If you still think of hot dogs and deep dish pizza as the icons of Chicago’s culinary scene, you need to think again. The so-called Capital of the Midwest is a hub of innovation in the food industry. Chicago has the largest food and beverage production in the U.S., with an annual output of $9.4 billion. Food startup companies in the region raised $723 million in venture capital last year.
“Chicago is one of the most diverse cities for eating,” says Anna Desai, Chicago-based influencer of Would You Like Something to Eat on Instagram. ”Our culinary scene is constantly elevating and evolving. We are always just a neighborhood or tollway away from experiencing a new culture and cuisine. I’m most excited when I find an under-the-radar spot or discover a maker who can pair flavors and ingredients that get you curious and wanting more.”
Desai started her blog in part because she wanted to champion the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community in the Chicago food and beverage scene. “Food has long served as a cultural crossroad,” she adds, and Chicago’s multicultural cuisine exemplifies that sentiment.
Chicago is home to some of the most creative minds in fermentation, from celebrity chefs, zero waste ventures, alternative protein corporations and the world’s largest commercial kefir producer. There are dozens of regional and artisanal producers lacto-fermenting vegetables, brewing kombucha and experimenting with microbes in food and drink.
“Chicago is a great food city in its own right, so naturally there is a ton of talent in the fermentation space,” says Sam Smithson, chef and culinary director of CultureBox, a Chicago-based fermentation subscription box. “The pandemic’s effect on restaurants has also spawned a new wave of fermenters (ourselves included) that are looking for a path outside the grueling and uncertain restaurant structure to display our creative efforts. This new wave is undoubtedly community-motivated and concerned more with mutual aid than competition. There is a general feeling that we are all working towards the same goal so cooperation and collaboration is soaring and we are seeing incredible food come from that.”
Flavor is King
Flavor development is still the prime motivation for chefs to experiment with fermentation. A good example is at Heritage Restaurant and Caviar Bar in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.
“Fermentation has been a cornerstone of the restaurant since its inception,” says Tiffany Meikle, co-owner of Heritage with her husband, Guy. “With the diverse cuisines we pull from, both from Eastern and Central Europe and East Asia, we researched fermentation methodologies and histories, and started to ‘connect the dots’ of each culture’s fermentation and pickling backgrounds.”
Menus have included sourdough dark Russian rye bread, toasted caraway sauerkraut, kimchi made from apples, Korean pears and beets and a kimchi using pickled ramps (wild onions). Heritage has also expanded their fermentation program to the bar, where they’ve created homemade kombucha, roasted pineapple tepache, sweet pickled fruits for cocktail garnishes, and kimchi-infused bloody mary mix.
“It’s fascinating to me that there are so many ingredients you can use in a fermented product,” says Claire Ridge, co-founder of Luna Bay Booch, a Chicago-based alcoholic kombucha producer. “People are really experimenting with interesting ingredients in kombucha…I have seen brewers do some of the wildest recipes and some recipes that are very basic.”
Chicago-based Lifeway Kefir is indicative of the innovation taking place in the city. Last year the company expanded into a new space: oat-based fermentation, launching a dairy-free, cultured oat milk with live and active probiotics.
“We’ve spent so many years laying the groundwork in fermented dairy,” says Julie Smolyansky, CEO. “Now we’re experimenting and expanding to see what’s over the next horizon, though we’ll always have kefir as our first love.”
Chicago is home for two inventive fermented alternative protein startups: Nature’s Fynd and Hyfé Foods. Both companies were born out of the desire to create alt foods without damaging the environmental.
“Conscious consumerism is a trend that’s driving many people to try alternative proteins, and it’s not hard to understand why,” says Debbie Yaver, chief scientific officer at Nature’s Fynd. The company uses fermentation technology to grow Fy, a nutritional fungi protein. “Fungi as a source of protein offer a shortcut through the food chain because they don’t require the acres of land or water needed to support plant growth or animal grazing, making fungi-based protein more efficient to produce than other options.”
Alternative foods outlasting the typical trend cycle is a challenge for companies like Nature’s Fynd. When grown at scale, Fy uses 99% less land, 99% less water and emits 94% fewer greenhouse gasses than raising beef. But, to make an impact, “we need more than just vegans and vegetarians to make changes in their diets,” Yaver adds.
Numerous companies are using fermentation as a means to eliminate waste. Hyfé Foods, another player in the alternative protein space, repurposes sugar water from food production to create a low-carb, protein-rich flour. Fermentation turns a waste product into mycelium flour, mycelium being the root network – or hyphae (hence the company name) — of mushrooms.
“[We’re] diverting input to the landfill and reducing greenhouse gas emissions at scale,” says Michelle Ruiz, founder. “Hyfé operates at the intersection of climate and health, enabling regional production of low cost, alternative protein that reduces carbon emissions and is decoupled from agriculture.”
Symmetry Wood is another Chicago upcycler. They convert SCOBY from kombucha into a material, Pyrus, that resembles exotic wood. Founder Gabe Tavas says Pyrus has been used to produce guitar picks, jewelry and veneers. Symmetry uses the discarded SCOBY from local kombucha brand Kombuchade.
Many area restaurants and culinary brands also use fermentation to preserve food for the long Chicago winters, when local produce isn’t available. Pop-up restaurant Andare, for example, incorporates fermentation into classic Italian dishes.
“Finding ways to utilize what would otherwise be waste products inspired our initial dive into fermentation. The goal is not just to use what’s leftover, but to make it into something delicious and unique,” says Mo Scariano, Andare’s CEO. “One of our first dishes employing koji fermentation was a summer squash stuffed cappellacci served with a butter sauce made from carrot juice fermented with arborio rice koji. Living in a place with a short grow season, preservation through fermentation allowed us access throughout the year to ingredients we only have fresh for a few weeks during the summer.”
Despite growing interest and increasing sales, fermenters face some significant hurdles.
Smithson at CultureBox says he sees that consumers are open to unorthodox, less traditional ferments. Though favorites like kombucha and sauerkraut dominate the market, “their share is being encroached on by increasingly more varied and niche ferments.” But getting these products to market can be a challenge. Small-scale, culinary producers are challenged by the regulatory hoops they need to jump through to legally sell ferments – especially unusual ones a food inspector doesn’t recognize.
“The added layer of city regulations on top of state requirements, sluggish health department responses, and inflexible policy chill the potential of small producers,” Smithson says. But he highlights the recently-passed Home-to-Market Act of Illinois as positive legislation helping startup fermenters.
Consumer awareness and education are also vital. “Many longstanding and harmful misconceptions on the safety and value of fermented products still exist,” Smithson says.
Matt Lancor, founder and CEO of Kombuchade makes consumer education a core part of marketing, to align kombucha as a recovery drink.
“Most mainstream kombuchas are marketed towards the yoga/crystal/candle crowd, and I saw a major opportunity to create and market a product for the mainstream athletic community,” he says. “We’re on a mission to educate athletes and the general public about these newly discovered organs [the gut] – our second brain – and fuel the next generation of American athletes with thirst quenching, probiotic rich beverages.”
Product packaging provides much of a consumer’s education. Jack Joseph, founder and CEO of Komunity Kombucha, says simplicity is key.
“People are more conscious of their health now, more than ever before,” he says. “So now it comes down to the education of the product and creating something that is transparent and easy for the consumer to digest.”
Sebastian Vargo of Chicago-based Vargo Brother Ferments agrees.
“Oftentimes food is considered ‘safe’ due to lack of microbes and how sterile it is,” he says. “Fermentation eschews the traditional sense of what makes food ‘safe’. We need to create a set standardized guide for fermented food to follow, and change our view of living foods in general. One of the brightest spots to me is the fact that fermentation is really hitting its stride and finding its place in the modern world, and I don’t see it going anywhere but up in the near future.”
What exactly constitutes a health claim on a food label? It’s a contentious topic that can be a source of problems and expenses for the unwitting producer.
“We want to communicate accurately and effectively to consumers in a way that’s truthful and not misleading. There needs to be a body of evidence that supports health claims,” said Josephine Wee, PhD, an assistant professor of food science at Penn State (and member of TFA’s Science Advisors). “The bottom line: health claims are complicated.”
Wee unpacked what is and isn’t a health claim during the FERMENTATION 2021 conference. Similar topics into the regulation of fermented foods will be addressed at TFA’s August conference, FERMENTATION 2022.
Wee questioned: does the fermentation community require health claims on certain fermented foods? Today, terms like gut health, probiotics and improved immunity dominate the language of fermented foods. But words and definitions matter, Wee stressed.
Defining Health Claims
When putting health claims on a food label, website or marketing material, information must be truthful and transparent. Remember:
– The FDA has approved only 12 health claims. In the U.S., food labels can legally only include health claims that meet FDA requirements. There must be “significant scientific agreement among qualified experts that these claims are factual and truthful,” Wee said. FDA approval is based on the amount of publicly available, scientific evidence from reputable studies.
– A health claim is not a nutrient claim. Food producers cannot link the effect of a nutrient or food to a disease or health condition (other than in the rare case that there is supporting scientific evidence). Nutrient claims are defined by the FDA to “describe the level of a nutrient in the product, using terms such as free, high, and low, or they compare the level of a nutrient in a food to that of another food, using terms such as more, reduced, and lite.”
