Create a free account to continue

Utah May Have Shortage Of Malt Beverages

State's supply of the fruity alcoholic beverages will likely be exhausted soon as manufacturers decide whether to comply with new labeling rules.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's supply of flavored malt beverages will likely be exhausted in a few weeks as manufacturers decide whether to comply with labeling rules intended to make it clear the products contain alcohol.

Utah has some of the strictest liquor laws in the country, a byproduct of its large Mormon population. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counsels members not to drink alcohol, and the church is highly influential among state lawmakers on alcohol policy.

On Wednesday, Utah will be the only state to ban the sale of fruity alcoholic drinks at grocery stores and convenience stores in an effort to keep them from minors. Those drinks also must have new state-approved labels on the front of the product that contain capitalized letters in bold type telling consumers the drinks contain alcohol and at what percentage.

So far, no new labels have been approved. Utah Department of Alcholic Beverage Control spokeswoman Sharon Mackay said the state's limited supply of those drinks will likely be gone in a few weeks.

Flavored malt beverages are already sold in state liquor stores, but they have a higher alcohol content than what has been allowed in grocery stores. They also have the same labels found in the rest of the country.

Some manufacturers have already decided it's not worth it to produce new labels just for Utah.

"Thanks to the Legislature, Smirnoff Ice is no longer available in Utah," said Zsoka McDonald, spokeswoman for Diageo, one of the world's largest multinational beer, wine and spirits firms. "It's just not cost effective."

Mackay said the department won't reorder any of the flavored malt beverages it has in stock until manufacturers comply with new labeling requirements.

"Many manufacturers, frankly, have not decided whether it's worth carrying the product to make changes on the labels," Mackay said. "It's anybody's guess which ones will be carried."

Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman said banning products like Zima, Smirnoff Ice and Seagram's Fuzzy Navel from grocery stores would harm Utah's image, but agreed to it in exchange for increasing the amount of liquor allowed in shots and standard cocktails to 1.5 ounces, up from 1 ounce.

More in Operations