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Jaidyn Farar

Can You Ship Alcohol for Your Business?

by Jaidyn Farar

Between 2017 and 2023, the annual revenue of the alcohol ecommerce market has grown by almost 163%, rising from 6.47 to 17.01 billion dollarsopens in new tab

That’s great news for ecommerce businesses that sell alcohol! But shipping your products requires careful attention to state laws and carrier regulations. If you don’t follow all the rules, happy hour could very quickly become unhappy hour for your business. 

So, how can you stay compliant? The first step is understanding what’s allowed and what’s not.

Is mailing alcohol legal? 

Can you ship alcohol for your business? The short answer is yes! While shipping alcohol is illegal for the general population, businesses with the required alcohol licenses are allowed to ship it to other licensed businesses or, depending on state and local laws, directly to customers. You’ll need to have an alcohol shipping agreement with your carrier, ensure that shipments only go to adults (age 21 and older), and label packages properly.

Keep in mind that carriers have different restrictions for shipping alcohol. USPS doesn’t allow businesses to ship alcoholic beverages at all, FedEx only accepts wine shipments, and UPS accepts wine, beer, and spirits. 

(If you’re an EasyPost customer looking for information about shipping alcohol with EasyPost, check out this guide.)

Basic rules for mailing alcohol

Later, we’ll review some specific carrier regulations when it comes to shipping alcohol. For now, let’s look at the basic rules. Following these standards will help keep your business compliant, ensuring that every alcohol shipment reaches its intended destination without a hitch. 

  • Have an alcohol license. Your business needs to hold an alcohol license for every state you plan to ship to. Visit a state’s website to find their alcohol licensing requirements and fees, and make sure the license you apply for allows small businessopens in new tab ecommerce sales.
  • Have an account with the carrier. FedEx and UPS won’t ship alcohol unless you have an account with them. 
  • Sign an alcohol shipping agreement. After creating your account, you’ll need to sign an alcohol shipping agreement with the carrier(s) you’re using. To get started, contact the carrier directly. 
  • Label packages properly. Every alcohol shipment in the US needs to have a special shipping label that clearly identifies it as alcohol. The carrier will usually provide the label—here’s what FedEx’s looks likeopens in new tab.
  • Require signatures. To make sure alcohol doesn’t end up in the hands of a minor, require an adult signature upon delivery—the person who signs should be age 21 or older. If you use shipping software, simply adjust the settings to automatically require an adult signature for any package requiring alcohol.
  • Comply with state laws. You’ll need to follow the applicable regulations.

Whether shipping alcohol in-state or between states, the process is similar. As long as you understand and follow each state’s laws, you’ll be good to go! But where can you learn about state alcohol shipping laws? And why does each state have its own standards? We’ll explore those questions in the next section.

Shipping alcohol in-state  

Because there isn’t a single federal law governing alcohol shipping, you’ll need to research and understand individual state laws before shipping your products. 

Why does each state have its own alcohol shipping laws?

The Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed prohibition, gives individual states control over laws regarding the sale, importation, distribution, and possession of alcohol. 

What kinds of in-state alcohol shipping laws exist?

While shipping alcohol in-state is often easier than shipping out-of-state, some states don’t even allow internal shipments. For example, Utah and Delaware prohibit alcohol shipments to consumers, although you’re allowed to send it to licensed distributors. 

Other states allow direct-to-consumer alcohol shipments but put limitations on the type or quantity of alcohol shipments a consumer can receive within a given timeframe.

Where can I find information on state alcohol shipping laws?

Because laws are constantly changing, the best place to find up-to-date information on alcohol shipping is the website of the state agency responsible for overseeing its distribution. These agencies often have names such as “Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services,” “Alcoholic Beverage Control Board,” or “Alcoholic Beverage Administration.” These sites are the most reliable source of information because they’re constantly updated, unlike other sources you might find online. 

Alabama is a great example of the changing legal landscape of alcohol shipping. For years, Alabama prohibited alcohol delivery both in-state and from out-of-state. However, the state recently changed the lawopens in new tab to allow wineries from anywhere in the country to ship wine directly to consumers—as long as they don’t send more than 12 nine-liter cases per year. 

The bottom line: Before trying to set up shop in a new state, check the laws. This chartopens in new tab from the National Conference of State Legislatures is a great starting point, but make sure you go straight to the appropriate state agency for the most up-to-date information. 

Shipping alcohol out-of-state

When shipping alcohol out-of-state, you need to consider the laws of both the origin and destination locations. 

Crossing state lines isn’t usually an issue if the package of alcohol remains unopened until it’s delivered. For example, a package could pass through a state that prohibits direct-to-consumer alcohol shipments as long as that state isn’t its final destination. 