– A health benefit cannot be used interchangeably with a health claim. A health claim must pass a two-part test: first, contain the characterization of the type of food/food component and, second, state its relationship to a disease. For example: “A good source of calcium and vitamin D. Reduces risk of osteoporosis.”
“The reason for these standards is that it provides a high level of confidence to validate the substance and disease relationship,” Wee said.
What is Not a Health Claim?
Wee said producers must be careful not to mislead consumers with an inaccurate health claim.
She shared the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on fermented foods. In it, the authors write: “Although consumers have become increasingly interested in fermented foods, it is unfortunate that, in our opinion, much information available on fermented foods in popular press magazines, websites and social media is exaggerated or inaccurate.”
Here are four health-related claims that are not health claims.
1. Description of well-being from consumption of a food. These claims do not mention a disease or disease-related condition. For example, “Multivitamins contribute to general good health.”
2. Structure-function claims. A structure-function claim describes the role of an ingredient in affecting or maintaining normal structure or function in humans. “There is this presence of this food and food ingredient, but it doesn’t really talk about disease,” Wee explained. For example, “Calcium builds strong bones.”
3. Dietary guidance. A dietary label addresses the role of good health in general dietary patterns. For example, “Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day are recommended for good health.”
4. Nutrient content claim. These characterize the level of nutrients in food. For example, “Good source of fiber.”
“These four health-related claims are sometimes mistaken for health claims,” Wee said, “but they’re actually not health claims by the definition of regulatory agencies such as the FDA.”
Where Can Producers Get Into Trouble?
Securing FDA approval for a new health claim can be arduous. Under the Nutrition Labeling Education Act of 1990 (NLEA), a company can petition the FDA to consider a new health claim. But the process is typically lengthy (240-540 days) and costly.
Often, it is a competitor that challenges a producer’s health claim.In 2010, Dannon was ordered to pay $45 million in a class-action lawsuit brought against them by Activia yogurt. Dannon’s ads claimed their yogurt was clinically and scientifically proven to regulate digestion and boost immune systems, but were deemed to be false advertising.
In the past few years, kombucha brands have been particularly vigilant in monitoring health claims in their industry. Tortilla Factory (parent of Kombucha Dog) sued Trader Joe’s, Better Booch, Makana Beverages and Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha for supposedly violating the law by exceeding the 0.5% abv threshold.
“I think as fermented foods become more mainstream…over time consumers will become more educated and understand what these labels mean,” Wee noted.
Nutrition professionals need to share the details when recommending fermented products to clients. What are the health benefits of the specific food or beverage ? Does the product contain probiotics? Live microbes?
“There are a vast array of fermented foods. This is important because it means there can be tasty, culturally appropriate options for everyone,” says Hannah Holscher, PhD and registered dietitian (RD). But, she adds, remember that these are complex products.
Holscher spoke at a webinar produced by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) and Today’s Dietitian. Joined by Jennifer Burton, RD and licensed dietitian/nutritionist (LDN), the two addressed the topic Fermented Foods and Health — Does Today’s Science Support Yesterday’s Tradition? Hosted by Mary Ellen Sanders, executive director of ISAPP, the presentation touched on the foundational elements of fermented foods, their differences from probiotics, the role of microbes in fermentation, current scientific evidence supporting health claims and how to help clients incorporate fermented foods in their diets.
Sanders called fermented foods “one of today’s hottest food categories.” Today’s Dietitian surveys show they are a top interest to dietitians, as the general public often turns to them with questions about fermented foods and digestive health.
Here are three factors highlighted in the webinar that dietitians should consider before recommending fermented foods and beverages.
Does It Contain Live Microbes?
Fermentation is a metabolic process – microorganisms convert food components into other substances.
In the past decade, scientists have applied genomic sequencing to the microbial communities in fermented foods. They’ve found there’s not just one microbe involved in fermentation, Holscher explained, there may be many. The most common microbes in fermented foods are streptococcus, lactobacillaceae, lactococcus and saccharomyces.
But deciphering which fermented food or beverages contains live microbes can be difficult.
Live microorganisms are present in foods like yogurt, miso, fermented vegetables and many kombuchas. But they are absent in foods that were fermented then heat-treated through baking and pasteurization (like bread, soy sauce, most vinegars and some kombucha). They’re also absent in fermented products that are filtered (most wine and beers) or roasted (coffee and cacao). And there are foods that are mistakenly considered fermented but are not, like chemically-leavened bread, vegetables pickled in vinegar and non-fermented cured meats and fish.
“The main take-home message is that it’s not always easy to tell if a food is a fermented food or not. So you may need to do more digging, either by reading the label more carefully or potentially contacting the food manufacturer,” Holscher said. “When we just think of if live microbes are present or not, a good rule of thumb is if that food is on the shelf at your grocery store, it’s very likely that it does not contain live microbes.”
Does It Contain Probiotics?
The dietitians stressed: probiotics are not the same as fermented foods.
“Probiotics are researched as to the strains and the dosages to be able to connect consumption of a probiotic to a health outcome,” Holscher said. “These strains are taxonomically defined, they’ve been sequenced, we know what these microorganisms can do. They also have to be provided in doses of adequate amounts of the live microbes so foods and supplements are sources of probiotics.”
Though fermented foods can be a source of probiotics, Holscher notes: “In most fermented foods, we don’t know the strain level designation.”
“For most of the microbes in fermented foods, we’ve just really been doing the genomic sequencing of those over the last 10 years and so we may only know them to the genus level right,” she said. For example, we know lactic acid bacteria are present in kimchi and sauerkraut.
Holscher suggests, if a client has a specific health need, a probiotic strain should be recommended based on its evidence-based benefits. For example, the probiotic strain saccharomyces boulardii is known to help prevent travel-related diarrhea, and so would be good for a patient to take before a trip.
“If you’re looking to support health and just in general, fermented foods are a great way to go,” Holscher says.
The speakers recommended looking for probiotic foods in the Functional Food Section of the U.S. Probiotic Guide.
Does Research Support Health Claims?
Fermentation contributes to the functional and nutritional characteristics of foods and beverages. Fermented foods can: inhibit pathogens and food spoilage microbes, improve digestibility, increase vitamins and bioactives in food, remove or reduce toxic substances or anti-nutrients in food and have health benefits.
But research into fermented foods has been minimal, mostly limited to fermented dairy. Dietitians should be careful making strong recommendations based on health claims unless those claims are supported by research. And food labels should always be scrutinized.
“There’s a lot of voices out there that are trying to answer this question [Are fermented foods good for us?],” says Burton. “Many food manufacturers have published health claims on their labels talking about these benefits and, while those claims are regulated, they’re not always enforced. Just because it has a food health claim on it, that claim may not be evidence-based. There’s a lot of anecdotal accounts of benefits coming from eating fermented foods and the research is suggesting some exciting potential mechanisms. But overall we know as dietitians we have an ethical responsibility to practice on the basis of sound evidence and to not make strong recommendations if those are not yet supported by research.”
Reputable health claims are documented in randomized control trials. But only “possible benefits” can be linked to nonrandomized controlled trials. And non-controlled trials are the least conclusive studies of all.
For example, Burton puts miso in the “possible benefits” category because, with its high sodium content, there’s not enough research indicating it’s safe for patients with heart disease. Similarly, she does not recommend kombucha because of its extremely limited clinical research and evidence.
“We have to use caution in making these recommendations,” Burton says.
This is why Burton advises dietitians to be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell patients “eat fermented foods” — list the type of fermented food and its brand name. She also says to give patients the “why” — what is the benefit of this fermented food? Does it increase fiber or boost bioavailability of nutrients?
“Are fermented foods good for us? It’s safe to say yes,” Burton says. “There’s a lot that we don’t know, but the body of evidence suggests that fermentation can improve the beneficial properties of a food.”
Two years after kombucha sales began to clock double-digit growth during the pandemic, sales are slowing, increasing only 1% over the last 52 weeks. But kombucha is still the sales leader in the fermented, non-alcoholic beverage space, representing nearly 85% of the category.
Kombucha pioneered the refrigerated functional beverage industry. For years it was one of the few beverages in the fermented, non-alcohol beverage space. But now there’s competition from new functional drinks — like prebiotic- and probiotic-infused sodas — that are diverting sales from kombucha.
“The consumer really is not OK with just drinking water. They want functionality out of everything they consume,” says Caroline Davidson, director of channel partnerships at SPINS (a data provider for natural, organic and specialty products). “Non-alcoholic beverages are traditionally not healthy options. To see that kombucha is actually one of the few segments contributing to double-digit growth (in that category), it’s really refreshing and encouraging.”
Those numbers were presented at KombuchaKon, the conference and trade show produced by Kombucha Brewers International (KBI). The event had been virtual the last two years, and brewers were anxious to meet in person again. Hundreds of brewers and brand leaders converged last week in Long Beach, Calif.
Here are highlights from SPINS’s kombucha market analysis.
Functional Beverages Grow
Refrigerated functional beverages are a top growth category across all sales channels — natural products stores, regional groceries and multi-outlet retailers (MULO) like WalMart, Target and CVS. Beverages made with -biotic cultures, high fiber sodas, water kefir sodas, drinking vinegars, kvass and tepache are all part of that growing category — and they compete with kombucha.
