Brewers Change ‘Malternative’ Labels after US Watchdog’s Snarl

10 April 2002

Following the decision by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to forbid the misleading labelling of ‘malternatives’ – the rapidly growing group of sweet, malt-based alcoholic drinks such as Smirnoff Ice [WAMN: 09-Apr-02] – Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing have decided to alter the packaging of their products.

Although such drinks are linked with hard liquor brands, they do not actually contain the spirit in question, though the packaging is often ambiguous on this point.

AB is to make “minor word changes” on the labels for its Bacardi Silver offering (manufactured with Bacardi) from the current descriptor “a premium malt beverage with the natural flavors of Bacardi rum and citrus”.

Miller, which claimed its Skyy Blue brand included natural flavors containing Skyy vodka, will now call the product an “ultra-premium malt beverage”, with forthcoming brands also avoiding references to spirits.

The drinks firms are making the changes even though the labels in question were cleared by the BATF.

Regulators may investigate the status of malternatives further, including a possible review of their tax status. As the drinks do not contain spirits (unlike elsewhere in the world), they do not attract the duties placed on hard liquor.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff