December 08, 2014

Consumers and governments are paying a lot more attention to package labels these days. In the U.S. the FDA has proposed significant changes to its 20-year-old nutrition facts box with a brand new nutrition label. In Canada lawmakers are proposing similar updates and we expect that other governments are likely to follow.

So what does this mean for how your brand’s packaging is designed and what role will this play in the larger consumer-brand relationship?

The way we see it, the upcoming regulations aren’t just a template for marketing communication. It’s the perfect occasion for brands to reach consumers and address a growing desire for honest and clear nutrition information, all while creating desire from the “shelf out” and putting your brand’s packaging at center stage to amplify desirability across all touchpoints – anywhere people come into contact with what your brand stands for.

Here are eight things to consider during the design process when addressing label compliance.

1. Don’t wait until the proposed regulation goes into effect.

Don’t underestimate the impact that the FDA’s regulation could have on your brand’s packaging and the package design process as a whole. As Bruce Levinson, VP of Client Engagement at SGK explains, compliance with the new nutrition label is just one component of a larger story. For example, nutritional claims may have to be updated to align with serving size changes and this could result in both competitive advantages and disadvantages that your brand should be prepared to handle. The proposed regulation also creates a valuable opportunity to revisit other ways to drive transparency and clarity in your brand’s health-related language. This perspective could get lost if it’s not addressed early on.

2. Tune in to consumer trends as you plan.

As we shared in our latest Sightings white paper, in today’s society, consumers are seeking authenticity, simplicity and clarity. When it comes to their health and diets, consumers are equipped with information and science to enable them to make the best choices for themselves and their families. There is an increased need for food education, for honest and clear ways to understand exactly what they are eating and drinking. Consumers are gravitating towards simple ingredients and products with fewer processed foods and more nutrient dense foods.

3. Revisit ways for packaging to boost your brand’s desirability.

“Packaging is perhaps the most valuable vehicle for a brand and plays a key role at the ‘shelf’ whether that shelf be in the store, online or in home,” says Tom Holownia, Managing Director at our San Francisco office. In addition to the new nutrition label, consider how your overall package design can provide consumers with the transparency, authenticity and clarity they seek. Tap into this broader consumer need for stripping the complexity down to reveal what is real. Use this opportunity to rethink your packaging’s visual design and explore how the idea of transparency can manifest itself in verbal communications and through brand experiences with consumers.

4. Remember that decision-making is both rational and emotional.

At Anthem, we think of store shelves as an important medium, just as rich in emotional connections as it is in rational connections. Food labels can address much of the rational side through facts and figures on a package’s nutrition fact box. In turn, other areas of your package design can appeal to consumers’ emotional impulses as well. Design that creates emotional connections helps make brands more desirable, says Jim Lucas, EVP, Global Insights & Strategy at SGK. Good packaging inspires and responds to human emotion and is more than just a functional container with copy and graphic design. It can and should provide an empowering experience that gives shoppers a reason to care.

5. See the proposed regulation as opportunity to amplify brand desirability from the “shelf out”.

Think of the proposed regulation as a springboard toward transparency and as an opportunity for to use your package design to help consumers feel more passionate and involved in your brand, because of what it does for them and for their lives. After all, desirability is the most sought after quality in a brand. It represents the source of a brand’s influence. Our approach, to drive big brand ideas from the shelf out, helps elevate and amplify brand desirability by placing the brand’s packaging at center stage.

6. Look for additional ways to provide greater education and clarity to consumers about nutrition.

Apart from the new nutritional label placed on the physical packaging of your products, think of how you can use other communications and media to inform consumers and achieve an even higher level of transparency about your products’ nutritional information. This includes reaching consumers when they are at home, on the go, as well as in stores. For instance, consider how you can close the education gap via social media, mobile initiatives, print campaigns and TV and radio spots.

7. Start planning now.

We don’t know exactly what the final FDA requirements for the new nutrition label will be, but there are certain things manufactures and brand owners can do now to stay ahead of the game. Start thinking early about packaging innovation that plays to the inherent strengths of your brand. These often take many months to develop so the time to start is now! Partner with a branding agency that demonstrates a strong understanding of what the implications of the FDA labeling regulation could be, especially as it relates to managing a large volume of design changes in a compressed timeframe.

8. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

The proposed regulation isn’t limited to regulatory or packaging design departments. It is an ecosystem-wide event that will carry implications and tradeoffs for brand, design, purchasing, printers, agencies, retailers and, of course, shoppers and consumers. Put simply, a seismic industry “moment” like this will yield winners and losers. The more prepared brands will have a better chance at being winners in their categories and in the hearts and minds of consumers.

The proposed FDA food labeling regulation has created a valuable opportunity to build stronger relationships with shoppers and consumers. Interested in learning more about how to get ahead of the food labeling regulations? Let’s talk!

Visit Label Central by Schawk for everything you need to know about the FDA’s new nutrition label.