Shelf-stable functional beverages are growing even more quickly. For example, in the natural channel, sales of these drinks have increased nearly 25%, versus 4% for their refrigerated counterparts.
“It may not be refrigerated, but it still may be competition to a kombucha,” Davidson says.
Major Brands Diversify
Kombucha-adjacent products — like powdered kombucha and kombucha-flavored yogurt bites — are entering the market. So are kombuchas with no sugar or less than 1 gram of sugar.
“I am consistently seeing no sugar options in fermented beverages, which I know I’m speaking to an audience that already knows this, but fermentation doesn’t happen without sugar,” Davidson says. She notes more and more beverage categories “are seeing differentiation within probiotics of fermentation.”
Of the five fastest growing kombucha brands,— only two – Wild Tonic and Better Booch – are selling just traditional kombucha or hard kombucha. The other three – Humm, Health-Ade and Rowdy Mermaid – have added new product lines. Humm and Health-Ade sell prebiotic sodas and Rowdy Mermaid offers tonics.
Health-Ade is marketing their brand as a “gut health beverage” instead of simply kombucha. In a statement, Health-Ade CEO and co-founder Diana Trout says: “We have seen a dramatic increase in consumer interest in gut health over the past year as people begin to realize just how important gut health is to immunity and overall health. We wanted to offer our customers something that doesn’t compromise on taste and has legitimate gut health benefits, and (our new prebiotic drink) Pop does just that.”
Defining the Product
KBI has been well aware of changes in the category. Two years ago, it released the kombucha Code of Practice, the first set of safety and quality standards for the industry.
“Kombucha” is not a protected product name, unlike “tequila” or “champagne.” With the code, KBI aims to protect kombucha as a traditional fermented beverage. But KBI also doesn’t want to eliminate kombucha brands that may pasteurize and sell in shelf-stable cans, process from a base or brew with sweeteners.
Joshua Rood, CEO and managing director of Dr Hops hard kombucha, attended the SPINS presentation and thinks KBI “is standing in the right place.”
“First, we have to define what kombucha is. And then how you label variations of that, like if it’s filtered or pasteurized. Then you can actually have clarity and transparency for consumers so they actually know what they’re getting,” Rood says. “Right now, we don’t have that. It’s very rough, it’s essentially just an honor system.”
Rood emphasizes he has no problem with kombucha brands not brewing with traditional methods. But he says there needs to be a classification system and transparent labeling of how a kombucha is made. “There’s a lot of room for education,” he says.
Dr Hops, for example, prints a nutrition fact panel and calorie listing on their hard kombucha, even though most beer, wine and spirits are not legally required to do so.
“We try to be massively over-communicative on our labels,” Rood says. “And, if you’re looking at our labels from a calorie stance, it doesn’t look good because we have such high alcohol content. We’re not competitive in calories. But if we put it on there, people will learn that it’s 10% alcohol and most of the calories come from the alcohol.”
Shift in Retail Channels
Sales in natural stores – the retail channel that helped launch the kombucha industry have slowed, actually declining 5% over the past year. . But sales over the same period grew 3% in MULO outlets and 2% at convenience stores.
“People are still trying to find outlets where they can get everything in one trip,” Davidson says. “We’re seeing a lot more consolidation of what people are purchasing in one trip or fewer trips per month.”
Hard Kombucha “Massively Outperforming”
SPINS’s “flavored malt beverages” category includes a number of alcoholic drinks that don’t contain malt. While hard seltzers have long dominated here, six of the 10 fastest-growing brands in natural retailers are now hard kombucha brands: Boochcraft, Flying Embers, June Shine, Kyla, Strange Beast and Nova Easy.
“Natural retailers are fully embracing this as a new category and it’s paying off exponentially,” Davidson says.
Hard kombucha sales are still small overall, at $58.31 million, are driving growth in the category and “massively outperforming hard cider,” Davidson says. Dollar growth for hard kombucha is almost 60%, while sales of hard cider are declining. Sales for the hard seltzer – including category leaders White Claw and Truly – are also slipping in all retail channels.
Fermented Sciences, maker of Flying Embers hard kombucha, is asking a judge to dismiss a class action lawsuit against the brand. The suit alleges the health benefits of Fermented Sciences’ kombucha and seltzers are misleading.
The complaint says it’s confusing the label lists “vitamin C,” “antioxidants,” “real botanicals” and “live probiotics” because the drink is alcoholic and the USDA Dietary Guidelines advise that “alcoholic beverages are not a component of the USDA Dietary Patterns.” Consumers, plaintiff Katie Kuciver says, may believe Flying Embers’ positive ingredients outweigh the negative effects of drinking alcohol.
In the 17-page response memorandum, Fermented Sciences argues the plaintiff’s complaints are “bald assertions” and the consumer’s belief that the implied health benefits on the hard kombucha label could counteract alcohol are “implausible.” The Flying Embers label, Fermented Sciences points out, includes a surgeon general’s warning about the adverse health issues of drinking alcohol.
“Reasonable consumers would understand that the products are alcoholic beverages that may cause health problems, but that defendant’s products also include juices with antioxidants as well as probiotics. There is no deception,” Fermented Sciences writes in their response.
Read more (Law360)
As more companies enter the alternative protein marketplace, and more government leaders debate what should be legally considered meat, dairy and egg products, businesses need to be careful with their product names and label and advertising claims.
“It’s hard to think of anything more important than what you’re going to call the product. However, your freedom of invention is not limitless,” says Ricardo Carvajal,a food regulatory lawyer and director at the law firm Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, P.C. “The name must accurately identify or describe the basic nature of the food or its characterizing properties or ingredients. And this can be trickier than it sounds. What’s the composition of the product? What are its essential attributes? What’s it made from? How’s it made?”
Carvajal spoke on labeling and advertising at the Fermentation-Enabled Alternative Protein Innovation conference. Regulations for the young alternative protein industry are broad and confusing, he pointed out. Alternative foods have not been given a “standard of identity” by the FDA – the legal definition that dictates the composition of a food product, how it’s made and its name. Without formal federal direction regarding alternative foods, legislators across the country are making their own rules.
Governing Alt Food
A majority of states have considered regulating the labeling of alternative food products. So far, 32 states have proposed guidelines, and 15 of those have enacted legislation.
“It’s a bit of a smorgasbord in terms of the content of these state laws,” Carvajal adds. “This is going to remain a difficult issue for companies to navigate. If there’s a standard of identity, a federal law, that’s going to take precedence over state laws. But what we’re seeing is an absence of a federal law or a regulation to cover some of these issues or some of these product categories. That’s leaving the door open for the conventional industry to push for laws at the state level.”
This year the USDA plans to issue guidelines for labeling claims on food products made using animal cell culture technology, which will establish nomenclature and labeling requirements for those alternative proteins. The USDA also plans to provide direction on the labeling of plant-based milk alternatives by June 2022.
Carvajal points to the “soy milk saga” as a cautionary example. Milk is a formal FDA standard of identity, defined as ““the lacteal secretion, practically free of colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” Plant-based milk brands have been sent warning letters by the FDA, arguing a plant product is misbranded as milk. The soy industry has petitioned the FDA to establish soy milk as a common name, but the dairy industry has lobbied aggressively to enforce preserving traditional dairy product names.
Those FDA warning letters can be a big blow to a company — they’re published on the FDA website, so potential investors and customers can review. Letters are monitored by plaintiff’s lawyers, too. These attorneys specialize in suing companies on behalf of consumers, alleging consumers were misled by false claims. “Those actions can be quite expensive to defend,” Carvajal notes.
“Selecting or devising an appropriate name for a product can be a tricky exercise that requires simultaneous consideration of a number of factors,” he says. “The FDA does not view a name as a marketing opportunity.”
Types of Labeling & Advertising Claims
Though there are no formal legal definitions of alternative foods, alt brands do need to follow FDA, FTC and USDA labeling rules. These regulations include:
- Nutrient content (FDA oversight). A nutrient must have an established daily value to make a particular claim. For example, “Excellent source of protein” on a label requires the product to provide 20% of the recommended daily value of protein, while “Good source of protein” requires only 10-19%.
- Health (FDA oversight). This is a tightly-regulated area, Claims that imply a cause-and-effect relationship between a specific nutrient and a disease or health condition require scientific studies on humans. This research can take years to receive FDA approval.
- Structure/function (FDA/FTC oversight). This is the most popular type of claim on a food label because it doesn’t require review or approval in advance of going to market. Examples here are “Protein helps build strong muscles” and “Promotes a healthy immune system.” Still, a structure/function claim must be substantiated.
- Environmental benefit (FTC oversight). Green claims need to comply with the FTC’s Green Guides, which give guidance on environmental marketing claims. Carvajal advises brands to avoid using terms like “eco-friendly” on a product label or in advertising because “they’re impossible to substantiate.” There are a variety of environmental certifications and seals that are better options for a product label.
- Organic (USDA oversight). Organic food must meet USDA standards through the National Organic Program (NOP). Violations result in costly penalties.
