Beer drinkers can not claim happy ignorance for much longer.
Starting next month, Bud Light packages will have prominent labels that will show the calories and ingredients of the beer, as well as the amount of fat, carbohydrates and protein in one serving.
Bud Light is probably the first of many to make the move. The labels are not legally required, but the main beer manufacturers agreed in 2016 to voluntarily disclose nutritional information about their products by 2020.
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Many brands, including Corona Light, Guinness, Heineken and Coors Light, already have calories and other nutritional information in their bottles or packaging. But it is in small print or hidden in the bottom of the pack of six, and the ingredients are not listed.
Bud Light carried a large, black and white label, similar to those required by the US Food and Drug Administration for packaged foods. At the top, Bud Light lists its four ingredients: water, barley, rice and hops. Below that, it shows the calories in a 12 ounce bottle or can (110) and other data. Bud Light contains 2 percent of the recommended daily amount of carbohydrates, for example.
"We want to be transparent and offer people what they are used to seeing," said Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing at Bud Light.
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Individual bottles and cans from Bud Light will not have full labels, but will continue to print nutritional information in small print.
Goeler said the brand's research shows that younger drinkers, in particular, want to know what's in their beer.
"They have really grown in tune with the ingredients," he said.
Goeler said he did not know when other brands owned by Bud Light's mother, Anheuser-Busch, including Michelob and Stella Artois, would adopt larger nutritional labels.
But the question is: Will these labels make a difference in consumer choices? At least one study suggests that they will not.
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Researchers from Cornell University and Louisiana State University tracked what happened when diners received menus with calorie counts. It was found that diners who knew the calorie counts ordered appetizers and low-calorie dishes, but the calorie counts had little impact on the orders of drinks and desserts.
John Cawley, a professor of economics at Cornell and one of the authors of the study, said diners seemed to respond more to information they did not yet know. Probably they were surprised by the calories of some appetizers, for example, but they already knew the general range of a glass of beer or wine.
Cawley said it's obvious that a light beer would be the most revealing of its ingredients and nutritional information. Bud Light's brother, Budweiser, has 35 more calories and four additional grams of carbohydrates, according to the brand's website.
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Ultimately, the biggest changes can come from the manufacturers themselves, not from consumers, Cawley said. Since nutrition labels were required for the first time in the early 1990s, companies have competed to look healthier or eliminate objectionable ingredients, such as trans fats.
"That's actually the biggest public health victory of all," said Cawley.