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How the FDA's new nutrition label can deepen brand meaning

How the FDA's new nutrition label can deepen brand meaning

Chicago, July 24th, 2014

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the FDA is proposing updates to its iconic Nutrition Facts label, giving manufacturers and brand owners a valuable opportunity to educate consumers and refresh and grow their brands.

If the FDA’s proposed changes are adopted, brands will be required to make updates to the label, which include providing consumers with a greater understanding of nutrition science, updating serving sizes and addressing new labeling requirements for certain package sizes.

We know that for brand owners, maintaining brand meaning and getting products to the shelf smarter and faster is critical – as is helping consumers make better-informed decisions about the packaged foods they take home and eat. In this light, the proposed FDA labeling regulation represents both an opportunity and a challenge for those who are ready to seize it.

Here are eight design considerations for brands as they prepare to tackle the design process in response to the FDA’s new nutrition label:

1. PAY ATTENTION TO CONSUMER TRENDS THAT ALIGN WITH THE PROPOSED REGULATION.
Healthy living is no longer just an ideal for today’s consumer. It’s a reality that’s made possible as consumers have greater access to information on how to achieve their health goals, especially in regards to their diet. Consumers want to know more about what they’re eating. They want simple ingredients and are drawn to nutrient dense foods over processed foods. As a brand, be prepared to address this increased need for nutritional education and consider how to go beyond the new nutrition label with packaging design that provides simple and clear ways for them to understand more about the foods they take home to their families.

2. ENSURE THAT TRANSPARENCY IS PART OF YOUR BRAND'S DNA.
Many brands have already taken this step and shifted away from telling consumers what they should be eating to showing them what they are really eating. The FDA’s new nutrition label will help reinforce those efforts toward transparency and clarity by updating serving sizes, daily values, including added sugars, as well as other proposed updates. “Get in front of the food labeling regulations and own the honesty,” says Don Childs, SVP, Executive Creative Director at our Cincinnati office. He says to consider how your brand’s messaging and packaging can go beyond the basic requirements whenever possible, instead of being perceived as “forced to be honest.”

3. MAKE IT NEWSWORTHY
As a brand, if you have a clean label and you’re proud of it; if the new label accentuates how much better your product is than the alternative, then sing it from the rooftops! Call attention to your updates because even if other brands and manufacturers are making similar changes, it implies endorsement and aligns with the values of honesty and transparency that consumers are craving.

4. GO A STEP FURTHER TO EDUCATE CONSUMERS
Most foods have sugars in them. And sugar isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s when there are sugars added to snacks and drinks that consumers aren’t aware of that inadvertent, poor choices can be made. The new nutrition label will now require all added sugars to be called out, so if your product has a lot of added sugar, you may consider this an opportunity to explain where that comes from and why it’s there. There are times when might be appropriate to indicate that you add sugar because it tastes great. Consumers will likely appreciate this if it’s done in a sincere way.

5. ASK WHAT OTHER AREAS OF YOUR BRAND'S PACKAGING NEED TO BE REFRESHED.
The FDA’s proposed labeling regulation doesn’t require a fully updated package design, but it could provide a compelling reason to examine areas outside of the nutrition label that can add further transparency and clarity for consumers. For instance, “front of package” food labeling may be an opportunity for brands to deepen the meaning of their brand and its connection with consumers. If you want to go the extra step to communicate benefits on the face of a package, it must be done in a meaningful way. Spend time looking for design codes that will help your deliver information, claims and benefits statements in a way that’s harmonizes with and strengthens your brand meaning.

6. MAKE USE OF DESIGN CODES THAT TELL YOUR BRAND'S STORY.
Design codes create ideas that are compelling and meaningful and can even be used as a way to prompt consumers to think differently about your brand. Part of what Brandimage does when uncovering the stories brands can tell, is to identify a creative strategy and then introduce design codes that visually embody that strategy. When done right, package design will helps consumers see how your brand and/or products fit into their lives and motivates them to buy.

7. THERE'S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT. START NOW!
Make sure that your brand stays ahead of the game and start preparing now. When looking for agency partners, partner with those that have an understanding of what the implications of the proposed regulations will entail, especially as it relates to managing a large volume of design changes in a compressed timeframe. Brands should also consider packaging innovation that plays to the inherent strengths of the brand – these often take many months to develop so the time to start is now!

8. TAKE A BROADENED VIEW OF THE FDA'S PROPOSED REGULATION.
Our advice is to think holistically about the FDA’s impending regulation and view it as a comprehensive undertaking, not merely a template for marketing communication. The proposed regulation isn’t the sole purview of regulatory or packaging design departments. It is an ecosystem-wide event that will carry implications and tradeoffs for brand, design, purchasing, printers, agencies, retailers and, of course, shoppers and consumers. Put simply, a dislocating industry event like this will winners and losers – the more prepared brands have a better chance at being winners.

The FDA’s proposed changes are likely the most extensive nutrition policy change in decades. They pose an incredible opportunity to enrich the way consumers experience your brand. Contact us to learn more about what you and your teams can do to be prepared for the new nutrition label.

Visit Schawk’s Label Central for everything you need to know about the upcoming nutrition facts label update.

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