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Flavor Ingredient Data Sheets

A recent issue of the TTB Newsletter had some good information about Flavor Ingredient Data Sheets — often referred to as FIDSs. FIDSs can be very important, and so it is good to have this information readily available.

The FAQ explains that a FIDS is typically needed when “you’re using a compounded flavor that was purchased from a flavor manufacturer. … For this purpose, a compounded flavor includes any flavor, cloudifier, or blender that consists of multiple ingredients that are combined to produce a particular taste characteristic.” The same FAQ provides a blank, fillable FIDS form.

The FAQ emphasizes that you should get the FIDS from your flavor supplier; it is not a document that can or should normally be prepared by the producer of the end beverage. The FIDS form first burst onto the scene 20 or more years ago, and has not changed very much in the intervening years. It covers the basics like, is the flavor approved, safe, natural, and does it contain any colors or other ingredients with labeling or safety implications. In an attempt to go a bit beyond where TTB’s document already goes, here are a few common examples of where a FIDS is and is not indicated.

  • Cherry Liqueur (made with Natural Cherry Flavor)
    • Get a FIDS for the cherry flavor
  • Cherry Liqueur (made with cherries)
    • Don’t bother with the FIDS because, as above, the FIDS is intended to be used with compounded flavors
  • Cherry Liqueur (made with artificial flavor)
    • Trick question because liqueurs must contain at least one natural flavor and can’t contain any artificial flavors, so the FIDS is not going to help here
  • Straight Bourbon Whiskey
    • If you have a FIDS you are probably going in the wrong direction because this category should not have anything added
  • Malt Beverage with Natural Cherry Flavor
    • Needs a FIDS
  • Malt Beverage Brewed with Cherry Juice
    • Does not need a FIDS or a formula approval. Does not need a formula approval due to the tremendously important liberalizations at TTB Ruling 2015-1 and the accompanying list of exempt ingredients and processes. Does not need a FIDS because the juice is not compounded.
  • Grape Wine with Natural Cherry Flavor and a Cloudifier
    • You need a FIDS for the cherry flavor, and for the cloud. Even though the cloud is not really a flavor and probably does not need to be mentioned on the label, it does need a FIDS because it’s probably compounded (of various ingredients) like a flavor.

As soon as you start talking to your flavor company, it’s worth asking which flavors do and don’t already have a FIDS. That’s because if you need one, but the flavor company does not have one yet, it could take them quite a few weeks to get the TTB flavor approval needed as a foundation for the FIDS. You should not assume all flavors have a FIDS because not all flavors are made in the US, or intended for use in alcohol beverages, where the above rules most directly apply. As yet one more example, if you are making pickle-flavored potato chips in Parguay, you probably don’t need a FIDS or a TTB formula approval.

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Colors: In Alcohol Beverages

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When was the last time you tried TTB’s Formulas Online (FONL) system? It continues to change every few months, since its inception a few years ago. When I went to use it earlier this week I was struck by how much information TTB is loading into the system.

As an example, let’s take a look at what FONL has to say about colors (food and beverage colors such as FD& Red #40). First you log in and get your home screen (as above).

Then you click along and go to enter some ingredients. Near this area, there is a handy definition of what is a “color” (in this context). It’s not always an easy question. Ok bigshot, is saffron a color? What about grape juice? The help points out that the predominant reason for the addition is the key, when the ingredient has more than one function (such as color and flavor).

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Once we verify we are in fact talking about a color, you would proceed as here.

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Once you click “Color,” it very helpfully pulls up a list of the most common and allowable colors, along with alternative names such as Red 40/E 129. This list goes on to cover fruit juice, grape skin extract/enocianina/E 163, mica, oak, paprika, riboflavin, saffron, titanium dioxide, tomato, turmeric, and vegetable juice.

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Then there is more help, off to the right, with more links.

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There is a lot of information and it can be a bit daunting at first, but once you get used to it, the extra information is quite helpful. Last but not least, many thanks and good wishes for Roberta Sanders, who retires from TTB (before Pres. Trump takes over) — after thousands of people helped, and tens of thousands of formulas approved.

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Big Formula Changes at TTB

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TTB put out Ruling 2016-3 at the end of September. It relates to spirits formula approvals, and is intended to cut some of the burdens for spirits companies and for TTB. It’s also sort of long. Word says it is 3,573 (carefully chosen) words. My mission is to break it down to 15% or less.

