The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, organizations that represent the biggest food companies and retailers, is spending as much as $50 million to launch a coordinated marketing campaign today to promote its voluntary program for providing nutrition information on the front of food and beverage packages, called “Facts Up Front."
The “facts” refer to four basic icons for calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugars, plus key vitamins and minerals. In contrast to the FDA mandated Nutrition Facts panel placement, which is typically on the back of food and beverage packages, the voluntary “Facts Up Front” label can be seen even while the products are still on the shelf, which the industry argues, makes them more shopper-friendly, not to mention more effective in marketing products that report good numbers and nutrients.
In 2010, the GMA sponsored the International Food Information Council Foundation’s study of front of pack labeling, which showed that most of the 7,000 shoppers surveyed found it easier to understand product information when it was posted on the front of packages. Some products, like General Mills Cheerios, have adopted the front of packaging label, but they are not universal.
It’s no coincidence that the GMA and FMI’s move comes just days after the White House’s announcement of a proposed redesign of nutrition labels this past Thursday. The timing indicates that they want to show that self-regulation can serve consumers better than government-mandates with respect to providing clear information. Perhaps they also feel that the $50 million spent here will avert the estimated $2 billion cost for the new FDA labels.
Bruce Silverglade said, “The general view in the industry is that nutrition information has really moved to the front of the pack. What FDA is doing is essentially proposing a new model of an old dinosaur.” It’s unlikely that the FDA will buy it, although the industry’s may have an influence on the proposal that is still subject to comments for 90 days.