How brand owners can leverage nutritional labeling changes

Rick Lingle in Labels on January 26, 2015

The Federal Label Modernization Act (FLMA), set to be finalized by early 2016, is driven by consumers’ desire for clearer, more informative labeling on packaging. One expert, who urges brand owners to proactively think beyond the label and beyond the regulation, considers the implications including for labeling and packaging.


The FLMA is all about transparency; in the forthcoming revision of Nutrition Facts, serving size portions will be larger as will the corresponding calories declaration. In summary, the FLMA represents sweeping changes that are estimated to affect 60,000 consumer packaged goods companies and more than 740,000 UPCs/products. The regulations are set to be finalized by early 2016 with a compliance date by early 2018.


The pending changes to FDA food labeling regulations will rebalance the competitive context, presenting a “fantastic opportunity for brands to gain a competitive advantage,” according to Bruce Levinson, VP of client engagement at SGK. “It’s about choice and execution,” he said during a January 22 webinar, Turn FLMA Into Your Competitive Advantage. Brands that update their labels with shoppers in mind will win new customers and build stronger relationships with the ones they already have, he said.


During the 30-minute webinar, Levinson explained what the label update will mean for brands, and identified six steps brand owners should take to meet the changing needs of the marketplace. He likened it to a “cautionary tale” of California’s zero emissions requirement in the 1990s where companies either met the required regulations, as General Motors did, or look beyond it, as Toyota did by responding with the industry-changing Prius hybrid car.


Levinson’s 6 pieces of advice for brand owners to proactively react to FLMA (with packaging specific-ones bolded):


1. Know what consumers expect from your brand.

2. Anticipate changes to serving sizes and understand what you should change per consumer expectations.

3. Seize a competitive advantage, act boldly and consider reformulating your products and repackaging in a way that promotes consumptive behavior.

4. Understand your true design equities and assets and know what you can afford to change, move or remove. And do it now!

5. Touch the packaging only once: Determine what other design changes to make while you touch the label.

6. Assemble the right cross-functional team now so that you can begin planning. Start with conducting an impact audit.


Levinson also responded to several questions from attendees with these answers:

  • Use innovation to gain an advantage through new products and packaging such as a new format, size or way to package.
  • Center your efforts on research, ethnography and focus groups—and listen to consumers’ expectations.
  • The current science behind the controversial use/non-use and associated labeling for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is that there is no analytical distinguishing between GMOs vs. non-GMOs. This is not a part of FLMA, but a separate issue to be dealt with in parallel, he noted, implying that should be addressed as part of Point 5 above.


His parting advice: Think beyond the regulation.


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