Obtaining a COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) from the TTB can be a time-consuming process that’s difficult to sync with the rest of your operations. But here’s a little-known fact: if you are importing alcoholic beverages for use at a tradeshow, or to give out samples for soliciting orders, you may be eligible for a COLA waiver.
COLA waivers can be requested by submitting a formal letter to the TTB. The letter must guarantee that the products in question will meet these compliance requirements before reaching a U.S. port:
• The products will be imported by the holder of a Federal Importer’s Basic Permit (you also need to include the permit number)
• All applicable taxes and duties will be paid
• The imported products will have the following labels:
o Government Warning Statement (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 27, Subpart 16)
o Purpose label (e.g. “For Trade Show Purposes Only – Not for Sale”)
o A sulfites disclaimer for eligible wines (e.g. “CONTAINS SULFITES”)
The letter also has to provide information regarding the details of the products you need waivers for, including:
• The purpose for importing and for requesting a waiver (for tradeshows or other events, include dates and locations)
• The class, type, and quantity of each alcoholic beverage product
• The country of origin for each product
• The brand name of each product
The TTB accepts these waiver requests by both email and fax (202-453-2970). To make the process even faster and easier, I recommend using this official template provided by the TTB (this opens a MS Word file you can save and modify).