FIC sets out a standardised format for how information should be displayed on product packaging. The purpose of the regulation is to ensure consumers make informed decisions about the food they buy.
The two most notable changes to UK packaging, introduced by this legislation, are the way in which allergens are distinguished and how nutritional information is listed, although there are a range of elements that will now be mandatory including minimum font size and instructions for use.
To help UK food and drink suppliers and retailers with their own-label ranges to get ready for the regulations, GS1 UK and Brandbank have put together a checklist of activity to do now:
Make someone responsible for FIC compliance – first and foremost, identify the most appropriate individual in the business to lead this project so that someone has overall responsibility.
Raise awareness internally – communicate the basics of the regulations with all internal departments so they are at least aware of the requirements. This is particularly important for those involved in product marketing as it may impact on design and campaign plans.
Perform a product audit – undertake an audit of all affected products now so the project roadmap can be rationalised and key products, or those where compliance will be more difficult to achieve, can be prioritised for action.
Retailers: communicate with your suppliers – open up dialogue with all parties involved in the manufacture and supply of products you sell to ensure they have strategies in place to meet FIC’s deadlines.
Suppliers: communicate with your retail partners – inform your retail partners of your strategy to meet FIC’s deadlines as delays and uncertainty may negatively impact on your relationships.
Produce a project roadmap – start to work out a roadmap to compliance for the business outlining key dates and milestones.
Assess capacity to implement changes in time – particularly where external design agencies and printers will be required, as there will most likely be capacity issues as December approaches.
Have a cross-channel plan – FIC is not specific to physical packaging; the information requirements will need to be replicated where products are marketed to consumers online.
Consider impact on back office systems – following on from this point, assess whether IT systems and processes will need to be adapted to optimise how information is stored and presented across all channels in accordance with the requirements.
Be aware of further upcoming legislation – the main parts of FIC will begin to be enforced from December 2014 but, between now and then, further legislation in relation to this issue is expected, so exact requirements for some product types may change.
While it is not yet clear what the exact penalty for non-compliance will be, we might anticipate that those not complying with the rules may receive fines or suffer enforced product removals.’
Robert Besford has worked for GS1 UK since 2005 and is currently online product marketing manager.
He leads the development of new membership services which predominantly relate to product data management. Prior to GS1 UK, Besford spent over five years at BT Group in various product management roles.