Food Product Labels Clean Up Their Acts
As we close in on 2021, we are rapidly approaching the January deadline set by the Food and Drug Administration for food and beverage companies to comply with its new nutrition label regulations. For the first time in 20 years, the FDA has made changes to the design and information requirements of the nutrition facts that appear on all packaged food products in the U.S. – a move that includes more prominent serving size and calorie information, as well as the addition of added sugar data, among others. Although we are still several months out from the cutoff, many larger companies have been quick to adopt the changes and have already started using the new labels on their packaging. It is perhaps a smart move on their part, considering that the new requirements fit right in line with buyer trends. Now, more than ever, consumers want transparency from their food manufacturers. They also want to know whether the ingredients in their food products are “clean” – that is, whether they contain natural ingredients that are easy to recognize, understand, and pronounce – as they have become much more aware of how processed and artificial ingredients could, potentially, harm them. While clean labels and ingredient transparency do share some similarities, they are also two very different trends. The new label requirements, however, help to accomplish both. By definition, a clean label product is one that uses as few ingredients as possible and contains only ingredients that are as wholesome as possible. According to Food Dive, a 2018 L.E.K. study found that more than 60% of consumers look for products with labels containing keywords and phrases like “no artificial ingredients,” “no preservatives” and “all natural.” Although the FDA’s new labeling requirements do not put any sort of restrictions on what ingredients can or can’t go into packaged food products, they do help to make it explicitly clear what is or isn’t present in every product – most notably, added sugars. For the clean label folk, if a product must contain sugar, they want to see that it contains real sugar, as opposed to a chemically laden alternative sweetener, and they want to know how much of it is naturally derived, versus what has been added in during the manufacturing process. Those who are more interested in ingredient transparency, meanwhile, just want to know exactly what’s in the food they’re eating. They may not care whether the item contains sugar versus a sugar substitute; they just want to know definitively which it is, and how much of it is in there. As such, nutrition labels are now required to include the number of grams, as well as the percent Daily Value (%DV), of added sugars found in all packaged food and beverage products. The FDA has also opted to utilize the word “includes” before the amount of added sugars on the label, to clearly indicate that added sugars are included in the number of grams of total sugars in the product. The FDA has also: updated some amounts to reflect more realistic serving sizes and made that information larger and bolder; increased the font size of the number of calories per serving; updated %DVs to reflect new recommendations; and, for the micronutrients, added Vitamin D and potassium and removed Vitamins A and C. According to the FDA, these labeling updates are aimed at making it easier for individuals to make informed choices about their dietary needs and preferences. It is simply an added bonus that they also make it easier for manufacturers to showcase to that their consumers that they are listening and taking their clean label and ingredient transparency wishes seriously. Either way, it’s a win-win. This article first appeared in Manufacturing Matters! Download your complimentary copy of New Jersey’s manufacturing magazine, today.