All Things Shipping | Sep 15, 2022

Shipping Alcohol: How to Ship Wine, Beer, & Spirits

Sarah Rickerd

Market demand for shipping alcohol, fueled in part by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to surge to $42 billion annually by 2025. From wine-of-the-month clubs to gift baskets containing bottles of alcohol, retailers have plenty of opportunities to support consumers with innovative product offerings and gift experiences.

But how can e-commerce merchants ship alcoholic products to their customers, both safely and legally? Here, we’ll take a closer look at the laws governing domestic shipments of wine, beer, and spirits within the U.S.

General Rules for Shipping Alcohol

Later in this article, we’ll delve into the specifics of shipping different types of alcohol. However, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind—no matter what type of alcohol you’re shipping.

  • Rules controlling where alcohol can and can’t be shipped are set at the local and state level within the U.S. As a merchant, it’s up to you to determine whether you can legally ship alcohol to the designated address, whether you’re shipping in-state or out-of-state.
  • These rules may also govern how much alcohol (or what types of alcohol) can be included in a shipment. For instance, some states may limit deliveries to one bottle of alcohol at a time, or limit how many bottles of alcohol an individual consumer can ship in a year.
  • In nearly all cases, shipping alcohol will require that an adult over age 21 be present to receive and sign for the delivery. Depending on the carrier and service chosen, you may be able to route the package to be held at a local service center and picked up by an adult over age 21.
  • Special labeling may also be required on your alcohol-containing packages (Shippo can help with this).
  • The USPS does not currently allow the shipment of alcohol, though the USPS Shipping Equity Act may change this if passed. Be aware that using packaging marked with alcohol branding may be grounds for your shipment being rejected—even if the parcel does not have alcohol in it.

How to Ship Wine

Since USPS is off the table, your two best bets for shipping alcohol in the U.S. are FedEx and UPS.

Shipping Wine with FedEx

To ship wine with FedEx, you’ll need to be a business (not an individual consumer), hold the appropriate licenses, and enroll in the carrier’s alcohol shipping program. This will allow you to ship all types of alcohol (not just wine) using the FedEx Express®, FedEx Ground®, and FedEx Home Delivery® services (as well as FedEx Freight® in limited circumstances).

Visit FedEx’s alcohol shipping program page for more information, or check out the company’s handy state-by-state reference guide for more specific guidance on states that can receive direct-to-consumer (D2C) wine deliveries. FedEx also provides guidance on the specific types of packaging required to ship alcohol.

Shipping Wine with UPS

UPS requires wine sellers to hold the appropriate licenses and provide a copy of required licenses to UPS through upswinecompliance@ups.com. UPS also requires sellers to enter into either the UPS Agreement for Approved Wine Shippers or the UPS Wine Industry Fulfillment House Agreement For Approved Wine Shippers.

To learn more about setting up such a contract, visit the UPS wine shipping page. The carrier’s standard contract Addendum A also provides more detail on which states can and can’t receive deliveries of wine.

UPS also designates how wine should be packaged for shipment. Specifically, “UPS will accept inner packaging of molded Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam, folded corrugated tray, molded fiber tray with dividers or thermoformed plastic trays. Each packaging component secures the bottles into the center of the shipping container away from the side walls of the shipper. Sturdy outer corrugated containers are required.”

How to Ship Beer

Shipping Beer with FedEx

Currently, FedEx does not allow direct shipments of beer to consumers (according to the carrier’s alcohol-shipping flowchart).

However, you can ship beer through FedEx if you are a licensed retailer shipping to another licensed retailer (restrictions apply in Mississippi and Utah). According to FedEx, the following constitutes a licensee-to-licensee delivery:

“The shipper must be a FedEx-approved alcohol shipper; the recipient must be a business entity that holds appropriate alcohol licenses, and the shipment must otherwise comply with applicable laws.”

If these conditions are met, beer can be shipped via FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, or FedEx Home Delivery services.

Shipping Beer with UPS

Merchants who are shipping beer with UPS are required to enter into the same type of specialized carriage contracts as those shipping wine or spirits.

In addition, they must still meet the carrier’s other requirements, as outlined on its ‘How to Ship Beer’ page, including being licensed and authorized under applicable state law to ship beer and providing such documentation to UPS. The UPS packaging requirements for shipping beer are similar to those for shipping wine, as cited above.

How to Ship Spirits

Shipping Spirits with FedEx

As of this writing, the same rules apply to shipping spirits via FedEx as shipping beer through the carrier. Only licensee-to-licensee shipments are permitted, and merchants that qualify must meet the carrier’s additional restrictions on business type and licensing status.

If you have any questions about whether your business is eligible to ship alcohol through FedEx, the carrier offers free phone consultations where sellers can review pertinent regulations and restrictions.

Shipping Spirits with UPS

Merchants shipping spirits via UPS will need to enter into a specialized carriage contract with the carrier, be licensed under the applicable law(s), and provide a copy of the license to UPS. As in the case of sellers shipping wine or beer, packaging for shipments of spirits must meet the UPS requirements for protection and stability.

To learn more about setting up such a contract, visit the UPS spirits shipping page. The carrier’s standard contract Addendum A also provides more detail on which states can and can’t receive deliveries of spirits.

All alcohol shipments delivered through UPS, including spirits, wine, and beer, must utilize the UPS Delivery Confirmation Adult Signature Required service, requiring the signature of an adult 21 years of age or older upon delivery.  This option is available to Shippo users directly on the label creation interface: simply click “Add” next to “Signature Confirmation” and select “an adult must sign.”

Whether you’re interested in shipping spirits, wine, or beer UPS offers free 15-minute phone consultations with an expert.

How to Ship Alcohol with Shippo

While you are still responsible for maintaining compliance with any local, state, and national laws surrounding the shipment of alcohol, Shippo makes it easy to add the required description, special label, and confirmation type when shipping alcohol.

Both Web App and API users with approved FedEx and UPS accounts can easily designate shipments as containing alcohol. Once set, Shippo will update package labels and documentation with the appropriate messaging and ensure an adult signature guarantee is added as a requirement.

Please note that only merchants that have integrated their UPS Account to use on Shippo are eligible to ship alcohol. Those who opened their  UPS account on Shippo are not able to ship alcohol.

To learn more, visit Shippo’s help page on ‘How to Ship Alcohol with Shippo’ or contact one of our sales agents here.

Sarah Rickerd is a Michigan-based freelance writer covering business, marketing, and technology topics. She is also the owner of Content Conquered, a B2B-focused content marketing consultancy.

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