Nutrition labels found on packaged foods and beverages contain information about the product and help consumers make healthy dietary choices.
Surveys find that the majority of consumers read product labels, particularly those who are on a weight management or loss plan. Today’s consumer is health-conscious, and nutrition labels assist in informed decision-making. They want to know what is in the product, when it was manufactured and how long it will remain fresh, the amount of sugar, calories, grams of fat, and whether the food or beverage is genetically modified, natural or organic.
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These influential factors affect how shoppers assess nutritional facts on labels:
- Avoiding specific ingredients such as sugar, fat, or ingredients causing allergic reactions or intolerances such as nuts, celery, gluten or lactose.
- Requiring specific nutrients such as protein or fiber.
- New dieters who are analyzing nutritional data based on personal weight loss goals.
- Checking a health claim on the package or understanding a serving size.
- Shopping for products with food allergies or health conditions in mind.
- Concerns about safety, transparency and environmental impact.
- Another trend is the preference for locally-sourced food, especially among millennials, whose purchasing power in the United States is estimated to be a staggering $200 billion each year.
Online learning opportunities have paved the way for more health-oriented choices in foods and drinks. From lifestyle and mom bloggers to online advice from qualified dietitians, consumers have enough information at their disposal to make proactive and conscious choices about their diet and health.
As consumers learn about products and absorb information on nutritional content and serving size, they may stop reading labels on products they come to trust and buy frequently.
How do these changing preferences affect manufacturers?
Consumers have become more conscious about the contents of the products they consume. Manufacturers have two concerns: the perception surrounding ingredients (plus nutritional value) and the labeling and packaging which convey the nutritional information.
How can manufacturers engaging in recipe-based production respond to evolving consumer preferences?
One solution is to innovate products and utilize dynamic recipes by refining material and recipe management. For sustainable growth, companies in the F&B sector are turning to technology solutions that eliminate the deficiencies of traditional material management. To avoid data duplication and compromise, a cross-product information system may be useful, which enables material data and recipes to be easily updated. Organizations that generate a large quantity of data every day find it difficult to manage, record and track it. Automating repetitive tasks is an effective approach to safeguarding product quality and safety while ensuring regulatory compliance.
A master data management system that automates daily workflows and processes, and enables data exchange with other applications, is a high-value solution that can save manufacturers time and money for the agile development of new products.
Legal requirements for nutrition labels
Depending on geographic reach, food and beverage companies may have to adhere to one or multiple sets of rules on representing nutritional information. The rules can change over time to reflect consumer sentiments, requiring manufacturers to make appropriate decisions on nutritional facts and front-of-package labeling.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food and beverage labels to contain information on servings and calories, % Daily Value (the amount of a nutrient in one food serving based on a 2000-calorie daily diet), nutritional facts and footnotes further explaining % Daily Values (as needed). In May of last year, the FDA announced labeling changes to reflect new scientific findings, including the link between diet and diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular conditions.
The Swiss government’s nutrition strategy aims to promote a balanced and varied diet. Nutrition labeling includes energy value, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt. Manufacturers are required to clearly identify 14 common allergens by using specific fonts, colors or other indicators to relay the information to consumers.
The UK’s Department of Health enforces a mandatory nutritional statement along with a voluntary statement regarding ‘supplementary’ nutrients.
Last year, Health Canada announced changes to the nutrition table and ingredient list on packaged foods as a result of feedback from consumers and stakeholders. Manufacturers have until 2021 to comply with the new rules, which include grouping sugar-based ingredients, identifying food colorings by their individual common names, listing the percent daily value for sugars, and including a more prominent display of serving size and calories. Potassium is now a mandatory nutrient on the ingredient list, as it is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Until recently, food labeling requirements in the European Union have been flexible compared to those set by the FDA. New changes that came into effect last year require manufacturers to implement a standardized display of allergen and nutritional information. Labels must clearly specify the nutritional properties of processed foods, including fat, saturated fat, energy, sugars, carbohydrates, salt and protein.
The main difference in US and EU labeling standards is the way in which nutritional and calorie information is conveyed. In the EU, all calorie listings are based on the metric units 100g or mL; in the United States, the labels include the number of servings per container, effectively breaking down calories based on the number of bread slices in a package or an ‘x’ number of chip portions in a bag.
The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) regulatory body requires nutritional information to be displayed on labels; manufacturers may voluntarily provide information on percentage of daily intake.
Efficient data management is the key to regulatory compliance
F&B manufacturers that have invested in data management software benefit from being able to document, update and track data on nutritional labeling and packaging in a seamless manner. The technology suite should ideally include an automated regulatory check, like the Complience Guide that enables access to global regulatory information. Facilitating real-time data sharing through the global GS1-GDSN network with consumers, State-of-the-art GDSN connector tools, like the SAP® GTIN Connector, GDSN Guide or Buyer’s Guide can go a long way in helping manufacturers remain compliant with nutritional labeling standards, and plan timely strategies which favor the hassle-free introduction of products to different markets.
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