The gist is, TTB will help you avoid formula approval for many products in these big categories: vodka, rum, whisky, brandy. Some details, on each category, are below. If you want the whole story, you can go to the Ruling, and the elaborations at Industry Circular 2016-1 (for imports) and Guidance 2016-3 . Rather than knocking out the formula approval requirements in the spirits regulations, TTB explains: “TTB will not accept for review new formulas submitted for products approved under this ruling. This ruling serves as the approval that is required by §§ 5.26, 5.27, and 19.348.”

  1. Vodka . The Ruling takes advantage of the fact that vodka already has a narrow standard of identity and explains that if you are clearly within it, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula. Only a bit of sugar and citric acid allowed.
  2. Rum . The standard is not quite so narrow, as compared to vodka, but it’s apparently narrow enough. If you only add a bit of sugar, molasses, caramel, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula.
  3. Whisky . The rule is similar, as to whiskey — except for the reminder that neither straight whisky, nor bourbon whiskey, can have any additives (with or without a formula). The former because that’s a big part of what straight means. The latter because the Bureau decided it is not (and should not be) customary to put additives in bourbon.
  4. Brandy . If you only add a bit of sugar, caramel, fruit juice, wine, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula.

TTB does reserve the right to look into this further, as needed, on a case-by-case basis. The Ruling “provides immediate relief from the formula submission requirements for these specific products.”

TTB took a similar action with respect to malt beverage formulas about two years ago . This must have helped, because TTB later expanded this to other malt beverage products. TTB has also, at the end of September, expanded this approach, to wine. We have covered the beer issues in the past, we are covering spirits here, and may cover the wine issues in the future. I am guessing Ruling 2016-3 cuts several hundred formulas per year. LabelVision says TTB approved 748 vodkas in the most recent year (this is a count of label approvals, for unique brand names, on products coded as vodka, since most formula data is not public). A svelte 446 words.

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distilled spirits


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Rye Beer

Latrobe did a “brilliant” job here , picking up on a lot of important trends.

Let’s see how many instructive legal issues this one label raises. Extra points for anyone who can raise additional issues. No more ALS challenges, please.

  1. It is beer but it more or less screams spirits.
  2. In a variety of ways. (For example, the brand name refers to moonshine paraphernalia, as Tickle’s sidekick helpfully explains .*)
  3. Within the rules, probably.
  4. Even though spirits terms are not allowed on beer labels.
  5. Even though this product contains and purports to contain absolutely no whiskey of any sort.
  6. It mentions George Dickel at least three times.
  7. It mentions Rye but not Rye Whiskey. This is very smart in that, though they mean about the same thing to most people, rye is just a grain, and it’s not necessarily whiskey without the second word attached. Like Bourbon is not sufficient on even a Bourbon Whiskey label, without the second word.
  8. Latrobe used a formula, notwithstanding that TTB has eased way up on formula requirements.
  9. The label raises a lot of good trademark issues, tied up with Latrobe’s use of another company’s highly protected brand name.
  10. TTB seems to be allowing the term “refreshing” these days, on a pretty liberal basis, even though this policy has wavered a bit over the years.

This Tequila-themed beer shows that the above Whiskey-themed beer label is not just a fluke.

What did we miss?

* John’s parents will be proud that we have done some work for Tim Smith , Junior Johnson , The Hatfields & McCoys , Jesse Jane , Popcorn Sutton , Jesse James and other rapscallions. And this guy just looks guilty — I am not sure of what — but moonshining at least .

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flavored malt beverage


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TTB Eases Way Up on Formulas for Many Beers

There is some big news from TTB, via dcbrewlaw . TTB has recently decided to ease up on the formula requirements for malt beverages made with common ingredients and processes such as some barrel aging, as well as various fruits and spices. This should help considerably with TTB’s overwhelming workload, and the related delays .

At dcbrewlaw , Dan reports:

There is good news for brewers who are tired of waiting for formula approvals from TTB (currently 74 days ): you may not need it . On June 5, 2014, TTB issued a fairly significant ruling, Ingredients and Processes Used in the Production of Beer Not Subject to Formula Requirements . The ruling clearly spells out which Exempt Ingredients and Processes are now deemed “traditional” and, therefore, do not require a TTB formula approval.

The new ruling expands upon the rules as of 2013 . Here are two good examples of products that needed formula approval under the old rules, before this week, and will continue to need a formula approval prior to label approval: Bud Light Lime ; Joose . By contrast, here are two products that would no longer need formula approval: Bourbon County , Harlem . On each, the formula is highlighted in yellow. Read more about TTB Ruling 2014-4 at dcbrewlaw and TTB’s site .

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