What the new nutrition label guidelines mean for your business.

The New Nutrition Label: What’s Different?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s nutrition label was introduced in 1993 with the intent of making it easier for Americans to make good dietary choices. 

But, over the past 25 years, our knowledge of nutrition information has changed quite a bit. We have a better understanding of the harmful effects that certain ingredients can have, especially when it comes to items that lead to issues like heart disease, high blood pressure and more. 

After nearly 20 years, the FDA began phasing in design alterations late last year, and those changes will soon be required for all food products. So, what are these new FDA label requirements, what do you need to do to ensure you’re in compliance, and can your current labeling applicator evolve with your needs? Let’s take a look!

Everything You Need to Know About The New Nutrition Label Guidelines

The FDA published most of the final rules for the new Nutrition Facts label in mid-2016. These rules came into effect at the start of this year for food manufacturers with over $10 million in sales, but smaller businesses will have to comply by January 1st, 2021.

There are 6 major changes to the label design:

  • Servings are in a larger, bolder typeface.
  • Total calories for a product utilize a larger typeface.
  • Serving sizes, nutrient percentages and percent daily values have been updated to reflect new scientific research.
  • Instead of one category for sugars, there are now entries for total sugars and added sugars.
  • Actual amounts of nutrients must be declared, not just percentages of daily values.
  • The footnote has been reworded. 

You can see a side-by-side comparison with the old label here. 

While the format changed considerably, the overall size and shape of the label remains the same. 

The following is a breakdown of the nutrition label changes, including new ways of calculating nutrients and serving sizes to encourage healthy eating.

Added Sugars: The Biggest Change to Nutrition Labels 

New research suggests that too much added sugar makes it difficult to meet nutritional needs while keeping calorie consumption in check for a healthy diet. As a result, the FDA introduced the “Added Sugars” category.

What is added sugar? It’s any sugar added during processing, including sugars, honey, syrups and concentrated fruit and vegetable juices. For example, it’s common for fruit juice makers to add a concentrated juice for sweetness and the sugars in this juice are considered to be added sugars.  

Single sugar products don’t need this separate category on their labels, but they do need to list the daily value percentage for added sugars. A compliant label lists total sugars and includes a footnote for the daily value percentage. This footnote states how many grams and what percent of the daily value is added by consuming one serving of the product.

With these types of major changes, it’s important that your labeling equipment has the ability to handle implementing added information to your food packaging labels. A variety of labeling machines can be utilized, depending on the product (and quantity) you’re labeling, and many labeling applicators can be customized to meet evolving packaging needs.

Other Nutrition Updates: Changes Reflecting New Research 

Vitamin D and potassium are now required on nutrition labels. (According to a CDC survey, most Americans are deficient in these nutrients.) Vitamins A and C are no longer required because deficiency is far less common than it was when label guidelines were first established, but these vitamins can be added to the label at the discretion of the manufacturer. Calcium and iron are still required on new labels

Additionally, the “Calories from Fat” category has been removed. Today, nutritionists believe that the type of fat is more important than the amount. Trans fats must still be listed, despite the phase-out of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), because trans fats still occur naturally in some oils and animal products. 

Daily values for most nutrients have been updated to match research by the Institute of Medicine, as well as other reports including the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report

Serving Sizes: Changing to Reflect Real-World Consumption Patterns 

Serving sizes for the original nutrition label were based on Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs), which was rooted in surveys conducted between 1977-1978 and 1987-1988. What (and how) Americans eat has changed drastically since then, so the FDA’s label requirements for portion sizes have been updated to reflect new data about what we eat. 

Most serving size changes are due to changes in product packaging. (For example, the smallest soda products consumed today come from a can, not a small glass bottle.) To reflect these changes, the new single serving size for pop is 12 ounces instead of 8 ounces. Meanwhile, standard yogurt containers are now 6 ounces instead of 8, so the serving size is now 25% smaller. 

If the package contains a number of servings (two or more), but it’s reasonable to expect someone will eat the whole package in one sitting, there must be two nutrition listings. One list is for one serving, and the second is for the full container. 

For example, a 24-ounce bottle of soda is technically two servings, but most people buying a bottle this size drink the entire bottle in one sitting. Under this new rule, the nutrition label must list information for a 12-ounce serving and a 24-ounce serving.

Adding the New Nutrition Label to Your Labeling Process 

While you might not need a completely new labeling applicator to keep up with these updates, you DO need a machine that can adjust to changes. That’s why pressure-sensitive labels are widely utilized within the food and beverage industry, because the label design can change (basically at the drop of a hat). 

Pressure Sensitive Labeling Basics

Pressure sensitive labels, also called adhesive-backed labels, are a huge part of the label market, offering several benefits that can be of significant importance within the food and beverage industry:

    • Compatible with any container, regardless of size, shape or material
    • Include features like resealable glue, perforations and dry peel layers
    • Accommodate flexible run sizes to match any product run
    • Great for printing individual labels
    • No need to apply glue or use light or heat to bond the label
    • One labeling machine can be set up for a range of label sizes and container sizes, covering multiple product lines

Need to accommodate different labels and container sizes? CTM Labeling Systems can discuss which labeling machines may work best for your type of application.

For example, our Vertical Trunnion Roller applicator can apply multiple labels on bottled products, and our 360a Top Bottom Split Conveyor machine can apply top and bottom labels in one motion.

If you’re looking for a labeling system that can meet your ever-evolving needs, contact CTM Labeling Systems. Our local distributors are ready to discuss your unique labeling needs and can offer a variety of solutions that will grow with your business.