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Small brands play catch up with food labelling rules

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By Rod Addy+

27-Aug-2014
Last updated on 27-Aug-2014 at 16:14 GMT

Small brands are reacting to food labelling changes more slowly than larger peers and risk a last-minute scramble to meet Food Information for Consumers (FIC) Regulation requirements, according to GS1 UK.

The supply chain data handler’s latest analysis of a basket of 20 products has suggested “two tiers of readiness are emerging” with large brands making considerably more progress towards compliance.

It argued that was probably because these brands had more resources and dealt with more lines, so had to start the process earlier. In the case of smaller brands, progress was “not so visible”, it said.

“There were encouraging signs from this survey, which revealed some general improvements on the findings from the last one undertaken in April,” said GS1 UK ceo Gary Lynch.

“However, the larger brands have made far more visible progress than the smaller brands and we are concerned about possible bottlenecks at the printers toward the end of the year.

“We recommend all suppliers of food and drink products make FIC compliance across all channels a priority or they risk not being able to sell their products legally after December 13 [when new rules take effect].”

With little more than four months to go until the main elements of the FIC EU 1169/2011 Regulation are due to come into effect, GS1 UK’s report also highlighted other findings: 

  • Nutrition information labelling exemptions are causing confusion – FIC makes nutrition information mandatory on food labels, but there are exceptions, such as unprocessed meat or produce, where nutrition is not legally required and these seem to be less understood. If a product label is under a certain size, exemptions may also apply.

 

  • There has been a shift to presenting ingredients as a single list – firms are moving away from inclusion of compound ingredient declarations beneath the main ingredient lists. This might be because increased font size for mandatory information means space on labels is limited.

 

  • Declaring voluntary information requires careful thought – there is a clear distinction in FIC between back-of-pack nutrition (mandatory information) and voluntary details repeated on the front-of-pack. Some still wish to display front-of-pack nutritional information marketing purposes. But the data has to appear on the part of packs most likely to be viewed first by consumers at the time of purchase. How products are stacked on shelves may impact the principal field of vision, so care is needed.

 

GS1 UK stressed that FIC also obliged retailers to provide mandatory label information, excluding expiry dates, to consumers through distance selling channels, such as websites.

This meant brand owners needed to present the label data and associated images in a way that enabled retailers to easily integrate them into their websites, it said.

“At present we are seeing this process happening too slowly,” it added. It expressed “concerns of a backlog emerging that may lead to businesses having to join lengthy processing queues and facing delays in making updated products available through the associated digital channels”.

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