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New Nutritional Menu Standards and the Craft Beer Industry

In 2016, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be implementing a law that requires some restaurants and food establishments to disclose certain nutritional information for standard menu items. This law will become effective December 1, 2015 and must be in compliance by December 1, 2016. With the new law, chains will be required to post calorie counts, as well as additional pieces of nutritional information. This includes craft beer and will be difficult as not all breweries are able to supply the information.

This is crucial for the craft beer industry because the market has exploded in recent years. In 2014, craft beer sales rose 22% to $19.6 billion. Though the details are still being determined and should the trend continue and grow, this new law will make it incredibly difficult for breweries and restaurateurs as full nutritional labeling for alcoholic beverages has never been required.

With the FDA implementing this law, there will be many guidelines:

  • Restaurant menus and menu boards will include calorie listings for each brand of beer.
  • Chain restaurants will have nutrient figures for each beer for total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar and protein.
  • Restaurants may use a combination of methods to develop the information, including the USDA Nutrient Database, manufacturer-supplied data (that’s where brewers come in), calculations with defensible ideas behind the calculations, laboratory analysis and recipes.
  • Draft beer will be included if listed on a menu. Nutrient values for draft beer will not be required if the beer is not on a menu.
  • Each size pour will require its own listing of complete data.
  • The values for “regular beer” in the USDA Nutrient Database won’t be considered accurate for craft beer and other methods of ascertaining this information will be required

For smaller breweries or restaurants, this might be something that could be harmful. A brewer might have to hire a nutritional analyst in order to obtain the information, or simply drop certain brews because they do not want the additional cost. A large chain restaurant might see the opposite problem as their menu will be overloaded with information. The popular Yard House chain of restaurants has a very beer centric menu and a single location can have over 100 beers available. The beer combined with the size selection means they will most likely have to completely redesign their menu.

Fortunately, not all beers will be covered by this rule. Seasonal beers sold less than 60 consecutive days, but no more than 90 in a year, are exempt. With the final details still being decided, many are hoping that not all of the information will be required or that craft beer drinkers will not care about their calorie intake.

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