Posted: Mon 15th May 2023
Labels not only give consumers vital information about the product they intend to buy, but to prevent them from being in any way misled. But they're also a space where manufacturers have the opportunity to really 'sell' themselves and establish their brand in their key markets.
But labels can also be tricky from a compliance perspective, with UK laws placing restrictions on all things from product names and ingredients to health claims and nutrition information.
Many brands leave compliance until the end of their product development, which can mean having to make costly changes to packaging and labelling later. Something which the business could easily have avoided if it had sought support from food regulatory consultants.
Avoid spoiling all the hard work you've already put into your product's development by getting to grips with the legal basics around food labelling. In this blog, we set out 10 pieces of information that your product labels must provide.
Top-10 food label must-haves
1. Food name
This is the name that best describes your food or drink product. You must include it on all your labels!
2. Weight of the contents
This is defined as net quantity, and you must have this available and easily visible at the point of sale in millilitres (ml) or grams (g) or an equivalent format.
3. Use-by date
Don't let a customer face the unpleasant (and potentially unsafe) possibility of consuming a product that's out of date. Make sure all of your labels include the minimum durability date – commonly known as the 'use-by' date.
4. Ingredients list
Consumers are becoming more interested in, and aware of, what they're consuming, so your ingredients list must be legible, accurate and easily visible.
By law, you must detail individual ingredients in descending order of quantity. You must also highlight any allergens that may be present in your product – you can use italics, bold font or underlining to make these stand out from the rest of the text.
5. Storage conditions
Ultimately, you want your customers to have the very best experience of your product. To get this, they need to store the product as intended. Include directions for storage, whether it's keeping it in the fridge or out of direct sunlight, for example.
6. Nutritional declaration
Although there are some exemptions to this requirement in certain cases, you must include a nutritional declaration. This must be either theoretical or based on laboratory results and should include (at a minimum):
fat, including which are saturates
carbohydrates, including which are sugars
7. Country of origin
Listing the country of origin is mandatory on meat products and on other products where the country of origin of the final food given on the label is different to the origin of the primary ingredient in the food.
For example, where the origin of a chicken curry is declared as UK on the label but the chicken is from Thailand, by law you would need to include both countries on the label so you're not misleading the consumer.
You can indicate country of origin on a label by using statements, terms, words, pictures, symbols or flags (refer to Article 26 EU Food Regulation to Consumers 1169/2011).
8. Food business operator
In the case of British businesses marketing to EU countries or Northern Ireland, from 1 January 2021 it became mandatory to provide an EU or NI address for the responsible food business operator (FBO) or importer into the EU or NI.
9. Alcoholic content
For any beverages containing more than 1.2% alcohol by volume, brands marketing to the UK or EU must declare the drink's alcoholic strength by volume.
10. Cooking instructions
It's also important to make sure your consumers know how to use your product safely and as intended.
You should provide preparation and cooking instructions when it isn't clear, for example:
how long and at which temperature to cook the food
how long the food needs to be microwaved and at what power
whether any plastic films in the packaging need to be removed or pierced
Remember, this isn't a full list, just our 'top-10 must-haves'. If you need help understanding what other regulations apply to your label, feel free to contact The Nutrient Gap for expert advice.