- Natural (no official definition). Natural does not have a legal definition — the FDA permits use of “natural” if the food does not contain anything artificial or synthetic. Meanwhile, the USDA views natural as a minimally processed product with no artificial ingredients, with the determination based on the specific product c rather than a category. Carvajal says a natural claim is a “very high risk” for a brand because “the absence of a legally binding definition has enabled plaintiffs lawyers in a wide range of circumstances.”
“You should assume that virtually any claim that you use on labeling or advertising will be subject to regulation of some kind,” he adds. “The requirements that apply might be general in nature or highly specific. So to protect your business, you should have a formal internal review process to ensure that you properly vet all your claims.”
Fermentation is cloaked in mystery for many — it’s bubbly, slimy, stinky and not always Instagram-ready. In The Fermentation Association’s recent member survey, this lack of
understanding of fermentation and its flavor and health attributes among consumers was cited by 70% of producers as a major obstacle to increased sales and acceptance of fermented products.
“We get so many questions from our readers about fermentation. People are very interested, but have very, very little knowledge about it,” says Anahad O’Connor, reporter for The New York Times. O’Connor has written about fermented foods multiple times in the last few months, and those articles were among The Times’ most emailed pieces of 2021. “I think there’s a huge opportunity to educate consumers about fermented foods, their impact on the gut and health in general.”
O’Connor spoke on consumer education as part of a panel of experts during TFA’s conference, FERMENTATION 2021. Panelists — who included a producer, retailer, scientist, educator and journalist — agreed consumer education is lacking. But the methods of how to fill that gap are contested.
How to Tell Consumers “What is a Fermented Food?”
There are differences between what is a fermented product and what is not — a salt brine vs. vinegar brine pickle, or a kombucha made with a SCOBY or one from a juice concentrate, for example.
“I can tell you that the majority of our customers do not even know [what is a] fermented item,” says Emilio Mignucci, vice president of Philadelphia gourmet store Di Bruno Bros., which specializes in cheese and charcuterie. When customers sample products at the store, they can easily taste the differences between a fermented and a non-fermented product, Mignucci says. But he feels the health benefits behind that fermented product are not the retailer’s responsibility to communicate. “I need you guys [producers] to help me deliver the message.”
“Retailers like myself, buyers, we want to learn more to be able to champion [fermented foods] because, let’s face it, fermented foods is a category that’s getting better and better for us as retailers and we want to speak like subject matter experts and help our guests understand.”
Now — when fermentation tops food lists and gut health is mainstream — is the time for education.
“This microbiome world that we’re in right now is sort of a really opportune moment to really help the public understand what fermented foods are beyond health,” says Maria Marco, PhD, professor of food science at the University of California, Davis (and a TFA Advisory Board Member).
Kombucha Brewers International (KBI) created a Code of Practice to address confusion over what is or is not a kombucha. KBI is taking the approach that all kombucha is good, pasteurized or not, because it’s moving consumers away from sugar- and additive-filled sodas and energy drinks.
“That said, consumers deserve the right to know why is this kombucha at room temperature and this kombucha is in the fridge and why does this kombucha have a weird, gooey SCOBY in it and this one is completely clear,” says Hannah Crum, president of KBI. “They start to get confused when everything just says the word ‘kombucha’ on it.”
KBI encourages brewers to be transparent with consumers. Put on the label how the kombucha is made, then let consumers decide what brand they want to buy.
Should Fermented Products Make Health Claims?
Drew Anderson, co-founder and CEO of producer Cleveland Kitchen (and also on TFA’s Advisory Board), says when they were first designing their packaging in 2013, they were advised against using the term “crafted fermentation” on their label because it would remind consumers of beer or wine. But nowadays, data shows 50% of consumers associate the term fermentation with health.
“In the last five to six years, it’s changed dramatically and people are associating fermentation as being good for them, which is good for my products,” he says.
Cleveland Kitchen, though, does not make health claims on their fermented sauerkraut, kimchi and dressings. Anderson says, as a small startup, they don’t have the resources to fund their own research. They instead attract customers with bold taste and striking packaging.
“We’re extremely cautious on what we say on the package because we don’t have an army of lawyers like Kevita (Pepsi’s Kombucha brand), we don’t have the Pepsi legal team backing us here,” Anderson says. Cleveland Kitchen submits new packaging designs in advance to regulators, to make sure they’re legally acceptable before rolling them out.
O’Connor says taste is the No. 1 driver for consumers. This is why healthful but sticky and stinky natto (fermented soybeans) is not a popular dish in America, but widely consumed in Japan.
“Many American consumers, unfortunately, aren’t going to gravitate toward that, despite the health benefits,” he says.
Crum disagrees. “Health comes first,” she says. As more and more kombucha brands emphasize lifestyle, and don’t even advertise their health benefits, she feels they are doing a disservice to the consumer. “Why pay that much money for kombucha if you don’t know it’s good for you too?”
Changes in the global food system influenced the types of laws U.S. legislators passed in 2021. States are loosening the regulations on breweries and wineries, offering more government support to local restaurants, allowing the sale of homemade foods and cracking down on hidden fees from third-party food delivery services.
In our last newsletter, we shared the food and beverage laws passed in 20 states in 2021. The list below completes the balance of the country — Massachusetts to Wyoming.
HB21 — Allows temporary licenses for nonprofit charitable corporations. Allows alcoholic beverages sold to be donated at no charge to the license holder.
HD1331 — Provides that a license to operate a restaurant may be connected to other on-site premises, even if it is not a grocery store.
SB2475 — Extends to-go cocktail sales through May 1, 2022.
SB2603 — Sets minimum standards for the confinement of chickens, veal calves and pigs, and bans the in-state sale of products that don’t comply. Mandates cage-free conditions for egg-laying hens with welfare enrichments like perches, dust bathing areas, scratching areas and next boxes. The law also expands coverage to egg products and liquid eggs.
SB2841 — Reform state’s franchise laws, allowing a new qualified brewer for craft brewers. Allows craft brewers who produce fewer than 250,000 barrels annually to end their contract with a wholesaler. It repeals the state’s 1971 franchise law, enacted to protect in-state distributors from larger, out-of-state, foreign brewers, during a time when the craft beer industry did not exist.
HB4711 — Allows baseball stadiums at Michigan universities to serve alcohol.
SB49 — Allows wineries, breweries and distilleries to operate both an on-premise and off-premise tasting room at the same location.
SB141 — Allows small craft distillers to self-distribute up to 3,000 gallons per year of product to retailers. Also allows craft distillers to ship directly to consumers.
SB142 — Allows a small wine maker to self-distribute directly to retailers.
SB144 — Expands the definition of a mixed spirit drink to allow increased ABV percentage.
SB559 — Amends state liquor code to allow more entertainment complexes to receive liquor licenses; drops number of needed races from seven to two for a motorsports venue to qualify for a liquor license.
SB958 — Raises the sales cap for cottage food sales from $18,000 (formerly the lowest sales cap in the country) to $78,000.
HB562 — Allows online sales of cottage foods.
HB572 — Expands boundaries of resort areas where alcohol can be sold.
HB997 — Authorizes private retailers to obtain wholesaler permits for alcohol sales. Also removes the state’s Department of Revenue as a wholesale distributor of alcohol.
HB1091 — Amends code to increase the alcohol content for alcoholic products. Defines how much product can be produced and sold at a microbrewery.
HB1135 — Allows alcohol delivery from a licensed delivery.
HB1288 — Amends code to allow a charter ship to sell and serve alcohol.
HB537 — Allows online sales of cottage foods and removes the $50,000 sales limit on cottage foods.
HB574 — Prohibits inspectors of agricultural grounds or facilities to enforce laws of states other than MIssouri.
SB126 — Legalizes the permanent sales of to-go alcohol. Also expands the sale of alcohol in the state on Sundays.
HB79 — Provides regulatory clarity for how breweries produce fermented-style beverages, including any alcoholic beverages made by fermentation of malt substitutes, like rice, grain, glucose, sugar or molasses.
HB157 — Removes restrictions for alcohol licensing, allowing brewers and immediate families to both hold a license.
HB226 — Makes permanent the curbside delivery and to-go drink options for licensed retailers established during the Covid-19.
SB199 — Establishes the Montana Local Food Choice Act. The food freedom bill exempts certain homemade or cottage food products from food licensing and inspection regulations. It also expands the types of foods that can be sold.
SB247 — Allows colleges and universities in the state to serve beer and wine at sporting events.
SB320 — Legalizes the home delivery of beer and wine.
LB274 — Amends the Nebraska Liquor Control Act, making permanent licenses to sell to-go alcoholic beverages. Also allows craft breweries and wineries to sell alcoholic beverages at open-air farmers markets.
LB324 — Establishes the Independent Processor Assistance Program, improvising the Nebraska Meat and Poultry Inspection Law. Helps small locker plants make the transition to a federally-inspected facility.
LB396 — Adopts the Nebraska Farm-to-School Program Act, which establishes a structure to facilitate communication between farmers and schools.
SB297 — Requires the Council on Food Security to research and develop recommendations on community gardens and urban farms.
SB307 — Prohibits direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipping of alcohol from both in-state and out-of-state breweries, distilleries and retailers. In-state retailers can also make local deliveries from licensed wholesalers. However, DTC wine shipments will still be allowed.
