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3 Ways To Optimize The Accuracy Of Your Product Labels

Posted By: SGK November 17, 2014

The American food industry is on the verge of an unprecedented change in regulatory standards, inspection, enforcement and, logically, the frequency of recalls.

The number of “reportable foods” in the Reportable Food Registry is increasing. The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act has given the FDA much more authority over actual recalls, food performance standards, traceability and inspections. And manufacturers will likely be responsible for hazard analysis systems. But that’s not all…

FDA-proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts label (covering nutrition information, serving sizes and the size of the label itself) and the display of other information could impact nearly 60,000 manufacturers and 750,000 Universal Product Codes, representing nearly $250 billion in sales1

There has been much analysis of the cost of potential recalls and of simply updating product packaging to meet the new standards. But there’s a missing link: How a holistic approach to developing a packaging artwork process, aided by technology, can greatly reduce the risk of recall at all times, notes Michael Leeds, SVP of Client Engagement, Americas at SGK.

Naturally this activity has forced food manufacturers and brand owners to analyze the impact on their businesses. For instance, a great deal has been written on how these companies should handle the increased liability exposure and the obstacles to recovery after a recall. But there’s been less discussion of the food label itself – and this is risky, because where product safety, recall protocols and nutrition information are concerned, all roads go through the label. 

So how can a manufacturer or brand owner optimize the accuracy of a product label? There are several interconnected ways: 

1. A full commitment to cGMP protocols. 
In the coming years, this will not be a luxury – it will be crucial. In 2011, the Grocery Manufacturers Association surveyed representatives from 36 companies, a majority of them with more than $1 billion in sales and nearly a quarter with sales over $5 billion. All had undergone Class I (health and safety) recalls. 

Nearly half estimated the cost of the recalls at under $9 million, but 29 percent estimated between $10 million and $29 million, and 23 percent estimated $30 million or more. For 5 percent, the cost was more than $100 million. The cost of a full implementation of best-in-class graphics workflow management system is far lower than this, and it pays permanent benefits. 

In this light, the new food labeling regulations aren’t just regulations: they’re a prime opportunity to educate consumers, refresh and grow brands – and to drive agility and efficiency in the graphics process to save costs and increase speed to market.

2. A commitment to a better graphics workflow and technology. 
At a cost far less than even a small Class I recall, manufacturers or brand owners can incorporate a graphic asset workflow and approval software such as BLUE, which includes implementation, training and ongoing support. This kind of system is designed specifically to optimize the storage and application of label artwork and copy across all media. It minimizes the number of “touches” by humans when labels and digital expressions are produced. And it protects approved assets from accidental changes or misapplication. It can even produce KPI data to further improve accuracy and speed.

Technology like this is fully embraced by the pharmaceutical industry for the same reasons and it’s now ideal for the food industry: strict demands for quality, accuracy and traceability, including cGMP mandates. And in an age of “just-in-time” global manufacturing, this geography-agnostic technology can give companies much needed control of far-away processes.

3. Vendor consolidation. 
While much of the new burdens fall on manufacturers, brands can suffer in long-lasting ways from recalls. And when a comprehensive store brand is supplied by dozens or even hundreds of vendors, it may be difficult to achieve total visibility and control of accuracy and consistency on labels. Consolidating the label graphics phase with one expert company – rather than leaving it to the individual manufacturers – gives the brand owner considerable control, consistency and savings.

Although the food labeling regulatory changes discussed here are still being formulated and finalized, it’s certain that food and beverage manufacturers and brands will have additional new risks and burdens. They will address those through risk assumption and risk transfer plans, certainly. But risk avoidance is equally crucial. Optimizing the graphics supply chain and workflow processes is a proven strategy for risk reduction – and brand building.

Learn more about how to manage these changes, optimize your packaging graphics and build stronger relationships with shoppers and consumers in the process. Download Patterns – The New Label: Responsibilities + Opportunities.

Nutrition Facts/Serving Sizes Combined PRIA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration