3 Easy Steps to Make Your Wine and Beer Labels Stand Out

If you brew beer or bottle wine, you already know the challenges that occur once your products are sent to market. You need to make your wine and beer labels stand out in order to get on the consumer’s radar.

The shadows of big brands make it extremely difficult for new, local breweries and wineries to thrive. Here’s a few tips to help make your products stand out.

How Do They Do It?

With well-known brands, it’s easy for consumers to walk into a store and pluck a product off the shelves.

It’s all in the packaging and product branding.

The familiarity, years of experience and trustworthiness of a brand make these decisions a no-brainer. But everyone has to start somewhere, right?

What Can You do to Make Your Brews Stand Out?

After determining the basics, there are a few extra things you need to make your wine and beer labels stand out and give your brand that extra push.

1. It’s All in the Packaging

Humans are visual beings, so first impressions matter. Especially when targeting first time buyers browsing through the aisles of their local liquor store.

In fact, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual.

Since consumers can only view your products as they browse, what they find aesthetically pleasing makes all the difference.

According to Barrett Brynestad, Associate Creative Director/Designer for TDA Boulder, the package should tell consumers as much as possible about the beer, from the occasion to taste profile and overall brand ethos.

Our advice: Design your product label well and design it to be easily recognized. It can be as simple as your color scheme and font, qualifying image or logo, etc. Whatever it is, it has to be unique to you. Investing in a talented artist or graphic designer always helps.

After all, your brand logo is arguably the most important part of your product.

Check out some examples of branded beer labels that understand the importance of story-telling branding.

2. Save Face on the Shelves…and Money in Your Pocket

Once you have successfully created your brand label, it’s time to start labeling your cans and bottles.

Outsourced printing can get expensive. For local wineries or breweries, it may be wiser to print your product labels in-house. In addition to avoiding fees and delays, you’ll be able to control the entire process within your own facility.

If you choose to print in-house, you must make sure the label printer meets all requirements your products need.

For example, wine and beer displayed in store freezers or chilling in coolers need labels that withstand frozen temperatures.

After all, it wouldn’t look very professional to have your labels wrinkling from condensation or losing adhesion and peeling off.

In combination, your printing system needs to produce clear, vivid, photo-quality labels to attract the consumers’ eye – and make your wine and beer labels stand out!

QuickLabel’s line of in-house label printers allow your business to meet all the requirements (aesthetic and physical) for printing labels on-demand and in-house.

These printing systems are perfect for the craft beer tradition of experimentation, adaptability and small batch production.

Our advice: Learn more about QuickLabel’s capabilities and benefits with printing frozen labels, wine and beer labels to see if they’re right for your business. You can also browse the full line of in-house color label printers here.

3. Get Your Name Out There!

It’s time. You’ve made a solid brand name for yourself with the packaging (and product) to prove it.

Investing in trade shows, tastings at local liquor stores and advertising (print or video), is the next step in getting your brand recognized. The more people see your product, the more natural it becomes to pick it up.

Our advice: By promoting your brand, you are showing consumers that you are real; you have a story and a taste unique to your product. By investing in these promotions, you are building the trust of your brand.

These three steps will change the way your wine and beer products are perceived – now a known brand rising above the sea of shelves. Good luck!


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Update: TTB Approves Templates for Custom Wine Labels

As many of you may already know or may have read in our previous blog “Plan on a 1-3 Month Delay for New Wine Label Approvals” the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has been lagging on approving wine labels for winemakers all over the country. It now appears that the process may be speeding up.

Frustrations with Label Approval Delays

One of the biggest frustrations among winemakers who are waiting on label approvals is the approval process for custom wine labels. These custom labels are generally designed for corporate gifts or personalized for special occasions like weddings or birthdays. Since these labels are “custom,” they are going to change from time to time depending on the occasion and the person who is ordering them. Yet each variation must be re-submitted for approval to the TTB!

Having to resubmit a modified label is becoming more and more frustrating. Approval times have been unpredictable, ranging anywhere from 1 to 3 months.

Demanding Action on Label Approvals

With this lengthy approval process taking its toll on the wine industry, senators from New York stepped up to the plate for their wineries, urging the TTB to find a way to speed up the label approval process. Senator Charles Schumer was especially vocal about finding a solution that would allow New York wineries to get their products on the shelves as soon as possible.

