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  • Writer's pictureVik F.

Changes in the Alcohol Beverage Industry Usher in Convenience and Fairness

The alcohol beverage industry is on the cusp of significant transformation with recent legislative advancements in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. These changes promise increased convenience for consumers, fairness for producers, and potential ripple effects across the industry.

Group clinking glasses with alcohol beverages in them. Cheers to change!

North Carolina's Senate recently passed SB 527, a bill introducing several consumer-friendly measures. This bill aims to lower the tax rate for spirits ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, allow cocktails to-go and delivery, and permit holiday sales. These changes mark a notable shift towards modernization in the state’s alcohol regulations.

SB 527’s reduction of taxes on spirits RTDs is particularly significant. Despite many spirits RTDs having the same or lower alcohol-by-volume (ABV) than their beer- and wine-based counterparts, they were previously taxed at a much higher rate. By defining a “pre-mixed cocktail” and setting a maximum ABV of 13%, the bill exempts these low-ABV products from the state's mixed beverage tax of $20 per four liters, a relief for on-premise “mixed beverage permit” holders.

The authorization of cocktails to-go and delivery further enhances consumer convenience. With 28 states and the District of Columbia having already enacted similar laws since the pandemic, North Carolina joins a growing trend that meets consumer demand for flexibility in alcohol purchases. The inclusion of holiday sales also aligns with consumer expectations, allowing local ABC stores to operate on traditionally busy holidays such as New Year’s Day, July 4, and Labor Day.

Andy Deloney, senior vice president and head of state public policy at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, emphasized the positive impact of these measures, stating, “Lowering the tax rate for spirits ready-to-drink cocktails, allowing cocktails to-go, and permitting holiday sales are all measures that will benefit local hospitality businesses and the consumers they serve.”

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the House Liquor Control Committee has passed Senate Bill 688, which now moves to the full House for consideration. This bill seeks to allow low alcohol-by-volume (ABV) spirits RTDs to be sold from retail outlets that already sell beer and wine products with similar alcohol content. This change addresses a significant market disparity, where spirits RTDs are currently unavailable in more than 10,000 stores despite having the same ABV as beer- and wine-based RTDs.

“Allowing adult consumers to purchase their favorite spirits ready-to-drink cocktails where they already buy beer and wine just makes sense,” said Andy Deloney, underscoring the logic behind the bill. A survey supporting this sentiment revealed that 86% of consumers agree that spirits RTDs should be sold in grocery and convenience stores alongside beer and wine.

The passage of these bills represents a broader shift towards modernizing alcohol regulations, reflecting changes in consumer behavior and preferences. The flexibility introduced by these laws caters to the growing demand for convenience and variety, essential in today’s fast-paced lifestyle. Moreover, these legislative changes address longstanding market inequalities, ensuring fairer treatment for producers of spirits-based RTDs.

As these bills progress, they could set a precedent for other states to follow, potentially leading to a more unified and equitable alcohol beverage industry nationwide. The increased accessibility of spirits RTDs in retail outlets and the allowance of cocktails to-go could stimulate growth within the industry, driving sales and encouraging innovation in product offerings.

However, these changes also bring new responsibilities for retailers and producers. Ensuring compliance with tamper-evident packaging for to-go cocktails and maintaining responsible serving practices will be crucial in implementing these new measures successfully.

The alcohol beverage industry is poised for continued evolution as consumer preferences and regulatory landscapes adapt. The success of these legislative measures in North Carolina and Pennsylvania could inspire similar reforms in other states, fostering a more modern and consumer-friendly market environment. Producers and retailers will need to stay agile, embracing these changes to meet consumer demand while ensuring safety and compliance.

The passage of SB 527 in North Carolina and SB 688 in Pennsylvania heralds a new era of convenience and fairness in the alcohol beverage industry. As these states move towards more progressive alcohol regulations, the industry stands to benefit from increased consumer satisfaction and equitable market practices, setting the stage for future growth and innovation.

alcohol beverage industry changes


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