New Food Labeling Regulations Are Coming. Are You Ready?

Growing nutritional awareness combined with new requirements for more prominently displayed nutritional facts – it’s a recipe for greater consumer engagement with packaging. Some brands will see this as a challenge to be overcome. Others will see it as an opportunity.

In the European Union, EU Regulation 1169/2011 establishes a new legal framework for providing food information to consumers. With full compliance for most companies required by December 13, 2014, this new regulation provides approximately 55 pages of rules intended to standardize the presentation of food information and lower the administrative burden of tracking data. And, most important, to ensure consumers have complete, unambiguous, highly legible information about the foods they plan to eat prior to purchase. 

Stephen Kaufman, Chief Technology Officer at SGK, discusses the details:

For Kaufman, the most interesting part of the new EU food labeling regulation concerns “pre-packaged foods offered for sale by means of distance communications.” For example, a candy bar sold through Amazon. The regulation states that, “information shall be available before the purchase is concluded,” and “without charging consumers supplementary costs.” This means brands need to coordinate the information printed on the package with information displayed on any number of online retail sites.

New food labeling regulations are coming to the U.S. as well. For example, the Food and Drug Administration announced on February 27 that there will be:

• Much more prominent display of information such as serving sizes and calories

• A requirement that serving sizes reflect what people actually eat at a typical sitting, not the smaller amount they “should” be eating

• More prominent display of daily value percentages for nutrients, along with information about what the values mean

• Changes in label information based on new understanding of nutrition science – such as requiring information about added sugars, updating the daily values for certain “nutrients of public health significance,” emphasizing the importance of avoiding certain kinds of fat rather than focusing on total calories from fat, and so on. 

The new regulations would also prohibit misleading information such as touting low cholesterol in a product containing significant amounts of trans fats. Removing misleading claims might simplify packaging copy to a degree. However, the greater effect is to increase the amount of information, the burden of managing it, and the challenge of keeping the package attractive overall. All of this is good for consumers, and it can be good for brands as well – but only if they handle the changes in a thoughtful and systematic way. 

Beyond avoiding mistakes, smart brands will be using new food labeling regulations as an opportunity. Some regulations – for example, the front-panel disclosures proposed in the U.S. – will require substantial modifications to package design. Rather than seeing this as a burden, it can be an opportunity to refresh the brand through new package design, messaging, promotions or even nutritional improvements to the product itself. 

All of these possibilities are best addressed early and holistically – not dealt with in isolation from the need to comply with new labeling requirements.

Brands need to have a plan in place for managing the many print and digital redesigns that will be required to deal with new regulations that are already in place in the European Union, and soon to come in other regions. Are you ready?