Get Ready To See Slightly Smaller Liquor Bottles

by Rudy Sanchez on 01/19/2021 | 2 Minute Read

If you missed an announcement in the final days of an insane 2020 from the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regarding new rules around allowed bottle sizes, well, you're probably not alone. The implications of the new allowed bottle sizes—in particular, the 700ml—will be noticed by most everyone pretty soon.

The TTB, more formally known as the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, sets the sizes for spirits bottles that get sold in the US. After repealing the Volstead Act and reversing prohibition, Uncle Sam needed a way to effectively and efficiently tax booze—uniform bottle sizes did the trick.

During the half-assed attempt at converting the US to metric in the 70s, the current lineup of allowed bottle sizes was created, named after imperial units such as gallons, but labeled in milliliters. The US fifth, or fifth-gallon, was set at 750ml, just slightly larger than the conventional and then standardized 700ml size used in Europe.

For wine and spirits makers in the US, the fifth and EU-standard 700ml meant additional expenses and paperwork to export products, all of what basically amounted to 1-2 shots per bottle depending on where you’re getting served.

Allowing the new size in the US makes exporting American wine and spirits easier, but it will also upend forty years of conventions and standards in place since 1980, the first year of the 750ml fifth standard size. Now, alcoholic drinks manufacturers will have a significant financial incentive to ditch the 750ml, obviating the need to run two bottling lines for very similarly sized products. A change this significant will have to be designed-in, of course. New bottle shapes, labels, outer packaging, shippers, displays, and more will have to be modified and changed for the switch. Marketing and promotional materials will also need to be updated.

So, when you start to see tinier vessels this year on one of your jaunts to the liquor store and ask if it's just you or are these bottles getting smaller? Well, it's definitely not you this time.

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