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Is your cider compliant? Top 3 Things to Know About the TTB, Taxes, & Approvals

Hard Apple Cider, TTB

By Alex Cunningham, Director of Compliance, BevSource 

Cider compliance can get a bit complicated. Here are the top 3 things you need to know when starting out.

1. TTB & Cider

Cider products containing at least 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB classifies ciders under its wine classification. Depending on how the cider is made, it can fit into 3 subcategories:

  • Natural Wine
  • Special Natural Wine
  • Other Than Standard (OTS) Wine

These classifications determine whether formula approval is needed, but don’t affect tax rate. There are specific tax classifications for that.

2. Tax Classifications

Tax Classification is determined by alcohol content, level and origin of carbon dioxide, and the fruit content for “hard cider.” There are 4 classifications, each with their own tax rate ranging from $0.226 to $3.40:

  • Hard Cider
  • Still Wine
  • Artificially Carbonated Wine
  • Natural Sparkling Wine

As of January 2017, TTB’s federal definition of “Hard Cider” has changed. The cider product must be a wine made from apples or apple concentrate and water, pears or pear juice concentrate and water, and may not contain any other fruit product. The ABV needs to be less than 8.5% and CO2 levels must be less than 0.64 grams per 100ml. If your cider fits into this classification, you will qualify for the lowest tax rate available for cider products.

3. Label and/or Formulation Approval

Both the TTB and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) play a role in regulating ciders, depending on the ABV.

  • If your cider contains more than 7% ABV, then a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) from the TTB is required prior to bottling/producing.
  • If your cider contains less than 7% ABV, no COLA is required. These ciders are still required to comply with FDA food labeling and packaging requirements including, but not limited to ingredient labeling, nutrient labeling, and allergen labeling requirements.hard cider, cider compliance

Regardless of ABV, ciders that meet the following qualifications require formula approval through the TTB:

  • Wines produced by blending two finished fruit wines together (for example, apple wine and pear wine)
  • Wine with added flavors or spices
  • Wine made with excess sugar and/or water or other cellar treatments not authorized for natural wine production

Formulas will need FIDs and/or Specification sheets accompanied with the list of ingredients and method of manufacturing.

These three key areas of cider compliance are the basics. It barely scratches the surface. And this is only on the federal level. State compliance complicates things even more, with every state defining cider differently as well.

If you have questions or need help when it comes to compliance, give us a call. We can review formulations and labels for compliance with federal and state laws, as well as handle all the paperwork for you.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended to convey general information regarding beverage laws, taxes and compliance and it does not constitute legal advice. This is for informational purposes only, and we strongly encourage you to seek independent legal counsel for advice on specific legal issues.