Three-Tier System

Visual depiction of the three-tier systemThe three-tier system is the bedrock to the U.S. alcohol regulatory structure. The traditional three-tier system is an hourglass-like structure with producers at the top, funneling down to the wholesalers in the middle where tracking of tainted alcohol products and excise alcohol tax collection occurs, and then fanning back out to retailers who get the product to the consumer.

The three-tier system operates in the background ensuring product safety, tax collection and preventing market domination by restricting any one tier from having financial interest in another, a common practice in the pre-Prohibition era that led to aggressive sales tactics and heavy consumption. 

White Paper
  • The Three-Tier System: A Modern View (March 2015)
    This white paper and webinar on the three-tier system seek to help the public understand the history of the three-tier system, its benefits in creating a balanced and safe marketplace and its relevancy today.
Webinar – The Three-Tier System of Alcohol Control (January 14, 2015)

The U.S. has developed a unique regulatory three-tier system for alcohol that represents the foundation for all U.S.-based regulations. This webinar will demystify the three-tier system and provide information on its rationale, how it works and its benefits.

Video – History of the Three-Tier System

Two trade associations representing alcohol distributors in the U.S., the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) and the National Beer Wholesalers of America (NBWA) have produced materials to help the public understand the importance of the three-tier system.

Learn more about the history of alcohol regulation and the three-tier system by watching this short video produced by NBWA.



Special Report from Healthy Alcohol Marketplace

The Campaign for a Healthy Alcohol Marketplace has a special report on the three-tier system that provides insights for why the three-tier system exists and outlines its value today.

Download Special Report