Nutritional Label Panels: How to Label Food Products

Last Updated: 

October 2, 2023

When you enter the food-selling business, the question of nutritional information panels will soon become a necessary feature of your products. Whether you are legally obligated to provide the data or want to make your products more appealing to consumers, understanding the rules and regulations that surround these labels can take time and effort. 

From deciding on the appropriate food label layout to suit your product packaging to ensure you include all the required nutritional information, company details, and ingredient list, choosing the best design and layout will significantly influence your final packaging design. Therefore, it is crucial to fully understand the ins and outs of this valuable facts panel.

Key Takeaways on Labelling Food Products

  1. Importance of Nutritional Labelling: Nutritional labels provide crucial information to consumers, helping them make informed choices and avoid allergens.
  2. Understanding Nutritional Data: Learn how to include percentages of daily recommended intake values to help customers assess the nutritional value of your product.
  3. Supporting Health Claims: Nutritional information supports health claims and enhances brand trustworthiness.
  4. Preventing False Claims: Proper labelling helps prevent false or misleading claims by producers and manufacturers.
  5. Main Label Formats: Explore four common nutritional label formats, including standard, tabular, linear, and dual labels.
  6. Products Requiring Labels: Most food products, especially those with health claims, require nutritional labels. When in doubt, include one to ensure compliance.
  7. Exemptions from Labelling: Some products are exempt from nutritional labelling, such as spices, fresh seafood, and custom processed meat.
  8. Labelling Requirements: Understand the federal requirements for labelling, including language, principal display panel (PDP), and information panel content
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Why is Nutritional Labelling Necessary?

Nutritional labelling provides critical information to customers to help them make educated decisions about the food they consume. People with food allergies must avoid certain products that contain these potentially deadly allergens. Listed ingredients and potential contact with common allergens all feature on nutrition labels, helping them to avoid triggering products. 

The listings on these labels all typically include percentages of the daily recommended intake value. This data allows customers to assess the nutritional value of the product, which is vital for those following personalised diets or medically dictated food plans. 

Finally, if your product makes claims of additional health benefits and features, listing the ingredients and required nutritional values provides the necessary data to support these claims. By showing your customers that your claims are supported and truthful, your brand and the product itself become more trustworthy. 

Additionally, it will help to prevent any false or potentially damaging claims from being made by unscrupulous producers and manufacturers. 

Main Label Formats

Four basic nutritional label formats are used throughout the food industry, each with distinctive characteristics and applications that make them well-suited for packaging that varies in shape and size. 

Standard Panel

The most frequently used nutritional label format is the standard nutrition facts panel. It is the layout you will see most often on food products and is shaped like a vertical rectangle. It contains and clearly lays out all the information that the FDA requires. 

Tabular Label

A tabular label is a horizontal nutrition label format that can be used on large and small-sized packaging, depending on the available space and desired layout. It best suits products that are oblong-shaped, like biscuit trays and coffee pod boxes. 

Labelling Food Products

Linear Label

A linear label is typically used for small packaging only. It is commonly found on tiny food packages like gum and single-serve, individually wrapped candies and food products where space is very minimal, but the information still needs to be added. 

Dual Label

A dual label is traditionally used when multiple flavours or products are wrapped together in one container. Neapolitan ice cream is an excellent example of how this label is utilised, with the nutritional information and ingredient list of each flavour appearing side-by-side on the packaging.

Products with Compulsory Nutritional Labels

The majority of foods for sale require nutritional information and ingredients to be displayed on their packaging and labels. Suppose your product has any type of health claim, like containing low-fat ingredients or energy-boosting properties. In that case, you will need to include the nutritional data to support these claims, even if the information does not typically appear on nutrition labels. 

If you are in doubt about whether your product needs a label or not, choose to include one. It will protect you from any potential penalty or fines arising from omitting the information and allows your customers to make a more educated decision when purchasing food products. 

However, some products are exempt from requiring a nutritional information panel. Any product that does not carry a health claim and is made by a small business, made to be sold directly to customers for immediate consumption, holds no nutritional value like spices or plain coffee grounds, is fresh seafood and produce, donated food that is not permitted for sale, customed processed meat or is medical foods fall under this category. 

Tinned Tuna Food Labels

What to Include in Labelling & Packaging

Nutritional labelling affects your overall packaging design more than you may think. The label has to meet specific requirements set out by each country's regulating board, making them federal requirements. This includes the language that needs to be included and the placement of the panel. 

The principal display panel, or PDP, must include a statement of identity that is not the name of your product but is instead a way to identify the actual food. For example, if you are selling butternut soup, you need to clearly state that on the front of the packaging that your product contains this food. Any artwork you have included cannot hide any required information, nor can it mislead the consumer. 

Alongside the PDP, your product needs to have an information panel that contains nutritional data, serving sizes, the name and address of your company and a complete ingredient list. No additional information can be listed on this panel, like barcodes or recipes. Ingredients should be listed in descending order, based on their amount in the product and using their common name.

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