TTB to Approve Label Templates for Custom Wine Labels

Schumer’s support paid off. On August 9, 2011 it was announced in a press release on the senator’s website, “Effective immediately, TTB will not require resubmission of labels due to changes in graphics or artwork.”

The TTB’s agreement will allow approval of wine label “templates” which will avoid the necessity of sending labels with very slightly revised artwork back to the TTB for approval. “It’s time to uncork the full potential of our wine industry in New York, and this is a good first step in that direction,” Schumer stated.

What are your thoughts in the TTB’s efforts to speed up label approval times? Do you think this move will be effective?

Plan on a 1-3 Month Delay for New Wine Label Approvals

If you’re not in the wine industry, it may surprise you to know that every wine label in the USA, including the most artistic, colorful, and offbeat labels, has been approved by the US government. Unfortunately for wineries, the once routine process of having wine labels approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)is causing more headaches than consuming too much wine.

What’s the Process for Submitting a Wine Label for Approval in the USA?

Winery applicants can submit their wine labels for approval to the TTB either through the mail or online.

In the past, the average approval time for a wine label application was just 1 to 2 days for an online submission and one week by mail. Since the fall of 2010, however, the approval process has been bogged down to a one month approval time by online submission and up to three months if the label application was submitted by mail.

If your label and application are rejected, you must re-submit and the clock starts again on the waiting time.

Complaints from Wineries About Label Delays

An article from the Associated Press presents the delay that is currently going on in the wine industry. The AP reports that TTB staff has been reduced by a decade of cutbacks during a time when the wine industry has been booming.

The President of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation says he has seen a slower pace in wine label approvals after staff “cutbacks” at the TTB were made. In a statement, Jim Trezise said “[The TTB] has been a responsive agency for the wine industry, but delays have gotten longer and that does affect the distribution and cash flow for the wineries.”

In 2008, the wine industry in the state of New York employed 40,000 workers and was responsible for $3.7 billion in economic impact.

The 300+ wineries in the state of New York believe they have been hit particularly hard by the recent label delays. Many NY wine makers have voiced their concerns on the current label approval situation. John Martini, co-owner of Anthony Road Wine Co. said that he submitted a label on May 12th of this year and did not receive an approval until June 15th – over one month of waiting before he could bring his wine to market. Some others have waited 75 to 90 days.

US Senator Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) has come to the defense of NY wineries and asked the TTB to speed up the label approval process.

How Big is the Current TTB Wine Label Approval Staff?

Reportedly, the TTB now staffs 13 employees who will handle approximately 130,000 labels submitted to them for approval this year – 10,000 labels per person, or more than 38 labels per day for every weekday in the year. The TTB website states that the average processing time for each wine label application is now 36 days.

Wine Processing Completions via www.ttb.gov

That’s a big difference between what wine industry experts said would once have taken one day if filed electronically and about one week when submitted by mail!

This graphic shows the correlation between wine label approvals and wine labels that are pending for the month of June. You can see the increase in label submissions for the spring and summer months, and the high number of pending labels.

Why Are TTB Cutbacks Causing Delays for the Wine Industry?

Although the TTB is federally funded, the funding goes to all areas of the TTB which includes – beer, wine, spirits, alcohol, tobacco, firearms and ammunition. This year the TTB was funded somewhere around $100 million and it is looking like it will be reduced for the coming year.

On top of possible decreases in funding, there is no charge for COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) applications and certification. Wendell Lee of the Wine Institute explained that there have been many attempts to obtain revenue for the TTB, and “at one point there was talk of assessing user fees for label approvals.”

Lee also suggested to Wines & Vines magazine that the TTB consider a less stringent and less detailed examination of labels and instead examine only the mandatory information as a way to help save time and complete more label approvals.

Custom Wine Labels Need to be Approved Too!

Customized wine labels are causing even more approval setbacks. Did you know that custom wine labels need to be sent in for approval by the TTB even if the label is use for only a few cases of wine? Labels containing custom “Happy Anniversary” or “Congratulations” sayings on them must all be approved before they can be sold.

The TTB’s View on the Issue

Label approval applications submitted to the TTB have more than doubled in the past ten years, according to TTB spokesman Tom Hogue in an interview with Wines & Vines.

Hogue continued, “And that doesn’t take into account any of the time going back and forth with an applicant to make sure labels they’ve submitted actually meet legal requirements.”

