Food labels – more info please!

Consumers prefer products with specific food labeling instead of general references.

In spite of the fact that more information about food products are available to consumers via computers and smart phones, more than half of U.S. citizens that were surveyed stated that they are still not sure whether they trust food labels. According to Mintel, a consumer research group, food businesses will do best by letting their consumers know exactly what is and isn’t in their products. Various recalls, scares and other concerns about additives have made many consumers ingredient conscious.

Surveyed consumers clearly preferred more specific information over general references. For example, it is not good enough to simply label products as “all natural” or “local.” Labels need to specifically explain why this product is a good source of nutrients.

The Mintel studies recommend that food labels should center on three components:

  1. Greater transparency (providing as much information as possible)
  2. Clean labels (defined as having a clear, complete, accurate and accessible description of the product)
  3. Artisanal values (using traditional ingredients that are less processed). 

Use taglines such as “deliciously simple” or “100 percent real” to increase consumers appeal.

Mintel states that the future direction for food labeling will focus on the promotion of positive attributes rather than the absence of negative attributes. Labels should aim to be simple, transparent and engaging to the consumer.

Due to increasing demand by consumers and retailers, nutrition fact labels are becoming a common expectation for food products, even when it is not required by law. All companies that gross over $500,000 in annual sales are required by federal law to include nutrition fact labels. Companies below this threshold must still include a nutrition fact label if they are making a nutritional claim in product labeling or advertising.

The MSU Product Center, can help new food entrepreneurs generate nutrition fact labels. Innovation Counselors from Michigan State University Extension are located in MSU Extension Offices around the state.

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