Food Packaging Guidelines

13 September 2021 Caroline Sumners

A consumer makes up their opinion of a product within the first seconds of meeting a new brand. And, most of this opinion is formed just by looking at the packaging. While a product should not be judged by its cover, a lot can be understood by the tones used in the branding, the materials chosen, and the information displayed. 

But, aside from catching the eye of potential buyers, packaging – and what’s printed on them – are essential for other reasons. 

The 2019 Health Survey for England reports that 28% of adults are obese, and a further 36% are overweight. While these conditions are not only related to diet, they are severe health issues. Additionally, in the UK, over 2 million people suffer from food allergies, and this number is much greater when accounting for people with intolerances. 

Through clear and transparent labelling information, consumers can make choices that allow them to stay healthy and safe – as well as selecting locally sourced products, counterfeit and preventing waste. 

Here is all you need to know about displaying the right information on your food, beverages, and pet food labels. 

Food Packaging and Labelling Requirements To Meet

The laws and regulations that surround food packaging are country-specific. In fact, it is easy to pinpoint the differences between US and UK labels. Additionally, in the UK, packaging and labels are still integrated into EU food labelling rules

However, nationally, most food labelling regulations were defined by The Food Information Regulations Act of 2014

According to these regulations, you will need to:

  • Understand industry-specific and food-specific guidelines
  • Provide essential information such as the name of the product, expiry date, warnings, quantity, ingredients used, country of origin, manufacturer, and cooking instructions.
  • Ensure that the paackging design is clear, accessible, and not misleading
  • Ensure that you are using suitable packaging materials

Of course, these regulations vary depending on the type of product you are labelling. However, here is an overview of the most important food packaging guidelines to follow. 

General Guidelines

When it comes down to product labelling, there is no particular information that you must show – although the information that is included in the label must be truthful and accurate. However, when labelling food, drinks, and pet food products, you will need to follow the industry-specific and product-specific guidelines. 

In any case, all prepacked fast-moving consumer foods have to display mandatory information, and this needs to be 

  • Clear and accessible
  • Easy to read and easily visible
  • Permanent
  • Easy to understand
  • Not misleading

Certain products, such as wine, spirits, bread and flour, milk products, meat products, sugars, irradiated foods, and foods containing genetic modification (GM), need to be labelled according to more specific guidelines

Information To Be Included

Here is the main information your consumers need to have access to:

  • Food and product name – the name of the food must be clearly displayed and not misleading. If there is a legal name, that must be used. Alternatively, you should use a customary name or a sufficiently descriptive name. 
  • Ingredients – if your product contains more than two ingredients, you need to include a list of ingredients that is easily identifiable by an “Ingredients” heading. The ingredients in the product need to be listed in descending order of weight. 
  • Allergens – if your product contains any of the 14 most common allergens, you need to declare them by law. Ensure these particular ingredients are emphasized and easily readable – you can do so by using a different colour, a different font, or a bolded text.
  • QUID (Quantitative Declaration Of Ingredients) – this information shows the percentage of some ingredients contained in the food and needs to be shown immediately next to the ingredient name. While you don’t need to provide the quantity of all ingredients used, you need to do so if:
    • That ingredient appears in the product name 
    • That ingredient is emphasised or bolded
    • It characterises the food

Other information that must be displayed according to UK law include:

  • Net Quantity
  • Storage conditions and date 
  • The manufacturer’s name and address (changing after EU Exit)
  • Provenance or country of origin
  • Preparation or cooking instructions
  • Nutritional declaration

You should also ensure that your consumer knows that the product contains ingredients such as sweeteners, sugars, colourings, aspartame, caffeine, polyols, and liquorice. 

Design Requirements

As you can see, there is a lot of information that needs to be displayed on your products to be compliant with UK laws. Additionally, legal requirements specify how this information needs to be displayed. Some design label requirements include:

  • Minimum font size for mandatory information – mandatory information needs to be printed with a minimum x-height font of 1.2mm. However, if you are using a small label and the largest surface area is less than 80cm square, you can also use a font with a minimum x-height of 0.9mm.
  • Highlight mandatory details – mandatory details to be included in the labels include allergens, ingredients, and warnings. These need to be highlighted by words and numbers. You need to ensure that these details are easy to see and clearly legible. 
  • The information must be difficult or impossible to remove – it is important your food packaging labels are difficult to remove or modify. This can prevent counterfeits and products that have been tampered with. 

If you also export your product, there are other design elements you need to include. For example, you need to use the “e” mark for weights.

How Do Food Packaging Guidelines Impact on Design

As we have seen above, when labelling a product, you will need to meet all guidelines defined by your country. These can significantly affect your product packaging’s design and materials used – and it can be hard to find compatibility. For example, you might want to include only a small or plain label, but this will prevent you from offering your consumers vital information. Or, you might choose a certain type of packaging that is appealing but not suitable for the product you are selling.  

As well as this you also need to consider how you can keep to guidelines whilst also implementing a unified packaging strategy.

Unfortunately, displaying the right, accurate information is essential, and you should not overlook this task. Nonetheless, with the help of the right creatives, you can incorporate your brand values, feelings, and themes within a clear and informational label. 

If you are unsure whether you are meeting all requirements, or wish to enhance the aesthetics of your packaging and labels without affecting their accuracy, we are here to help.

About The Author

Caroline Sumners

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