list.
In the increasingly fast pace of wine, malt and spirit law and compliance, more and more states are recognizing the importance of doing more with less, optimizing processes, and going green. Over the last two years alone, seven states have begun using PRO (Product Registration Online) to accept online label registrations from licensees. For labels registered through PRO in these states, we’ve seen registration time-to-approval drop from weeks or even months to days, and in some cases just a matter of hours! It’s not surprising that states and licensees alike are swapping out traditional registration forms sent via snail mail for electronic registrations transmitted instantaneously and approved in short order.
Since it’s beginning in 2012, PRO has improved the registration process by making label registration move quickly and easily for licensees and state administrators alike. We’ve worked with licensees – covering over 4,000 wholesale brands – to learn what we can do to make registrations less frustrating and time consuming. We also learned about what users can do to make registrations accurate 100% of the time to ensure minimal delays or rejections.
How can I get started?
Need to register labels in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, South Dakota, or Washington? Getting started is easy. ShipCompliant users have PRO already integrated into their accounts, and are utilizing end to end workflows including TTB COLA submission and state subsequently automated registrations to multiple states. Outside of a ShipCompliant account, PRO is available by visiting www.productregistrationonline.com.
Where will I be able to register electronically next?
Well, we can’t spill the beans on this yet, but we’re working with quite a few states that have gotten feedback from you, raving about PRO in the existing states. We’re looking to have a new PRO state (or two) in the next couple months. (Hint) one sported a boxing legend and the other produced two brothers with one of America’s finest inventions. Okay, maybe you can guess the states… In the world of compliance, who needs more time-consuming and tedious forms to fill? Questions? Have a state you’d like to see adopt PRO? Contact us.
Effective May 1, 2014, FedEx will begin accepting on-site direct-to-consumer wine shipment orders to Arkansas residents. Both FedEx Express and FedEx Ground services will be available for wineries licensed to ship wine directly to Arkansas consumers. As we outlined in our blog post back in February, in order to be compliant, wineries must:
- Apply for a $25 wine shipping permit (call the AR ABC for a permit application – 501-682-1105)
- Ship on-site shipments only
- Send orders only to private residences
- Pay sales and excise taxes
- Limit shipment volumes to 1 case per resident per quarter, max
Wineries should also note the FedEx label placed on any shipments satisfies the requirement of having a special shipping label on any on-site orders sent to Arkansas residents. FedEx’s shipping map will be updated on May 1.
In the last post, I ran through some of the things you need to be think about as a brewery expanding into new markets. Let’s review:
I want to pause at this last point. Breweries need to be especially concerned with entering into agreements with new distributors because there is so much at stake. Franchise laws are known to be stricter for beer than they are for wine and spirits. In an extreme case, a brewery might even pull out of a state for a year or more and then, if it’s possible, re-enter in order to move away from an underperforming distributor. Ideally, you not only want to find a distributor that will take your brand, but also one that focuses on craft beer or beer imports and will actively market and sell your product. Check out an interesting NYT article recently published on how franchise laws affect small craft beer businesses.
Here’s a brief list of issues to keep in mind regarding your ongoing wholesale operations:
- Periodic registrations – Several states require that you submit brand or label renewals to keep tabs on actively distributed products.
- Tax and shipment reporting – On a state-by-state basis you will be required to file excise tax, wholesale gallonage or shipper reports. These forms can vary widely – some states don’t require them, others ask you to break your sales down by package type, and still others want to know the quantity of cans and bottles instead of in cases.
- Growing your sales in out-of-state markets – from managing the relationship with your distributor (especially in states where you rely on them to do the heavy lifting) to deciding when its time to place a sales rep in a market to exclusively sell your portfolio, growing sales requires active oversight and management.
ShipCompliant now offers a package specifically for breweries that is designed to simplify compliance. ShipCompliant will automatically pre-populate your registration packets and monthly state reports, help you submit COLA applications right the first time and identify brands that might be confusingly similar to your own. To learn more, check out the press release on the launch of the new ShipCompliant Beer Edition.