Distilled Spirits Council testified in support of bill

Today, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) testified in the California Senate Governmental Organization Committee in favor of SB 277 – a commonsense measure that will help California’s laws meet consumer demand by providing fairer treatment for spirits-based ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails in the marketplace. The bill passed by a vote of 14 to 0. One member abstained.

Despite many of these spirits-based products having the same or lower alcohol-by-volume (ABV) than their beer- and wine-based counterparts, grocery and convenience stores need a unique and expensive license in order to carry spirits RTDs.

A recent DISCUS survey found 86 percent of adult consumers want to purchase spirits RTDs where they already buy beer and wine RTDs. Adam Smith, vice president of state government relations at DISCUS, highlighted in his testimony the increased consumer demand for these low-ABV products.

“These low alcohol-by-volume spirits products are relatively new to the marketplace, and consumers are driving demand for premade, genuine cocktails, made from high-quality spirits and mixers with low calories,” Smith stated in his testimony. “As new products enter the marketplace, laws should be updated to reflect the evolving product offerings from all alcohol manufacturers, and that is what SB 277 would do.”

He also noted there was no reason to differentiate between spirits, beer and wine, as science shows alcohol is alcohol.

“There is absolutely no difference in the alcohol content of a five percent ABV beer-, wine- or spirits-based RTD,” said Smith. “It is all ethanol. The body only reacts to how much you drink, not what you drink.”

In California, beer- and wine-based RTDs are sold in more than 28,000 locations, while spirits RTDs are only sold in about 14,000 locations. The proposed bill helps correct this disparity by allowing spirits RTDs to be sold under the same license used for beer and wine, uplifting thousands of local businesses.

The distilled spirits industry supports more than 143,000 jobs in the state generating more than $16.67 billion in state economic activity each year. Greater access to spirits RTDs will allow the industry to contribute even more and could generate as much as $60 million in additional excise tax revenue for the state.