Hogue recently told Wines & Vines that, “Approving labels gets people in business, if we don’t get them out, or make sure people get their permits and pay their lawful taxes, everyone is not on a level playing surface. That doesn’t help business. It’s not good for the industry – especially if you have smaller guys with no margin for error. In the wine industry, you see a lot of that.”

Hogue provided some TTB staffing numbers but did not specify how many individuals act to approve labels. The US federal agency also employs 500 people nationwide as auditors, investigators, licensors, tax processors, among other positions.

“We’re not getting more resources,” Hogue said. With the staffing reductions at the TTB well-known within the industry, Hogue recommended that wineries plan to allow more time to receive label approvals. Hogue continued, “People need to take this into account in planning, and make their business decisions accordingly. We understand it has an impact on them; they have to understand what’s available in terms of resources.”

In a recent statement posted on its website, the TTB advised that “it is likely that COLA processing times will remain longer than you have experienced in the past and we strongly suggest that you build in extra time for receiving label approval from the TTB.”  TTB & Wine Industry: Where Should We Go From Here?

It’s obvious to me that some changes are needed to bring the capacity of the TTB in line with the needs of wine industry. What sort of changes do you think should be made? Less detailed label examinations, with the possibility of recalls if something is overlooked? Or possibly charging for COLAs (Certificate of Label Approvals) in order to generate more revenue so the TTB to employ more label inspectors? What do you think?


More information about TTB wine label approvals:

Can TTB Keep Up with the Wine Industry?Wines and Vines Magazine

New Canadian Wine Labeling Law Protects Allergy Sufferers

We’ve blogged before about allergen labeling for food items, but there are also dangers from allergens found in beverages. According to Health Canada, 5-6% of children and 3-4% of adults in Canada suffer from food allergies and have to be extremely cautious with whatever they eat or drink.

New Canadian Wine Labeling Regulations

In February of 2011, Health Canada revised the allergen labeling requirements for food and wine. The changes will go into effect next summer on August 4, 2012. Under the new regulations, any known allergens must be listed on an ingredients label in “common language.”

Wine bottlers will be particularly impacted because of the proteins they use for “fining” their wines. According to a recent Wine Spectator article, wine producers commonly use isinglass, albumin, and casein, which are allergy-causing proteins.  Health Canada will require these allergens to be listed on the label as “fish, eggs, and dairy.”

The revised Health Canada regulations require adding food allergens and gluten sources to ingredients lists on labels, or adding them to the label in the form of a “contains statement” at the end of the ingredients list (e.g. Contains: wheat). In addition, any allergens, gluten sources, or sulphites present in any spices must be noted on the ingredients list.

How will this affect Wine Makers in the USA?

The same sort of regulation was proposed for the United States in 2006 but was never put into law. Listing allergens on wine labels is currently voluntary in the United States, but if wineries plan to export wine into Canada, wine bottle labels must follow the new Canadian allergy labeling guidelines.

If a winery is unable to prove that its wine is allergen-free, then it must provide an allergy warning label. At the current time there is no allowable amount of allergen proteins, so if any protein at all remains it must be labeled as so.

Why Do Some Wines Contain Allergens? Isn’t Wine Made From Grapes?

It is very common for wine makers to use substances that contain allergens as fining agents while making their wine. Fining agents are used to clarify the wine as well as to add color, odor, and flavor to wines. Many of these fining agents are known allergens.

These fining agents are often filtered out of the wine. It is believed that if these particles are removed, the wine is safe to drink without any allergen warning. However, any detectable amount of protein must be listed on the wine label.

How do wine industry members feel?

Some may agree that labeling wine bottles with allergen lists is a good idea, while others believe it is unnecessary. In an interview with Wine Spectator, Dr. George Soleas of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario debated that in 10 years of returns in their database with close to a half a million returns – none were related to allergies.

Chairman of the Canadian Vintners Association and owner of Chateau des Charmes, Paul Bosc Jr.,  told Wine Spectator that most wine producers are actually happy with this new law because of the meaning behind it.

“Once we understood that the intention was not to label all wines, there really was no issue,” stated Bosc, who sees it as both a local issue and a worldwide issue that is a coming of the times.

In my opinion, it seems as though this is just another sign that we are all becoming more conscious of allergens and their adverse affects.