Cider Corner: Does That Label Even Need to be Run Past TTB?

Raise your hand if you get anxious in creating a label for your cidery’s brands. Yes, it can sometimes be cumbersome, but many cideries like yours are in the same boat and have shared experiences with Brewer.

Brooke Glover​, ​who is co-founder of Swilled Dog Hard Cider and is VP of the Board of Directors of the American Cider Association shared that she sees how painful the process is for many of its members.

“Just by having the name “Cider” as part of your brand name, it causes an issue with label approval,” she said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Unlike the wine industry, cideries aren’t allowed to add a vintage year to a cider to differentiate from year to year of a particular cider.

“How are we supposed to communicate to the consumer that our ciders have differences from year to year based on that year’s apple crop,” she asked. “It gives our industry credibility as an agriculture and apple-based beverage. These apples are just as nuanced as grapes are from year to year and should be given that respect.”

One thing that can help, if a cider that is being packaged is below 7% ABV, label approval most likely won’t be needed.

Matt Wood, the owner of Saro Cider, said navigating the TTB’s system of requirements — which vary based on ingredients, ABV, and packaging format — have been and continue to be a struggle.

“We originally thought that all labels required approval, but then learned that if a cider product is less than 6.9% ABV and not in a weird format, label approval is not required,” he said. “We thought that a different package format would work for one of our hybrid products, but learned that the TTB prefers packaging in standardized volumes.”

​Wood added that the TTB system interface is confusing at first, but fairly routine after you’ve used it a few times. He pointed out that the website is in the process of updating the user interface as well.

“The TTB staff can sometimes be challenging to get a hold of,” he said. “However, once you are in contact with the TTB staff, the vast majority of them are really, really nice to work with.

“They get it; the rules are really complex and often change and they want to help … [so] don’t gripe at someone who is trying to help you.”

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