SB320 — Requires food delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash to disclose fees to consumers, breaking down what price is for food, taxes, delivery fee and commission charted to the restaurant. Restaurant committees are limited to 20% of a credit card processing fee during a state of emergency (like the Covid-19 pandemic).
HB226 — Gives state department of agriculture authority to stop the sale of any produce in violation of state agricultural laws.
HB345 — Establishes a license for wild mushroom harvesters. Allows state department of health and human services to fine people who distribute wild mushrooms without a license.
HB593 — Requires food delivery service to enter into an agreement with a food service establishment before offering delivery service from that restaurant.
SB66 — Allows takeout and delivery of alcoholic beverages.
SB125 — Eases certain regulatory restrictions for a number of beverage manufacturer licenses. Removes limitation on quantity of beer a beverage manufacturer may sell in a day to the public and allows direct-to-consumer shipping to consumers within the state.
SB155 — Allows restaurants to permanently expand dining into a shared space, like a sidewalk or street, with approval from local authorities. This temporary dining space was originally established during the Covid-19 pandemic.
AB1091 — Requires Division of Travel and Tourism to advertise and promote tours of breweries in the State.
AB1478 — Permits theaters with 50 seats or more to apply for liquor license.
AB5906 — Rescinds prohibition on return of certain items purchased from retail food stores during Covid-19 state of emergency. It also provides that future limitations on returns occur during declared public health emergencies.
SB673 — Establishes New Jersey’s first cottage food law (they were the only state in the U.S. without a cottage food law). Allows home-based producers to make food from home rather than a commercial kitchen. These producers must obtain a license every two years, cannot earn more than $50,000 a year and are limited by products that can be sold (though state permission can be granted for additional items).
SB3340 — Expands opportunities for restaurants, bars, distilleries and breweries to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic. Provides outdoor dining space and opens new permits for sales at farmers markets.
SB3364 — Allows certain liquor licenses to acquire alcoholic beverage licenses from a retail food store that is a bankrupt asset.
HM1 — Requests the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to study the economic benefits of regional mobile livestock slaughter units, which would make livestock slaughtering easier for small ranchers.
HB177 — Enacting the Homemade Food Act. Allows anyone in the state to start a cottage food business — and opens sales to be from home and online (cottage food sales were previously limited to events only).
HB255 — Allows restaurants to purchase a liquor license at a more affordable rate ($2,500-$10,000, depending on size) if serving alcohol with dinner. Also allows alcohol deliveries with food.
HB303 — Bans unlawful liquor incentives. No liquor licensee shall accept money or a gift of monetary value to influence the purchase or a certain brand of alcoholic beverage.
SB1 — Allows qualified state food and beverage establishments to claim a temporary gross receipts tax (GRT) deduction on sales of food and beverages from March 2, 2021 through July 1, 2021 as a stimulus incentive.
SB2 — Waives the annual liquor license fees for licensees, aiming to boost businesses hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
AB952 — Directs the commissioner of agriculture and markets and the commissioner of economic development to work with the state’s land grant university system to produce a report to provide advice, guidance and recommendations on improving the resiliency of the state’s farm and food supply. Also will provide guidance on the related supply chain logistics to address food shortages, food waste and the inability to get New York farm goods to markets that occurred as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the goal of creating permanent solutions beyond the state of emergency to reflect the changing wholesale, retail and consumer marketplace.
AB4613 — Creates a task force on improving urban and rural access to locally produced, healthy foods.
AB5386 — Establishes the New York Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act to enhance and maintain the health and resilience of agricultural soils. The program will assist farmers in improving the health of their soil. It also establishes a climate resilient farming initiative to promote and encourage farmers to reduce the effects of farming on climate change and to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change by improving and maintaining water management systems and soil health.
AB7506 — Requires grease traps at food service establishments be designed to withstand expected loads and prevent unauthorized access, making them safer for the general public.
AB7207 — Authorizes and directs the commissioner of agriculture and markets to conduct a study on urban agriculture, including vertical farming, community gardens and urban farming.
SB1630 — Requires third-party food delivery services to have a valid agreement with a merchant before they advertise, promote or sell the merchant’s products on their platform.
SB2743 — Authorizes the issuance of a temporary retail permit by the state liquor authority to licensees located in a municipality having a population of one million or more persons.
SB6353 — Allows restaurants to utilize municipal spaces like sidewalks and streets for outdoor dining for another year. First granted under an executive order during the Covid-19 pandemic, the law makes restaurant use of public spaces to allow restaurants to recover from the pandemic.
HB4 — Extends ABC permit renewal payment deadlines for bars.
HB890 — Allows consumers to order online and pick-up alcohol from state Alcoholic Beverage Control stores, expands growler sizes from 2 to 4 liters, loosens rules for distillery tours and allows distillers to sell alcohol at festivals.
HB1284 — Modifies special event alcohol permit requirements to remove the rule that persons under 21 years of age must remain out of the area where alcohol is served.
HB1475 — Creates a $10 million agriculture diversification and development fund to provide loans and grants for value-added agriculture businesses in the state.
SB2220 — Moves the sale of Sunday alcohol sales to 8 a.m., the same as the rest of the days of the week in the state..
SB2321 — Allows microberies and taprooms to ship products in-state.
HB665 — Increases the amount a county or independent agricultural society receives for operating expenses from a county. Removes caps on junior club membership .
HB669 — Makes to-go alcohol sales permanent.
HB674 — Allows home delivery of alcohol, as long as the beverage is served in an original container.
SB102 — Sweeping liquor reform. Lowers the age for serving alcohol to 18, expands Designated Outdoor Drinking Areas spaces, clarifies that homebrewers are allowed to brew their own drinks, enter them in tasting competitions and share them at local club gatherings.
HB1032 — Creates the Homemade Food Freedom Act which provides for regulation and oversight for the production, transportation and sale of homemade food products. Now allows almost all types of baked, non-perishable and perishable foods. Also increases sale limits from $20,000 to $75,000, allows direct sales and allows shipment of non-perishable items.
HB2117 — Allows certain communication and interaction via social media by alcohol wholesalers, beer distributors and retailers.
HB2122 — Allows the sale of to-go cocktails, mixed drinks or single-serve wine in a sealed container for off-premise consumption.
HB2277 — Permits licensed alcohol retailers to offer different drink specials at various locations owned and operated under their license, like a happy hour.
HB2380 — Allows customers to self-pour their own beer, wine or mixed beverage from automated machines.
HB2726 — Allows Oklahoma small businesses to offer bottle service to their customers.
SB85 — Authorizes holders of multiple small brewer licenses to sell beer at multiple locations.
SB262 — Requires wine and spirit wholesalers to remit alcohol excise taxes when purchasing alcoholic beverages for sale within the state except for wine shipped by wineries possessing a Winemaker Self-Distribution License.
SB315 — Allows licensed distillers to sell spirits for on- or off-premise consumption on distillery property or in an area connected and controlled by the licensee.
SB385 — Allows retail spirits, wine and beer licensees to host alcoholic beverage tastings.
SB499 — Requires that customer receipts for alcoholic beverages purchased at catered, public and special events include a line item for the 13.5% tax collected.
SB760 — Allows multiple alcohol licensees to designate a common drinking area.
HB2111 — Changes name of “Oregon Liquor Control Commission” to “Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.”
HB2264 — Alcohol reform bill. Allows Indian tribe or airline that holds full on-premises sales license to negotiate with Oregon Liquor Control Commission purchase price of distilled liquor for specified sales. Directs Oregon Liquor Control Commission to study alcohol. Changes definition of “malt beverage.” Allows nonprofit organizations to sell alcoholic beverages for up to 45 calendar days per year without license issued by commission. Allows holder of full on-premises sales license to sell, deliver and ship to consumers specified alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption. Allows holder of limited on-premises sales license to deliver and ship to consumers specific alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption. Allows holder of off-premises sales license to sell specified alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption. Allows holder of temporary sales license to ship specified alcoholic beverages to consumer. Repeals license application fee. Allows advertising by liquor store to be visible from outside store. Specifies that retail sales or distillery outlet agent’s deposit with commission is of check and cash receipts. Specifies wine containing more than 16% alcohol by volume is taxed at 10 cents per gallon. Requires manufacturer, purchaser and distributor of alcohol to retain records for three years.
HB2742 — Allows holder of off-premises sales license to sell factory-sealed containers of malt beverages that hold more than seven gallons.
HB2363 — Allows certain holders of temporary event licenses to sell specified alcoholic beverages for on and off-premises consumption at more than one location on licensed premises — or have up to three premises licensed under single temporary sales license and operate for up to 30 day.
HB2395 — Modifies single-use checkout bag prohibition in the state. Changes definition of “recycled paper checkout bag” to include bags that contain non wood renewable fiber.
HB2611 — Permits agricultural building to be used for uses other than uses set forth in definition of “agricultural building” if additional uses are incidental and accessory to defined uses, are personal to farm owner and farm owner’s immediate family or household and do not pose hazard.
