Well, now that the public commentary phase has expired for the FDA’s proposed Nutrition Facts label changes, packaging and marketing executives at food and beverage brands are waiting for the announcement of what will come next.

Many are undoubtedly waiting with trepidation or outright anxiety. Updating labeling on thousands of skus on probably a two-year deadline — along with attendant budget/personnel requirements and other packaging imperatives — can be a daunting prospect.

However, some smart packaging pros are looking at the impending changes with a keen eye for strategic opportunity – and there are some potentially valuable ones that we foresee. In addition, the reality is that large-scale relabeling is part of a new normal in the U.S. and abroad as science and sociology inform consumer protection.

FDA Label Changes: Background

By the authority it received in the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990, the FDA mandated the Nutrition Facts label be implemented in May of 1994. Since then, the only change has been the addition of trans-fats to the ingredients list in 2006.

Among other changes, the redesign of the Nutrition Facts label uses a bolder typeface, makes certain information more prominent and gives portion sizes a ‘reality check’ (the FDA’s description) to put them more in line with what people actually consume.

A similar act to the NLEA regarding dietary supplements went into effect in 1999. Changes to the Supplements Facts label are also likely in the not too distant future.

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Labeling updates are apparently going to become far more prevalent than they have been over the past two decades. On December 13th, 2014 the new EU Regulation 1169/2011, (Food Information to Consumers Regulation or ‘FIC’) comes into force. Global brands that distribute their products in Europe have already had to comply with this new relabeling initiative. There’s a similar move afoot in Europe regarding chemical products.

So how are CPG and pharma companies going to cope?

Will FDA-Mandated Label Changes be a Challenge or an Opportunity?

Old and new FDA nutrition labels
FDA re-labeling: new (at left) and old Nutrition Facts labels.

The answer to that question depends on whether a company sees relabeling as a nightmarish challenge or as a strategic opportunity? The companies that are feeling the most pressure are those that still rely on older packaging processes managed on spreadsheets.

They are rightfully nervous. The old ways most definitely do not scale to the level required for today’s relabeling environment. Truth be told, they don’t scale well enough just to meet business objectives that will keep an enterprise competitive in the 21st century global economy.

The companies seeing opportunity in the FDA relabeling are those that have automated their packaging processes or are using the impending relabeling as a lynchpin for transforming their packaging processes with technology. With the potential fiscal impact of ongoing labeling changes, it’s easier now to make the ROI case for investing in packaging automation solutions.

And there’s another potential advantage we see in addition to the opportunity to modernize packaging.

Competitive Edge: A Juicy Worm for the Early Birds

Imagine having all of your company’s packaging technology ducks in a row on the day that the FDA gives you two years to comply with new labeling standards? What if you said, “Great! We’re ready for this relabeling. Let’s get it going now!”?

A year later or less, your new packaging is hitting shelves — a year ahead of your less technology-driven competitors. For at least a year, the new label will set your products apart in the eyes of consumers. Your Nutrition Facts label will be bold. It will pop. It will be more useful and show portion sizes that will be more in line with the consumer’s lifestyle.

Time for Action

Having seen the material gains in efficiency and currency our customers have made after automating their packaging workflows and using technology to manage their digital and design assets, we are confident that they will manage the FDA relabeling process – and any others — with opportunity in mind. If your company is still on the fence about packaging design automation, the relabeling offers a perfect moment for jumping into action and starting the automation process.

To gain more insight, you may want to download our eBook, “Accelerating Time to Market for Food & Drug Retailers.” You’ll find it useful whether you’re in the private label or national brand space.

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