Food producers get the chance to hear first hand the key steps they must take to be even considered for a listing at Marks & Spencer with key advice on labelling regulations from NIS.
Last week, Nutritional Information Solutions (NIS) met up with 70 aspiring Marks & Spencer suppliers at the company’s first ever one-day Boot Camp, where food suppliers from all over the country learned what it takes to create a successful brand, how to finance their business and how to create a strategic and operational growth plan and put it into action.
But most important of all, the early stage food companies got the opportunity of a lifetime to pitch their products, Dragon’s Den style, to M&S buyers.
During the event Mike Peters from NIS presented details of new EU nutrition labelling legislation which comes into force this December, and which applies to the vast majority of manufactured and packaged foodstuffs.
A question and answer session followed, and we’ve outlined below some of the key questions that were posed by the suppliers, worried about how the new legislation will impact on their businesses. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of the implications of the new ruling, and the ways in which NIS could help you and your business.
Q: So, what are these new rules? I don’t know anything about them?
Well, from December 14th this year, the EU is introducing new legislation which states that most manufacturers of most pre-packed foods must list certain information on their packaging.
Q: Not more rules and regulations. I only recently made changes to my packaging- why is this being introduced?
The aim of the new labelling is to enable consumers to make better-educated dietary decisions, and to generate interest in and motivation for healthy eating. Diet related illness costs the NHS billions of pounds a year.
More consistency on food packaging will make it easier for consumers to make meaningful comparisons between various foodstuffs, and make better-informed diet choices.
Q: What are the main changes I should be aware of?
The new regulations make nutritional labelling compulsory, and requires most food manufacturers to provide information on the energy value (expressed in kJ and kcal), as well as on six nutrients – fats, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt in that order, and expressed per 100g or per 100ml of product.
- The information can be presented in a tabular or linear format.
- Some other nutrients such as monounsaturates, polyunsaturates, starch, fibre, and vitamins and minerals can be included voluntarily subject to certain rules but must be displayed in a specific format.
- You can also provide a traffic light label on front of pack and choose a suitable portion size to use for your product but if you supply this label there are rules to follow.
Q: But what about health and nutrition claims?
You’ve got to be really careful here. Not only must you list all the nutritional information, but any health claims must be accurate, truthful, substantiated and not in any way misleading.
There are established health and nutrition claims that have been registered with EFSA the European food standards authority and we provide a link to these on our website if you download the workbook making a health claim on our ‘blog’ page.
Q: How on earth am I going to be able to cram all this information onto my packaging?
For some manufacturers it’s undoubtedly going to be a challenge. And you won’t be able to get away with microscopic print either, as the new rules say that labelling must be clearly legible with minimum font size specifications to adhere to. There are some small packaging exemptions.
Q: But I’m only a small manufacturer; do the rules apply to me?
Unfortunately yes, the rules apply to most producers of pre-packed foods other than those very small producers just supplying goods locally (within 35 miles, please see Department of Health Guidelines).
Q: Are any foodstuffs exempt?
Yes, certain categories remain unaffected by the legislation, such as unprocessed foods, (fresh fruit and vegetables, for example), or items for which nutrition information is not considered a determining factor in consumers’ buying decisions such as mineral water and vitamin supplements.
Alcoholic drinks are provisionally exempt from the requirements to provide an ingredients list and nutrition information.
Q: What happens if I don’t get round to changing my packaging in time?
Failure to comply will be monitored by Trading Standards and/ or the Environmental Health Agency. You could end up having your product delisted, or even worse, have your products recalled if you fail to adhere to the law, which will lead to considerable expense, not least of which is the wasted packaging and labelling costs.
This is no idle threat; Amazon and eBay have both recently delisted products due to labelling issues. It’s also important to be aware that liability can sit with the brand under which the product is sold, so if you are a retailer selling own brand you must also comply.
Q: It sounds like a complete minefield, but I don’t have time to start poring over incomprehensible EU diktats and anyway, if we leave Europe this red tape will be unlikely to be implemented
Obesity alone is the most pressing health concern for today’s NHS, costing in the region of £2.6 billion per year along with other diet related issues, notably tooth decay in children caused and exacerbated by a poor diet. These issues are unlikely to go away of their own accord, and are something the Government has pledged to take action on, so therefore it is extremely unlikely that this legislation will be abandoned, regardless of whether we remain in Europe or go it alone.
Q: I’m now more confused than ever. There’s so much to take into consideration!
This is where we step in. Nutrition Information Solutions can help businesses get to grips with the complexities of the new labelling laws. We offer a highly professional, simple, cost effective service (starting at £25 per product), and will save you an enormous amount of time and anxiety so that you can print your labels with certainty. We are part of the Institute of Food Research and are a scientific organisation that has worked closely with the food industry for some 40 years.
Q: Don’t you have to have laboratory nutritional testing done?
Laboratory scientific analysis is extremely expensive (roughly five times the cost) compared to calculation analysis. There are only certain manufacturing/production processes where you cannot accurately use computational analysis just as effectively for your labelling.
The Institute of Food Research have had thousands of ingredients analysed for nutrition composition via a UKAS accredited laboratory and maintain this data for the Government. It is for this reason NIS are able to offer their service which is further enhanced by NIS having access to 28 other worldwide ingredient datasets. We are also scientists with 40 years of manufacturing understanding so can add value through our supportive service.
Q: So how can you help?
We can analyse your products, provide calculated, accurate nutritional data, and show how best to present that information on your packaging. We have developed our service in consultation with Trading Standards and we are experts in nutrition information.
We have maintained the Government food nutrition data for the last 40 years, which involves laboratory-testing thousands of ingredients via UKAS accredited laboratory analysis. We also work with worldwide partners who have access to 28 further international ingredient databases.
Q: But why can’t I just do it myself?
Well you could, but the reality for the majority of food producers is that they just don’t possess the time, inclination or expertise to get to grips with the intricacies of the latest, highly complex, new nutrition labelling laws or the nutrition science. The risks of getting it wrong are too great especially with regulation and enforcement on its way.
We at NIS are experts in the field, and have already successfully worked with many small to medium sized UK food companies, helping them to make their labelling and packaging compliant and advising on the new regulations.
Q: What about the cost? Like most small business owners, cashflow is tight.
We charge from £25 plus VAT, per product, which we believe is highly competitive.
Q: OK, you’ve convinced me. What do I do now?
Please get in touch with us. We’re a friendly team and happy to have a chat with you about your options and what would be best for you and your business. Give us a call on 01603 251431/07894 851527 or email Mike.Peters@ifr.ac.uk. We look forward to working with you soon.