Shipping alcohol internationally

Shipping internationally requires that you get a license at both the state of origin and the destination of the shipment. Depending on the country, getting a license might be easy, difficult, or impossible—some countries ban alcohol shipments outright.

Carrier regulations: How to ship alcohol with FedEx and UPS

USPS doesn’t allow alcoholic beverages to be shipped at all, while FedEx and UPS allow certain types of alcohol shipping if you meet the right conditions. Keep reading to learn which types of alcohol you can ship with each carrier.

USPS

USPS doesn’t ship alcohol, with the exception of products that contain small amounts of alcohol, such as mouthwash, cold medicine, or hand sanitizer. But beer, wine, and spirits are off the table—for now, at least. 

This could be changing soon. The USPS Shipping Equity Actopens in new tab, introduced in early 2023, would remove the ban on shipping alcoholic beverages as a way to boost USPS’s competitiveness and bring in additional revenue. 

UPS

You can ship wine, beer, and spirits through UPS. For any type of alcohol, you’ll need to have an account and sign an alcohol shipping agreement with UPS. You should also label the package properly and require an adult signature at delivery. 

For wine, beer, and spirits, UPS differentiates between several delivery types:

  • On-site purchase shipments. Alcohol can be shipped directly to consumers, but only if the consumer makes the purchase in person.
  • Direct shipments. Alcohol can be shipped directly to consumers who order it by phone or through an ecommerce site.
  • Interstate vs. intrastate. For beer and spirits, UPS distinguishes between shipments to consumers within the state and consumers in another state. 
  • Licensed to licensed. Shipments from one licensed business to another are allowed in all US states. 

For more information on shipping alcohol via UPS, including the types of deliveries allowed in each state, check out the resources below. 

FedEx

Many of the restrictions that apply to UPS alcohol shipments also apply to FedEx: you must have an account and alcohol shipping agreement, use the right packaging and labeling, and require an adult signature. When shipping to consumers, you can use FedEx Express®, FedEx Ground®, or FedEx Home Delivery®.

FedEx prohibits beer or spirits shipmentsopens in new tab to consumers, but you are allowed to ship wine. They provide a helpful chartopens in new tab outlining which states allow direct-to-consumer wine shipments from wineries and/or retailers. 

For more information on shipping wine through FedEx, check out this pageopens in new tab

Properly package alcohol

When shipping fragile products like glass bottles, it’s critical to use the right packaging materials. In addition to keeping bottles from breaking, you also need to consider the quality of the wine or other alcohol you’re sending, because extreme temperatures might affect it. Follow these steps to keep your shipments safe. 

Choose the right materials

Use dividers that are specifically designed for packing bottles. UPS recommends using molded expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, folded corrugated trays, molded fiber trays, or thermoformed plastic trays. 

Whatever inner packaging material you choose, make sure it conforms to the shape of the bottles. Using only cardboard dividers, packing peanuts, or paper to cushion bottles isn’t smart (and isn’t allowedopens in new tab). These materials can allow bottles to touch each other and get jostled or broken during shipping.

If you don’t want to use molded inserts, try bubble wrap. Just make sure that every bottle is entirely covered—you should end up with a two-inch thick layer of material around the top, bottom, and sides. 

Finally, if you’re shipping during hot weather, consider using an insulated box to keep your products cool and prevent unwanted flavor changes.

Pack the bottle(s)

First, make sure the bottom of the box is taped securely so the bottles don’t fall out. Next, place bottles in their molded trays or dividers and lower them into the box. Make sure they’re suspended near the middle of the package, not touching the sides. 

If you’re foregoing molded inserts, place your bubble-wrapped bottles into the box, then fill the remaining space with packing material. 

Tape and label packages

Close boxes and tape them securely, then attach your shipping label to the top. This will help handlers know how to orient the box. Label it as “fragile” to reduce the chance that it gets handled roughly. Add your shipping label and the special alcoholic beverage label from the carrier. 

And with that, you’re all set! With the appropriate licenses, agreements, packaging, and labels, you’re ready to successfully (and compliantly) ship alcohol to your customers.

Shipping alcohol is simple with EasyPost

Shipping alcohol can be complicated—you have to know state laws, follow carrier regulations, and carefully package your products so they don’t get damaged. EasyPost simplifies things. With the EasyPost Shipping API, you can automatically generate shipping labels, accessing significant carrier discounts. And since the system supports signature on delivery, you’ll stay compliant with alcohol age restrictions.

Winestyr, a critically acclaimed wine club, used EasyPost to automate their shipping label generation, saving over 200 hours annually and increasing efficiency by 10%. Co-founder Scott Washburn explains, “EasyPost has been a game-changer for us in terms of automating our shipping processes and ensuring that our customers receive their orders on time.”

Learn how Winestyr saved hundreds of hours with EasyPost.