HB3361 — Requires third-party food platform to enter into agreement with restaurant before arranging delivery of orders from food place or listing food place on application or website. Requires third-party food platform delivery service to receive written consent from restaurant before arranging for delivery or order from restaurant.
SB806 — Includes “fortified cider” in definition of cider. Allows holder of direct shipper permit to ship up to five cases of wine per month to Oregon residents. Deletes requirement that commission charge application fee for new licenses. Provides that the alcohol commission may allow applicant to defer or waive payment of annual license fee if Governor declares state of emergency.
HB425 — Allows a liquor licensee that has closed either permanently or for a long time to sell its liquor license.
HB427 — Gives establishments with liquor licenses a 15% discount (instead of 10%) on the purchase of liquor from the state stores for three years.
SB434 — Alters “sell by” and “best by” dates on milk. Allows processors to apply for Department of Agriculture approval to exceed the current 17 day limit.
HB5131 — Prohibits a food service establishment from providing a consumer with a single-use plastic straw, unless the consumer requests such a straw.
HB5214 — Eliminates the $10.00 fee requirement for businesses to obtain a sales tax permit.
HB5758 — Establishes the state’s first Cottage Food Law, but only allows farmers to sell homemade products.
SB142 — Allows the sale of alcoholic beverages on New Year’s Day by retail Class A licensees.
SB364 — Entitles dairy farms to the exemptions from taxation already granted to farmland, forestland and open space.
SB555 — Authorizes a Class B liquor license holder to sell to-go alcoholic beverages with take-out food orders (but rule will sunset on March 1, 2022).
SB788 — Prevents third-party food delivery services from using the likeness, registered trademark or any intellectual property belonging to the restaurant to falsely suggest sponsorship or endorsement without the restaurant’s consent.
SB619 — Allows more off-site tasting rooms in the state. Amends 1976 law affecting distilleries, breweries and wineries, to establish off-site “satellite locations” for sale of their products.
HB1109 — Updates state homebrew legislation to include cider as a permissible homemade alcoholic beverage. Allows (in limited quantities) for homemade alcoholic beverages permissible to be sold on licensed premises for certain events, and allows homebrewers to transport homemade alcoholic beverages from their household.
HB1121 — Deregulates the homemade or cottage food market. Repeals requirement that homemade canned goods must be inspected by a third-party authority for pH levels. Replaces lengthy warning that food wasn’t produced in a commercial kitchen and required allergen listing with a shorter summary. Allows sellers to sell their products through third parties without getting a good service license (as long as they aren’t making more than $150,000 a year).
HB1153 — Authorize the Board of Regents to contract for the design and construction of a new dairy research and extension farm on the campus of South Dakota State University, with equipment and furnishings.
HB306 — Extends the Tennessee dairy promotion committee to June 30, 2029.
HB1129 — Adds requirements for farmers to participate in herdshare programs, like maintain owner records, include warning labels on products and notify owners in case of contamination.
HB1514 — Reduces the population threshold (from 925 to 700) to make a municipality eligible to hold a referendum on the sale of alcoholic beverages.
SB17 — Allow breweries to self-distribute 1,800 barrels of beer throughout the state each year without having to go through a wholesaler.
SB269 — Authorizes a delivery service licensee to charge a fee based on a percentage of the sales of the alcoholic beverages or beer being delivered; limits the fee to no more than 10% of the price of each alcoholic beverage sold.
SB299 — Defines “food hall” for purposes of consumption of alcohol on the premises of a food hall; enacts certain requirements governing the operation of a food hall.
SB403 — Requires state to disclose certain information on contracts with wholesalers of alcoholic beverages.
SB591 — Authorizes a person or entity holding liquor license to sell or transfer their alcoholic beverage inventory to another licensee if they’re closing their establishment.
SB681 — Allows to-go alcohol sales for the next two years.
SB705 — Prohibits licensure as a winery direct shipper of in-state or out-of-state wine fulfillment houses.
HB1024 — Allows permanent sales of to-go beer, wine and mixed drinks for pickup and delivery food orders.
HB1276 — Allows restaurants to sell bulk foods directly to the public.
HB1518 — Loosens alcohol restrictions on Sunday mornings, allowing sales starting at 10 a.m. rather than noon.
HB1755 — Allows customers to take home unopened bottles of wine.
HB1957 — Sets new standards on what can be labeled as a Texas wine. If putting Texas on the wine label, winery must grow majority of grapes (75%-95%) within the state, county and/or vineyard on the label.
HR2002 — Recognizing June 2022 as National Dairy Month in Texas.
SB617 — Allows all food producers to sell food directly to consumers, not just farmers. Limits permit fees.
SB911 — Bans third-party food delivery service from using a restaurant’s trademark or charging a restaurant fees (unless agreed upon in writing). Also protects a restaurant from predatory food delivery services — allows a restaurant to be removed from the third-party delivery services listing if requested, and required third-party delivery services to provide consumers with a means to express concerns with their delivery. Gives restaurants the power to sue a third-party delivery service if it violates the terms. Also prohibits cities and counties from creating interfering regulations than what the state approved.
SB1226 — Allows brewpubs to legally host tastings.
HB94 — Legalizes microenterprise home kitchens, allowing home chefs to sell their homemade meals.
HB296 — Creates the Utah Soil Health Program.
SB137 — Gives the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control an additional $4.3 million to raise salaries for its retail clerks, warehouse workers, store managers and assistant managers up to market standards.
SB147 — Prohibits farm owners and operators in the state from confining egg-laying hens to enclosures. Must implement cage-free housing systems by 2025.
HB166 — Criminalizes theft of livestock.
HB218 — Expands raw milk sales for producers selling at farm stands and CSA’s in the states.
HB313 — Extends for two years the governor’s executive order to allow curbside pickup and delivery of alcohol.
HB434 — Establishes the Agricultural Innovation Board.
SB20 — Bans the sale of common items containing PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances used to make food packaging grease- and water-resistant). The bill takes steps to restrict harmful phthalate and bisphenol chemicals from food packaging.
HB1299 — Allows for the sale of to-go alcohol beverages until July 1, 2022.
HB1902 — Prohibits food vendors from using single-use expanded polystyrene food service containers. Requires chain restaurants to stop using such containers by July 1, 2023, and sets the date for compliance by all food vendors as July 1, 2025. A penalty will be inflicted of $50 a day for violators.
HB1973 — Allows nonprofits conducting online fundraisers to sell and ship wine in closed containers as part of a fundraising activity.
HB2068 — Establishes the Local Food and Farming Infrastructure Grant Program. The governor will award the grants based on infrastructure development projects that support local food production and sustainable farming.
HB2302 — Allows farmers markets to be treated as grocery stores during state of emergency and are allowed to remain open as essential businesses during a state of emergency declared by the Governor.
SB1188 — Establishes the Virginia Agriculture Food Assistance Program and Fund for Virginia farmers and food producers to donate, sell, or otherwise provide agriculture products to charitable food assistance organizations.
SB1193 — Establishes the Dairy Producer Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program. Gives dairy farmers (with a resource management or nutrition management plan) the ability to receive a refund of their annual premium payment paid into the federal program.
SB1428 — Prohibits the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority from selling in government stores low alcohol beverage coolers not manufactured by licensed distillers.
SB1471 — Allows the Board of Directors of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to increase the frequency and duration of outdoor events that sell alcohol. The laws are expected to provide flexibility to restaurants during COVID-19.
HB1145 — Allows the use of non wood renewable fiber in recycled paper carryout bags.
HB1480 — Allows sale of to-go alcohol products, including cocktail kits and growlers.
HB5362 — Ensuring the funding of agricultural fairs.
SB5022 — Enacts recycling requirements for plastic beverage containers. Bans polystyrene (EPS) products and sets-up opt-in requirements for dining establishments using single-use foodware.
SB5272 — Waives a one-time annual liquor license and cannabis license fee for those establishments for 12 months.
SB 51 — Requires dairy foods processed in the state to be added to the list of items to be purchased by state-funded institutions.
SB 58 — Creates the West Virginia Farm Fresh Dairy Act.
SB56 — Allows alcohol beverage retailers to make online or phone sales of alcohol beverages, to be picked up by the customers at a designated parking space that is not part of the retail licensed premises.
HB13 — Increases the amount of wine that a licensed out-of-state wine shipper may ship to any one household address. Allows Wyoming consumers to receive up to 12 cases of wine in a 12-month period (the former limit was four cases per year).
HB51 — Establishes grant program to meat processing facilities suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HB54 — Focuses efforts and resources of the Wyoming Business Council on developing slaughter plant options for producers.
HB118 — Allows sale of eggs under the state’s Food Freedom Act.
HB156 — Allows winery permit holder to be issued an off-premise wine permit for a 24-hour period.
HB159 — Allows any liquor license holder — who then obtains an out-of-state shipper’s license — to ship alcohol to Wyoming households. Increases satellite permits for liquor manufacturers from one to two.
HB229 — Allows Wyoming ranchers the choice of selecting lawful forms of animal identification devices. Rejects USDA mandate to only use higher-cost RFID ear tags for livestock.
“The landscape of cell-cultured meat, and even microbially fermented animal products, is a complicated place where futuristic technology, ethics, the law and business are all approaching the unknown together,” reads a Forbes article.
