Below is the next guest post in our campaign to help the Private Brand community during these trying times. The post comes from Maria Dubuc, President, MBD.

Once referred to as The Wild West by MBD’s head production artist, the new nutrition facts panel (NFP) mandated by the FDA has come a long way from its implementation in the summer of 2016. With any new initiative it takes time to understand the new rules and regulations, but MBD has been doing it for private brands for years now. So, as the old Cowboys on the block, I’m going to give you a rundown of some of the main things we’ve learned as we came head-to-head with the New Guy in town.

First and foremost, we like it! Although MBD and our private brand clients are focused on the packaging-side, we’re consumers as well and we think that the new nutritional facts table is a really smart adjustment to food packaging. Important information for consumers is now made very clear. Calories is now enlarged and bold while the serving sizes are getting closer to realistic amounts that individual humans probably consume in one sitting. See below for a visual of the new table versus the old one.

Now that you’ve seen the visual differences, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty! Here’s a couple of key findings my team has learned over the years about the new nutritional facts panel:

1. Rounding rules: One of the gray areas of the new NFP!

The FDA has rounding rules for each nutrient on the panel. Sometimes manufacturers or suppliers provide us new nutritional sheets with values unrounded. These are usually scientific amounts from lab analysis but since the rules around rounding values allow for some variety, you have to decide (most likely with your retailer) on consistent rounding rules. See below an example of a rounded NFP versus an unrounded one. And here’s a link to those rounding rules as well:

2. Size: One of the challenges with the new NFP!

The new label is larger than the old one, so one of the biggest issues can be fitting it on an existing label where there is not enough space. There are specific rules when it comes to sizing of the overall footprint of the panel, each element that makes up the panel, and the text within the panel. It’s not as simple as scaling the entire element to fit or knocking down the text a few point sizes to make it work. It requires systematic design shifts that allow the new panel to fit while remaining compliant.

3. Pure Sugar: One of the nerdy things we find interesting!

After we started using the new panel, there was debate on products that are naturally sugar-based (i.e. honey, agave, maple syrup). These specific industries fought the new panel’s “added sugars” line since it would suggest that refined sugar was also added to their products when they weren’t. The resolution was that this line can be eliminated from natural sugar-based products but that the labeling still needed to convey the Daily Value percentage plus an explanation in the footnote. See below example of an original NFP label for honey versus the newly approved version.

With large changes to packaging regulations, there’s always growing pains but MBD has been proud of its private brand clients who were proactive in updating their labels, learning the new rules, and even taking advantage of updating their designs at the same time they implemented the new NFP. As we say in The Wild West, they did a “bang-up” (first-rate) job!

For the past 5 years, Ashley has worked as an Account and Project Manager for Marketing by Design (MBD), a branding and packaging design agency specializing in high volume retailer programs. At MBD, Ashley’s main experience is in high-volume production rollouts and creative designs for private brands. She has experience with both agency and in-house teams, which helps her to anticipate the expectations and needs of both parties. In addition to management skills, she has a strong foundation in graphic design and natural knack for creativity.