Creating Hard Seltzer Labels & Following Labeling Regulations


Learn the rules regarding hard seltzer labels and discover current labeling trends.

If you were paying attention to social media in mid-2019, you might have had the impression that everyone was under the spell of hard seltzer. It was marketed as a healthier alternative to beer, appealed to both men and women, and seemingly exploded at the beginning of summer.


But the beverage that seemed like a fad has continued to gain traction. In fact, the global hard seltzer was valued at $4.4 billion and is expected to rise to $14.5 billion by 2027. The marketplace is still relatively open to newcomers, too. Aside from the most recognized brands, like Truly and White Claw, most hard seltzers are still largely regional or the product of microbreweries

U.S. Hard Seltzer Market Size, by ABV Content, 2016-2027 (USD Billion)


Source: Grand View Research

Whether you’re considering the hard seltzer market, this article will help you understand the rules and regulations regarding hard seltzer labels as well as current labeling trends. After all, your product might end up in the hands of an Instagram influencer, and it has to grab attention!  

Sugar or Malt? 

To discuss the regulations regarding hard seltzer, we need to differentiate whether we're talking about seltzer from a brewed-malt base or brewed-sugar base. The regulations are different for both, and each have their own set of challenges. Here are the unique requirements for each. 

Brewed-Sugar Base:  

  • 100% of the fermentable materials must come from non-malt sugar 
  • The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) considers all hard seltzer to be a beer, but brewed-sugar base seltzer is not viewed as a malt-beverage 
  • Must comply with TTB label requirements for beer as well as FDA labeling rules 
  • Can be marketed as "gluten-free" 
  • Does not need TTB approval for the label 

Brewed-Malt Base: 

  • Brewed from "clear malt" 
  • The TTB considers brewed-malt base seltzer to be beer AND a malt-beverage and labels must follow the rules for both 
  • Must conform to federal malt-beverage label rules and requires a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) 
  • Cannot be marketed as "gluten-free" due to the presence of gluten in malt 
  • Requires TTB approval for the label 

Both types of hard seltzer require manufacturers to obtain a Brewer's Notice, must have TTB formula approval for any added flavors or colors, and are federally taxed as beer. 

Blurry Lines 

Because some hard seltzer is under the jurisdiction of the FDA for its labeling rules, it must contain nutrition information and an ingredient statement. There is no such requirement for beer, though some beers offer nutrition information on their packaging voluntarily. Be aware that some states may not agree with the malt vs. non-malt delineation made by the TTB, and may treat all hard seltzer as no different from beer. Before seeking distribution in a particular state, research how their alcohol codes treat hard seltzer. Some states even require hops to be present in the beverage, which means hops must be added to your hard seltzer, even if it's in trace amounts.

You also need to be cautious about phrasing on your labels. The FDA rules are strict about false health claims, and the TTB, even after relaxing rules about claims such as "strong" or "draft" on beverage labels, still monitors such language closely. Being both cautious and creative with your taglines will keep your brand above board yet clever enough to remember.

Brand Identity and Lifestyle 

To really make an impact in the hard seltzer market, you'll need to understand how much the product is intertwined with the lifestyle and culture of the core demographic of young, trendy, active Millennials. Keep in mind, Millennials are spending less than Generation X or Baby Boomers on alcohol. While labels, slogans, and entire marketing campaigns for alcoholic drinks in the past showed wild parties, relaxing evenings at restaurants, or sitting at crowded bars, the consumers of hard seltzer are looking for products that fit into an active lifestyle. 

Broad Visual Appeal 

While hard seltzer was initially viewed as another low-calorie drink marketed to women, it bucked decades of trends and shocked everyone who thought it would go the way of Zima. Hard seltzer has had huge crossover appeal due to its perceived health benefits over traditional alcoholic drinks. It's lower in calories, alcohol, and carbs than beer, and is compatible with keto and paleo diets. This has positioned hard seltzer as the go-to drink for younger, more active male and female consumers who want to have a good time and pay attention to their fitness while doing so. This means that when designing labels for your hard seltzer, staying gender-neutral with color schemes and phrasing is wise. Emphasizing active lifestyles with bright colors and bold wording to catch attention is more important than being concerned with dividing marketing along gender lines.

Also, container sizes need to be varied to accommodate the wide demographic base that enjoys hard seltzer. Tall, slender cans have traditionally been used for drinks marketed to women, but shorter 12-ounce cans and larger containers such as crowlers need to be considered as well. 

To ensure your capability of labeling a wide range of container sizes, it would be wise to invest in a versatile labeler. The Pack Leader USA SL-10 Shrink Sleeve Labeler allows you to apply eye-catching, full-size graphics that will pop on store shelves. 

Creating Hard Seltzer Labels Worthy of Social Media 

When you're ready to wow customers with your hard seltzer, choose a labeling partner that has experience with labeling equipment that can apply durable labels. Pack Leader USA has label machines perfectly suited for your hard seltzer cans. Reach out today for your free consultation. We look forward to helping you find the right labeler for you!

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