Key Takeaways | Seeing Around the Corner: Alcohol Industry Updates - McDermott Will & Emery

Key Takeaways | Seeing Around the Corner: Alcohol Industry Updates

Overview


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In this webinar, Alva Mather, Lesli Esposito, Rachel Gartner and Nichole Shustack teamed up to unpack how recent regulatory shifts will significantly affect alcohol companies and distributors. They discussed product innovation in the spirits industry, “zero-proof” beverage options and how companies are leveraging the benefits of artificial intelligence for advertising and marketing.

Top takeaways included:

  1. Introducing a nonalcoholic beverage may mean getting to know a new federal agency. For alcohol brands looking to launch a zero-proof or nonalcoholic beverage, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) may not be the only federal agency regulating your product. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety and efficacy of various consumer products, including nonalcoholic and conventional beverages. How a product is manufactured (e.g., dealcoholized products versus products that never contain alcohol) will play an important role in determining how a product is regulated. Industry members should be aware of what their obligations are to the FDA, TTB and relevant state agencies before launching a zero-proof or nonalcoholic beverage.
  2. In alcohol advertising, claim substantiation is the key to risk mitigation. Across all industries, we are seeing an uptick in sustainability claims, the use of reviews as part of advertising, claims around diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and the continued use of social media influencers in marketing. Industry members should understand what constitutes a “claim” in advertising (e.g., what an influencer does with your product may be as important as what they say about it) and ensure they have the evidence to back up those claims.
  3. Keep an eye on the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is busy, both updating guidance for industry and taking sweeping enforcement actions. The FTC is in the process of revising its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides). As sustainability claims become more prevalent, and as consumers rely on them more to make buying decisions, these updated Green Guides will be an important tool for industry members. As for enforcement, the alcohol industry has not been spared, and where the FTC’s current investigations ultimately go will be determinative of how the agency, under the Biden administration, views antitrust issues in the alcohol space.
  4. A new wave of direct-to-consumer shipping litigation is here. The familiar debate about direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipping laws returns. The litigation is primarily coming from out-of-state retailers challenging laws that allow in-state retailers to ship DTC but prohibit the same for out-of-state retailers. A new batch of litigants, primarily smaller suppliers, are also challenging laws that allow in-state self-distribution and DTC sales but prohibit the same for out-of-state suppliers.

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