Major beer brewers back providing more content information

The Beer Institute trade group says Anheuser-Busch, Miller­Coors and Heineken­USA have backed its call to offer more details - on the label and online - on what's in their beer.

WASHINGTON — Beer drinkers who can often find out details about the grain and hops that went into their beverage might get more information from major brewers – about calories, carbohydrates, protein and more.


A trade group that represents companies such as Anheuser-Busch and Miller­Coors said Tuesday that it’s pushing members to voluntarily reveal more details on labels, packaging and websites about what’s in their beer by the end of 2020.

The Beer Institute is also encouraging brewers to show when a beer was brewed, to list ingredients, and to point to a website or include a code that can be scanned with a smartphone for more information.

Beer Institute members produce more than 80 percent of the volume of beer sold in the U.S., the group said, and added that Anheuser-Busch, Miller­Coors and Heineken­USA have already agreed to the new standards.

Michael Jacobson, the president of the Center for Science in the Public Inte­rest, an advocacy group, said that the absence of calorie labeling on cans and bottles has helped obscure what a major dose of calories alcohol can be, and that the beer companies should go further.

“Brewers are allowed to artificially color, flavor, sweeten and preserve their products, as well as use foam enhancers,” he said in a statement. “If the industry takes pride in its ingredients, it should list them on labels and not simply on the web.”

The more inclusive labels could prove more difficult for smaller brewers.

The Brewers Association, a trade association of craft brewers, says it supports transparency in labeling, but it believes compliance might be difficult for microbrewers who, in addition to having fewer resources, sell more small-scale seasonal products with varying ingredients. That would mean spending more money for the greater variety of beers those brewers make, stretching already tight profit margins.

The group says it has been working separately with the Food and Drug Ad­min­­is­tration and the De­part­ment of Agriculture on a plan to be included in the department’s nutrient database by beer style rather than individual brands.

Nick Petrillo, a beverage industry analyst for IBISWorld, said he thinks the larger companies will use the new labels to their advantage, enabling them to back up claims of lower-carb beer. But he doesn’t foresee “Big Beer” using the new transparency to target microbrewers who aren’t compliant.

“I think this is where the industry is heading,” he said. “Con­su­mers want to know what’s in the products they use.”