- Months after most CPG brands were required to use an updated format for the Nutrition Facts label, FDA is launching a comprehensive public awareness campaign to educate consumers on the changes, as well as what the different information means.
- The campaign called "What's In It For You?" includes videos, fact sheets, social media and newsletter posts, an interactive label to click around and targeted information for different health professionals and age groups.
- "This campaign highlights that the new Nutrition Facts label has been designed to assist consumers in making better informed food choices," Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the release.
As this is the first makeover of the Nutrition Facts label in two decades, the campaign builds on that metaphor. The campaign features videos, photos and social media posts styled like a fashion show, featuring actors dressed as food packaging talking enthusiastically about different aspects of their "new looks."
Beneath the socially shareable surface, the old-fashioned information in the campaign is also useful. It appears clear and easy to understand, and gives consumers the opportunity to find out more about different aspects. The new label makes a series of changes, including recalculating serving sizes, displaying calories per serving more prominently and including information on added sugars and dietary fiber. Amounts of vitamin D and potassium per serving also appear.
The campaign seems to have one flaw, however. To most consumers, there's nothing new about these labels at this point. The revamp was officially announced in 2016, and the compliance deadline for manufacturers with at least $10 million in annual sales was initially set for July 26, 2018. Because of complexities for manufacturers — especially in the area of redesigning total food labels — FDA moved the deadline for these large manufacturers to Jan. 1, 2020. But by the time the changed deadline was set in stone in the Federal Register in May 2018, more than 29,809 products already had the new label, according to a blog post from Label Insight.
New or not, more information about what's in food is always welcomed by consumers. According to a study last year from the International Food Information Council and American Heart Association, 59% of consumers said they always looked at labels when shopping for food. Almost seven in 10 prioritize the Nutrition Facts panel's information, the study said. So any campaign to tell consumers what that information means can always be useful.
A study from Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition and Policy shows that labeling does help consumers eat healthier. Researchers found labels reduce calorie intake by 6.6%, fat consumption by 10.6% and other unhealthy food options by 13%. They also increase vegetable consumption by 13.5%. This is both because consumers can find out information on the food they are eating, but also because manufacturers reformulate their products so they look less unhealthy on the Nutrition Facts label.
While the changes in the Nutrition Facts panel seemed drastic for manufacturers, it's likely consumers may not have noticed. The same basic information is there and it has the same general look. Pointing out new aspects like added sugars — something a modeling study published last year in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation found could prevent thousands of diabetes and cardiovascular disease cases and save billions of dollars in health care costs — will ensure consumers see, understand and take advantage of the changes.