Label requirements can be confusing, even for veteran brewers.
As you watch your freshly bottled Kombucha move down the conveyor belt, you start worrying about the labeling requirements. You remember 2010 when bottles of Kombucha were removed from store shelves because Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) testing revealed the alcohol content was much higher than advertised. You recall 2016 when new FDA requirements regarding sugar content left some producers scratching their heads as they tried to make sense of rules.
The FDA and, if your Kombucha contains more than 0.5% alcohol by volume, the TTB have laid out specific guidelines for the labels on your "booch," and you’ll want to make sure you’re following them rigorously. But compliance with regulations isn't about checking off a box and following arbitrary rules; it's about communication and transparency with potential customers. 54% of first-time consumers say they will read your product’s label before they buy it. They need to understand what they're reading and know they can trust your product!
FDA vs. TTB Jurisdiction
The reason you want to be sure your Kombucha does not contain greater than 0.5% abv is that it would then be classified as an alcoholic beverage. As long as your Kombucha never reaches this alcohol level at any time during production and can't reach that level through fermentation on store shelves, your labels will only have to comply with FDA regulations, not TTB.
If your Kombucha is intentionally brewed to contain 0.5% abv or more, it is subject to the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (“FAA Act”). This may mean that your Kombucha is classified as a "beer," depending on what causes the fermentation in your product. You would then need to acquire the appropriate permitting to allow for the production of an alcohol beverage. Your labels would need to display the following information:
- The name of the brewer
- Net contents
- Nature of the product (beer, wine, spirit, etc.)
- Location of production
- Official health statement: GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.
Satisfying FDA Regulations
The FDA has jurisdiction over food and beverage labeling, as well as certain low alcohol beverages (wine under 7% abv and certain beers). While understanding all of the FDA label guidelines can seem overwhelming, there are some basic rules to keep in mind.
Principal Display Panel (PDP): This is the part of the label most likely to be facing a consumer when the product is on a store shelf.
- Common name for the product/Statement of Identity
- Your product's brand
- Net quantity
Information Panel: This is the label immediately to the right of the PDP as facing the product.
- Name and address of the manufacturer
- Name of the packer or distributor (if different from the manufacturer)
- Ingredient list
- Nutrition facts
- Any required allergy labeling
On July 26, 2016, the FDA began requiring Kombucha manufacturers to separately list sugars present before fermentation and sugars added in after fermentation. Kombucha wasn't singled out; this requirement is also present for other foods and beverages. So if your product began with 16 grams of sugar and after fermentation, you were left with 13 grams of sugar, and then put in 13 grams of some other kind of sugar (syrups, honey, free, mono-, and disaccharides, fruit or vegetable sugars) you would list your sugar as:
Total Sugar: 26 grams
Includes 13 grams added sugar
Remember that the Added Sugars cannot exceed the Total Sugars amount. Keep clear records about how much sugar is included in the final product and why it changed from the sugar amounts at the beginning of production. To ensure your product complies, submit it to a third party lab for testing.
When it comes to mentioning possible health benefits on your labels, you must be aware that the FDA takes such claims seriously. Seizure of products, recalls, even criminal prosecution can occur if your labels contain false claims.
To ensure compliance, familiarize yourself with the following types of claims:
- Authorized Health Claims: These are claims that meet the Significant Scientific Agreement (SSA) Standard. In other words, these claims must be able to be scientifically proven to be true and withstand an FDA review.
- Qualified Health Claims: While these claims won't have to meet the SSA Standard, they must still be backed by scientific evidence.
- Nutrient Content Claims: This is a little simpler. If your product contains "zero fat" or "provides 50% of your daily recommended Vitamin C," you can claim that on your label.
- Certified Organic: If your product is certified organic according to the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), you could include the organic seal. You'll need to qualify as an organic producer, but this is an important selling point for a lot of consumers.
Labeling Your Kombucha
Now that you've absorbed all the labeling rules and regulations, it's time to consider how labels will be applied to your product. When choosing a partner to make your labels a reality, you want to make sure they can design attractive and durable labels while navigating confusing rules and regulations. On top of that, you'll need machinery to place those labels on your bottles accurately, consistently, and quickly to the packing line moving efficiently.
Pack Leader USA offers professional labeling machines designed to work with just about any bottle or can shape, whether you want front and back labels, end caps, or shrink labels.