The Independent Brewers Association has today launched guidelines for brewers to assist them to get their labeling right.
The guide is an acknowledgement that for professional brewers seeking access to commercial markets, correct labeling is absolutely essential.
IBA Director Ben Kraus said that while many brewers believe they are compliant, it’s a complicated process.
“Remember, many of our brewers are under-resourced owner-operators wearing the hat of brewer, label designer, sales and marketing and possibly venue manager,” he said in an interview with IBA CEO Alexis Roitman.
“This may lead brewers to miss something, or to use the labels of other beers as a guide for what is fully compliant, which can lead to problems.
“Compounding this may be the cost of a printer capable of printing this information onto labels or packaging. From my own experience, I think understanding what the actual requirements in fact are is probably the biggest problem.
“These Guidelines are designed to address that.”
While many brewers see labeling as a chore, once their business meets up with retail it become critical.
Diarmaid O’Mordha, Quality & Sustainability Manager, Endeavour Drinks Group, said that correct observance was often a barrier to getting beers ranged.
“Labeling is an important consideration for Endeavour Drinks. It’s carefully reviewed prior to any ranging,” he said.
“Not only are we looking to ensure that any labeling complies with the law, but we’re also determining whether the label, the product, the format and the alcoholic content comply with our Responsible Buying Charter.
“This Charter considers a number of principles which may not necessarily be prescribed in legislation, but which ensure that we and our suppliers are responsible corporate citizens who look to meet community expectations on drinks retailing.
“For example, the Charter has principles that ensure products that might appeal to minors, might encourage dangerous, illegal or anti-social behaviour or suggest any social or sexual success will not be sold in our stores.
“As the largest retailer of drinks products in Australia, it’s important that all products that are ranged in our stores adhere to the highest possible standard,” Diarmaid said.
Aside from responsibility, Diarmaid said he believed that the number one misconceptions was around best before dates.
“Our biggest task currently is getting brewers clear on the requirement to label Best Before dates on beer with a shelf life of less than two years,” he said.
“Best Before labeling is a legal requirement as per the FSANZ Food Standards code Standard 1.2.5.
“From a consumer perspective this Best Before information is critical as it directly impacts the potential experience customers may have with the product.”
Diarmaid said apart from legislative requirements, good labeling matters to the retailer.
“Let’s face it, fresh beer tastes better and date coding allows our stores to rotate beer stock and effectively manage a first-in, first-out methodology,” he explained.
“Date coding also allows our customers and stores to know the shelf life recommended by brewer of that beer.
“So, ideally, we look for the Best Before date as well as the Packed On date. With this information our customers know how fresh their beer is and by when they should consume it.”
The Guidelines are up-to-date and include the recent decision to make pregnancy labels mandatory. They have sections that outline what brewers must include in their labels and also the requirements around optional label information.
They include a checklist that breaks down requirements for single packs, multi-pack and carton packaging.
The guidelines can be downloaded by all brewers here.