After 20 years, the FDA announced that they are updating the 1993 nutrition label by 2017 to today’s standards and priorities. The Obama administration estimates the changes will cost the industry $2 billion but will lead to $30 billion in benefits. (Advertising Age ) This is the first major change to the nutrition label since trans fat was added to the label in 2006. The major label changes include the calorie count being bigger and bolder, adjusted serving sizes, and the differentiation between added sugar and natural sugar. These changes will greatly affect packaging and marketing strategies. We anticipate that these new changes will provoke marketers to answer to the greater health consciousness among consumers.
The increased emphasis on calories is the most dramatic change to the label requirements, and it will immediately discourage high-calorie products, even if the producers can emphasize other qualities. While more prominent calorie information may discourage the purchase of some products, it can serve to promote other products that endorse themselves as a healthier alternative for consumers who are increasingly mindful of their calorie and sugar consumption. More favorable nutritional information may encourage consumers to sever ties with familiar and loyal brands.
Stressing the calorie count miss represents products that have a high amount of healthy fat. We can see that the yogurt category will be greatly affected by this change because the new age consumers have formed a craze around high fat yogurt. People now understand, “The belief that fat isn’t a health villain has been gaining traction the last few years, especially as data has piled up showing that low-fat diets don’t work… Some researchers argue that not all calories are equal—especially when it comes to weight gain.” (Time ) Fage Total and other yogurts that have high fat content will be misinterpreted as an unhealthy product by the new nutritional label. Products like energy bars or power bars or any other products that contain nuts, olive oil, avocado, and peanut butter will also be harmed in the same manner. We at Interact believe that by making the calorie count bigger and bolder the FDA isn’t taking into account consumer trends around healthy high fat products.
Adjusted serving sizes will also influence purchasing decisions, because they will change the overall nutritional profile for a product. As an example, a 20-ounce soda will be measured as one serving instead of two. Obviously, this change will double the amount of unfavorable facts that appear bigger and bolder on the label. Also, consumers who may not understand that nutritional facts are relative to serving size will now be confronted with data that more accurately approximates actual consumption and the fact that they eat more than eight potato chips in a sitting. Products that are faced with adjusted portion sizes may have their perception negatively affected. Pepsi has responded to this action by releasing smaller cans and product with alternative sweeteners, presumably as a way to avoid the banner of a more unhealthy-looking label.
The FDA has also acknowledged the need to label natural and added sugars separately. Natural sugars are derived from fruits or vegetables, and occur naturally. For example, yogurts with fruit will have a line distinguishing between how much added sugar is in the product and how much natural sugars from the fruits are also in the product. Consumers will now be more aware that there is a difference between added and natural sugars and will be more likely to pursue products that do not include added sugars. Companies will also be able to emphasize that they use a “healthier source” for sugar, or that their product uses only natural sugar. Products using only natural sugar will be able to market themselves as a healthier choice than their “added sugar” rivals.
The FDA’s changes in labeling, serving size and sugar identification are significant changes that are not only a response to a new age of consumer awareness a promotion of an even greater and more widespread movement of consumer awareness and demand for healthier options. At Interact, we are fully engaged in this new era, and are working with our clients to promote their products in this evolving market.