Changing filling standards for spirits in the USA: towards a 700ml Vs 750ml match to conquer the shelves?
The 70cl and 750ml formats at the heart of the debate.
How many times have we regretted the lack of harmonization of US and European formats at the time of developing the packaging of a French spirit for the USA? Or when referencing and implementing the dry materials used in the composition of the product for the different markets: bottles, labels, 70cl and 75cl cases, etc... In short, a lot of materials have to be purchased in duplicate and production costs are increasing.
We dreamed about it for decades, Christmas 2020 has done it. And now the news comes down on the side of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: now 4 new formats are accepted in the USA!
This does not, however, dispense with the COLA or the formula approval. See the official text below:
In fact, the APC has been thinking for some time now about abolishing the filling standards that have been in force since 1 January 1980. but the risk of confusion with a multiplication of formats emerging at the state level is too risky. This could lead to market disruptions and a cascade of costs impacting the value chain at the logistics level: imagine a myriad of formats to be stored and identified!
Hence the result of the votes of US spirits industry professionals (Constellation Brands, Moet Hennessy USA...) which concluded with 110 votes for and 1141 votes against this project in 2019.
Instead, it is decided to keep the current filling standards (including the best known 1.75L, 1L, 750ml and 355ml) while accepting four others authorized in Europe and Japan. : 1.8L, 900mm, 720ml and 700ml. And this measure, which came into force on 29 December 2020, is justified by the APC in the following way:
1) In order to facilitate trade between the domestic and international markets
2) Propose new purchase options for consumers
Yet some concerns remain after this decision...
A poisoned Christmas present for the consumers?
Certainly products only bottled in 70cl will be able to arrive in the States but Consumers have the right to wonder if the 700ml bottles will be sold at the same price as the 750ml?
Or if spirits will go from 750ml to 700ml without changing the price? It will be interesting to see how the large companies will position themselves in relation to bottle sizes. This will also be done in consultation with the US distributors and retailers who are in the field and will have a significant impact on the supply chain, including the storage of many new references .
And what about the traditional 6*70cl case? Sending such crates to the USA can be expensive. Indeed, handling fees (between $0.25 and $0.50) and monthly storage fees (between $0.25 and $0.42) are generally expressed per case, regardless of the quantity of bottle it contains. Thus two cases of 6*70cl will cost twice as much as a case of 12*700ml or 12*750ml. So you'll have to think twice before you do without the 12-case case, thinking you'll save money with a 6-bottle case!
Similarly, it's likely to move to glass manufacturers with supply difficulties for spirits companies, depending on whether they are suddenly switching to 700ml or 750ml for the same model of bottle or off-the-shelf carafe. For while the largest brands are definitively opting for one format in order to keep costs down, the smaller or intermediate sized brands may be in the background for a while and settle for what's left, while the market stabilizes.
But there is another format that could have done well if it had been selected by the professionals and the APC...
The 500ml: the big missing from the deal?
One of the most widely used formats in the US for spirits to date, There is clearly an intermediary missing between the 750ml and the 355ml. Because the 500ml available in Europe is no longer tolerated by the APC since June 30, 1989.to the great regret of importers and distributors (only bottles bottled before this date are still marketable). Indeed, where the selling price of 750ml reaches too high thresholds for some audiences, the 355ml are for the moment too small and too close to 200ml.
However, certain markets are interested in the 500ml, including the hotel and catering industry, which would like to have limited editions in the mini-bars of suites for example, or to produce limited editions (information gathered during a market study carried out in 2015 in Florida). Yet US spirits professionals and the TTB have surprisingly not adopted this format. Perhaps it is not profitable enough in the end?
In conclusion, the opening of the USA to the 700ml format is perhaps only a first step before other modifications that could open this market to the 500ml or 350ml. Similarly, it is possible that a 700ml flow with non-compliant or tampered products will land on American territory because, to date, the 750ml is much less prone to being filled with contraband (a fear raised during the debates).
We can therefore expect tighter controls from the FDA and the ATC with, why not, a cancellation of the authorization of the 700ml if the trial is not conclusive?
We will also see what the European Union will decide about this: will it follow the APC approach and make changes?
Now, it seems that South Africa is the last country to impose the only 750ml format...
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