There are at least 60 companies globally now involved with cell- and fermentation-grown meat, and nearly a billion dollars was invested in the field in 2021 alone.
Animal-free meat, though, is facing growing pains. Forbes shares the trends and challenges in the rapidly-growing alternative protein industry. Some of their predictions and observations:
- Accelerator and incubator programs will help new companies start.
- Startups lead the pack, influencing larger companies to invest in their own animal-free lines.
- Truly animal-free options, as companies develop proprietary methods that don’t require animal input.
- Knowledge sharing, the trend that more companies will not gatekeep their intellectual property.
- Production of all “meats,” rather than just beef and chicken. (Companies are developing animal-free foie gras, fish maw and even zebra.)
- Alt breast milk, using stem cells.
- Cheaper products, as the higher prices of alternative proteins keep some consumers away.
- Regulatory challenges, as regulatory agencies debate terminology and labeling requirements.
Read more (Forbes)
After the Covid-19 pandemic shortened their legislative sessions last year, lawmakers across the 50 states had a productive year in 2021. State leaders were able to pass hundreds of bills relating to food, beverages and food service.
Numerous new laws were aimed at helping restaurants survive — permitting permanent outdoor dining spaces, allowing carryout food services and to-go alcohol sales. Many of these regulations had been enacted in 2020 as temporary, emergency measures to aid restaurateurs, but expired this year.
This year was also big for cottage food laws. As more people experimented in their home kitchens during the pandemic, there was pressure to modernize cottage food laws. Over half the states updated their laws in 2021, regulating sales of homemade food.
Below are the key food, beverage and food service laws passed this year in, alphabetically, Alabama through Maryland. We’ll feature the balance of the states — Massachusetts to Wyoming — in TFA’s next newsletter (January 12, 2022).
HB12 — Extends protections granted for cottage food businesses to include roasted coffees and gluten-free baking mixes.
HB539 — Increases the amount of alcohol which breweries and distilleries can sell to customers for off-premise consumption.
SB126 — Allows licensed state businesses to deliver wine, beer and spirits to customers’ homes.
SB160 — An update to Alabama’s cottage food law, SB160 allows for most non-perishable foods to be made in home-based food businesses without commercial licenses (instead of just only baked goods, jams/jellies, dried herbs and candies). It also removes the $20,000 sales limit for home-based food businesses. It also allows online sales and in-state shipping of products.
SB167 — Permits Alabama wineries to sell directly to consumers at special events.
SB294 — Authorizes wine manufacturers to sell directly to retailers without a distributor.
SB397 — Allows opening of wineries in Alabama’s 24 dry counties. The wineries will be allowed to produce and operate in a dry county, but they may not sell on premise.
HB22 — Legalizes herd share agreements for the distribution of raw milk in the state.
HB2305 — Amends law to allow two or more liquor producers, craft distillers or microbrewery licenses at one location.
HB2753 — States that licensed producers, craft distillers, brewers and farm wineries are subject to rules and exemptions prescribed by the FDA. Exempts production and storage spaces from state regulation.
HB2773 — Allows bars, liquor stores and restaurants to sell cocktails to-go.
HB2884 — Exempts alcohol produced on premise in liquor-licensed businesses from food safety regulation by the Arizona Department of Health Services, which adds rules regarding production, processing, labeling, storing, handling, serving, transportation and inspection. Specifies that this exemption includes microbreweries, farm wineries and/or craft distilleries.
HB118 — Permits the sale of cottage foods over the internet. Interstate sales are permitted if the producer complies with federal food safety regulations.
HB1228 — Allows for municipalities in dry counties to apply to be an entertainment district, just like in wet counties.
HB1370 — Establishes mead as an allowed liquor for a small farm winery — and allows wineries to ship mead. Also allows for mead to be taxed in the same manner as wine.
HB1426 — Establishes the Arkansas Fair Food Delivery Act, stating that a food delivery platform (like UberEats) must have an agreement with a restaurant or facility to take food orders and deliver food prepared.
HB1763 — Allows distilleries to self distribute their own products and allows out-of-state, direct-to-consumer shipments.
HB1845 — Restricts advertising alcohol in microbrewery-restaurants in dry counties.
SB248 — Replaces Arkansas’ cottage food law with the Food Freedom Act. Allows all types of non-perishable foods to be sold almost anywhere without a food safety license and certification, including grocery stores and retail shops.
SB339 — Allows permitted restaurants to sell on-the-go alcoholic beverages.
SB479 — Allows restaurants with alcohol beverage permits to expand outdoor dining without approval of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.
SB554 — Authorizes beer wholesalers to distribute certain ready-to-drink products.
SB631 — Authorizes a hard cider manufacturer to deliver hard cider.
AB61 — Allows restaurants and bars with alcohol licenses that added temporary, outdoor sidewalk dining spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic to continue serving alcohol in these spaces.
AB239 — Allows wineries to refill wine bottles at off-site tasting rooms, similar to breweries reusing growlers
AB286 — Requires third-party delivery companies to itemize cost breakdowns of delivery transactions to both restaurants and customers.
AB425 — Updates regulations regarding definitions, assessments, fees and funding mechanisms for the Dairy Council of California.
AB831 — Mandates that all labels on cottage food must include the disclaimer “Made in a Home Kitchen” along with the producer’s county and cottage food permit number.
AB941 — Establishes a grant program for counties to apply for farmworker resource centers, supplying farmworkers and their families information on education, housing, payroll, wage rights and health services.
AB962 — Requires the creation of a returnable bottle system in the state by 2024. Allows recyclable bottles to be washed and refilled by beverage producers rather than being crushed for recycling.
AB1144 — Updates California’s outdated cottage food laws, raising sales limit to either $75,000 (Class A permits) or $150,000 (Class B permits) and simplifying the approval process for sampling cottage food products. Also allows homemade food to be sold online.
AB1200 — By 2023, no eatery in California is permitted to distribute or sell food packaging that contains regulated perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. Manufacturers of food packing must use the least toxic alternative when replacing their food packaging. Food packaging includes food or beverage containers, take-out containers, liners, wrappes, eating utensils, straws, disposable plates, bowls and trays.
AB1267 — Allows licensed manufacturers, distributors and sellers of alcoholic beverages to donate a portion of beverage purchases to a nonprofit.
AB1276 — Requires California eateries to only give take-out customers single-use utensils and condiment packets if they ask for them.
AR15 — Establishes Nov. 22 as Kimchi Day in the state.
SB19 — Allows wineries to open additional off-site tasting rooms without applying for a new license (former law allowed for only one off-site tasting room).
SB314 — Allows restaurants and bars that added temporary, outdoor sidewalk dining spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic a one-year grace period to apply for permanent expansion.
SB389 — Allows restaurants and bars to serve to-go alcohol alongside a meal.
SB453 — Establishes an Agricultural Biosecurity Fund specifically for the California State University system’s Agricultural Research Institute. The California State University’s 23 campuses and 8 off-campus branches can then use that fund to apply for grants related to supporting research on agriculture biosecurity, best practices around infectious agents hurting the state’s animal herds and plant crops.
SB517 — Authorizes a licensed beer manufacturer who obtains a beer direct shipper permit to sell and ship beer directly to a resident of the state for personal use.
SB535 — Makes it unlawful to manufacture or sell imitation olive oil in the state. Also restricts using “California Olive Oil” on a label unless 100% of the oil is derived from olives grown in California. The label can also only share that the oil comes from a specific region of California if at least 85% of the olives were grown in that region.
SB721 — Establishes Aug. 24 as California Farmworker Day.
HB1027 — Extends sales of to-go alcohol from licensed restaurants and bars to 2026.
HB1162 — The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, the law bans single-use plastic bags and containers made from polystyrene (styrofoam) for restaurants and other retailers by 2024. All stores will also implement a 10-cent bag fee for plastic and paper bags by 2023.
SB35 — Prohibits third-party restaurant delivery services from cutting pay to a driver to comply with fee limits. Also prohibits third-party delivery services from putting restaurants on their platforms without the eateries’ permission.
SB235 — Sends the Department of Agriculture $5 million for energy efficiency and soil health programs.
SB270 — Allows more Colorado wineries, cideries and distillers to attain a pub license and sell a variety of food in addition to their craft beverage. Current law puts small limits on the amount of craft drink made for a brewery to sell food, leaving out larger Colorado producers.
HB5311 — Enables permitted transporter to sell and serve alcohol on boats, motor vehicles and limousines.
HB6610 — Codifies expanded outdoor dining, allowing municipalities to close off streets and sidewalks for outdoor restaurant dining space.
SB894 — Allows patrons to pour their own alcoholic drinks at restaurants and bars. Will allow self-pour automated systems to be used in the state’s dining establishments.
HB6580 — Expands food agricultural literacy programs of study and community outreach, by increasing certification, education and extension programs with rural suburban and urban farms for students in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade.
HB1 — Allows restaurants to continue selling to-go alcohol beverages. The bill also allows restaurants and bars to continue using outdoor dining spaces originally used during the Covid-19 pandemic.
HB46 — Allows brewery-pub and microbrewery license holders to brew, bottle and sell hard seltzers and other fermented beverages made from malt substitutes. Also includes a specific tax on fermented beverages.
HB143 — Reduces the amount of licensed taprooms to only one taproom within a ½ mile from another taproom.
HB212 — Increases minimum thickness for plastic bags (used by grocery stores and restaurants) to qualify as a reusable bag from 2.25 mils to 10 mils.
SB46 — Allows wedding venues and event centers licensed as bottle clubs to allow customers to bring alcoholic beverages on premise.
HB751 — Authorizes issuance of special licenses to mobile food vehicles to sell alcohol beverages within certain areas.
HB1647 — Allows more Orlando eateries to sell alcohol. Allows eateries with a smaller footprint (80-person capacity; formerly 150-person capacity) to sell beer, wine and spirits in six additional Orlando Main Street Districts.
SB46 — Increases production limits for distilleries from 75,000 gallons a year to 250,000 gallons. Eliminates the “six bottles per person per brand per year” requirement. Also allows craft distilleries to qualify for a vendor’s license to conduct tastings at Florida’s fairs, trade shows, farmers markets, expositions and festivals.
SB148 — Authorizes restaurants or bars also holding a public food service license to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages in sealed, to-go containers.
SB628 — Establishes a new program, the Urban Agriculture Pilot Project, to distinguish between traditional rural farms and emerging urban farms. Exempts farm equipment used in urban agriculture from being stored in certain boundaries.
SB663 — Updates Florida’s cottage food law to allow shipping of products, and raises the sales limit for shipped cottage food from $50,000 to $250,000. The bill also prevents counties or cities from banning cottage food businesses (Ed. note: Florida’s largest county, Miami-Dade, prohibits cottage food businesses).
SR2041 — Establishes a Food Waste Prevention Week in the state to acknowledge the importance of conserving food and preventing food waste.
HB273 — Allows local municipalities to pass an ordinance, resolution or referendum election to authorize allowing a liquor store to open in their jurisdiction
HB392 — Allows a person to have a mixed cocktail or draft beer from the hotel delivered to their room by a hotel employee.
HB498 — Expands eligibility requirements for the state’s tax exemption for agricultural equipment and farm products. Any family-owned farm entity (defined as two or more unrelated, family-owned farms) can now share equipment, land and labor without losing ad valorem tax exemptions enjoyed by stand-alone family farms.
HB676 — Creates a legislative advisory committee on farmers’ markets (Farmers’ Markets Legislative Advisory Committee), made up of five members from the state’s Senate and House.
SR155 — Recognized February 17 as State Restaurant Day.
SB219 — Permits small brewers to sell alcohol for consumption on their premise. Allows state’s breweries to transfer beer between locations.
SB236 — Extends the Covid-era rule that allows restaurants to sell to-go alcohol.
HB817 — Requires state agencies to purchase an increasing amount of locally grown food.
HB237 — Earmarks $350,000 to the department of agriculture for the mitigation and control of the two-lined spittlebug, which has damaged nearly 2,000-acres of pasture land.
SB263 — Establishes a “Hawaii Made” program and trademark, to promote Hawaiian-made products.
HB51 — Amends existing law to provide nutrient management standards on dairy farms. Allows dairy farmers the option of using phosphorus nutrients.
HB232 — Changes the distribution of tax on high-alcohol-content beer from the state wine commission to the state hop growers commission, helping promote the craft industry.
HB2620 — Allows small breweries, meaderies and winemakers to distribute their products to local bars, grocery stores and liquor stores directly rather than through a third party.
HB3490 — Amends Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which says, if a restaurant includes milk as a default beverage in a kid’s meal, the drink must be dairy milk and contain no more than 130 calories per container or serving.
HB3495 — The Brewers Economic Equity & Relief Act, allows for limited brewpub self-distribution, permanent delivery for small alcohol producers, direct-to-consumer shipping for in-state and out-of-state brewers and distillers and self-distribution for manufacturers producing more than one type of alcohol.
HR33 — Creates the Illinois Good Food Purchasing Policy Task Force to study the current procurement of food within the state and explore how Good Food Purchasing can be implemented to maximize the procurement of healthy foods that are sustainably, locally and equitably sourced.
HR46 — Urges the Illinois Department of Agriculture to study the effects and the types of land loss to Black farmers. Calls for state support and capacity building for Black farming communities across the state and a dedication to helping grow agriculture in rural, urban, and suburban areas.
HR117 — Urges the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Commerce to increase the exportation of Illinois dairy products to other nations.
SB2007 — The Home-to-Market Act, updates the state’s Illinois Cottage Food Law. Expands sales avenues for cottage food producers, allowing sales at fairs, festivals, home sales, pick-up, delivery and shipping (cottage food was previously only allowed to be sold at farmers markets).
HB1396 — Updates many of Indiana’s outdated alcohol laws, some from the Prohibition Era. Amended various sections of Indiana’s alcohol code impacting permittees, trade regulation and other various definitions.
HB2773 — Allows bars, liquor stores and restaurants to permanently sell to-go alcohol orders, originally allowed temporarily during the Covid-19 pandemic.
SB144 — Allows bulk wine purchasing limits for farm wineries to apply only to wine sold directly to a consumer and not to wine sold through a wholesaler. Also allows the holder of an artisan distiller permit to also hold a distiller’s permit.
SB185 — Creates a working group made up of industry organizations, food safety experts, Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana State Board of Animal Health and Indiana State Department of Agriculture to submit recommendations to the state concerning home-based vendors and cottage food laws.
HB384 — Updates rules regarding alcohol licenses. Lengthens the hours of sale for alcoholic beverages on Sunday.
HF766 — Allows home delivery of alcoholic beverages from bars and restaurants by third-party delivery services, such as Uber or DoorDash.
HB2137 — Allows bars, liquor stores and restaurants to permanently sell to-go alcohol orders, originally allowed temporarily during the Covid-19 pandemic.
HR3 — Recognizes March 23 as Agricultural Day in the state.
HR19 — Recognizes June as Dairy Month, honoring the state’s dairy workers.
SB15 — Allows a microbrewery licensee to sell and deliver up to 2,500 barrels of product to any retail licensee and to set forth terms of contracts between microbrewers and distributors.
SB67 — Allows bars, liquor stores and restaurants to permanently sell to-go alcohol orders, originally allowed temporarily during the Covid-19 pandemic.
HB192 — Authorizes credit card payment to manufacturers and wholesale dealers of alcoholic beverages (when previously cash was only allowed).
HB219 — Allows the delivery of ready-to-drink alcohol beverages (sold in manufacturer sealed containers), allowing brewers with a brewing facility to self-distribute.
HB269 — Allows authorized state employees to destroy meat, seafood, poultry, vegetables, fruit or other perishable food of foreign origin which are subject of a current import ban from the federal government.
HB291 — Allows self-distribution to any brewer who operates a brewing facility in the state.
HB706 — Adds microwinery to microdistillery permits.
HR104 — Designates May 19, 2021, as Louisiana Craft Brewers’ Day in the state.
HR210 — Authorizes a state subcommittee to study and make recommendations to the government on the regulation of the growing craft brewing industry in the state.
SB133 — Clarifies that licensed Maine manufacturers of spirits, wine, malt liquor and low-alcohol spirits products may sell and ship their products to a person located in another state.
SB205 — Allows bars and restaurants to permanently sell to-go alcohol orders through take-out and delivery services if the liquor is accompanied by a food order. Also temporarily permits licensed Maine distilleries that operate tasting rooms but do not operate licensed on-premise retail to sell spirits through take-out and delivery services accompanied by a food order.
SB306 — Temporarily waives certain requirements for relicensing for restaurants that serve liquor to help food establishments during the Covid-19 pandemic.
SB307 — Allows all Maine alcohol manufacturers to sell directly to out-of-state consumers (current law only allows wine to be sold out-of-state).
SB479 — Amends definition of “low-alcohol spirits product” by raising the maximum alcohol level of a low-alcohol spirits product from 8% to 15%.
SB630 — Prohibits shelf-stable products from being sold as cider. Products that do not require refrigeration or are heat-treated cannot be labeled as cider.
SB636 — Establishes the Local Foods Fund, which helps schools purchase produce and other minimally processed foods from local farmers and producers.
SB822 — An act affirming that food seeds are a necessity in the state.
HB185 — Prohibits an alcoholic beverages license holder from requiring that an individual buy more than one bottle, container or other serving of alcohol at a time.
HB264 — Requires entities that generate at least two tons of organic waste per week to arrange for disposal alternatives, like reduction, donation, animal feed or composting.
HB269 — Establishes the Urban Agriculture Grant Program in the Department of Agriculture to increase the viability of urban farming and improve access to urban-grown foods.
HB 555 — Repeals a prohibition on allowing drugstores to apply for a liquor license.
HB1232 — Codifies emergency orders to grant permanent to-go delivery of alcohol and online shipment privileges.
SB205 — Authorizes local alcoholic beverage licensing boards to temporarily allow restaurants and bars to sell to-go alcoholic beverages. Also requires Maryland’s Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and the Maryland Department of Health to study expanding alcohol access.
SB821 — Codifies the governor’s 2020 executive order to grant alcohol delivery and shipment. Also allows permitting to serve alcohol at off-premise, special events.