- An online Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week revealed that 84% of adults think the government should require nutrition information labels on packaged food sold in grocery stores — and 64% want the same requirements for restaurants. Only 13% said they always read the labels when deciding whether to buy a product.
- More than three out of five said they use the labels to find out about sugar, calories, salt and fat content in packaged food.
- Fewer than half said they would be willing to pay more for foods that are organic, grass-fed or contain no added sugars or genetically engineered ingredients. However, 57% said they would consider paying more for locally grown food. The Reuters/Ipsos poll was taken from July 8-17 by 3,024 U.S. adults.
After delaying the compliance date this summer for new labeling requirements, which were mandated by the Obama administration, the Food and Drug Administration came out with new deadlines late last week. The compliance date for the updated Nutrition Facts label has been extended to Jan. 1, 2020, for large manufacturers — about a year and a half from the initial deadline of July 26, 2018. Manufacturers with annual sales less than $10 million will have until Jan. 1, 2021. The agency will accept comments on the new deadline until November 1.
Even though the poll results send a mixed message, consumers are consistent in wanting transparency in the food products they buy and in the nutritional labels those products carry — and they are willing to pay more to get it. Some manufacturers have accurately assessed the situation and are getting ahead of the curve now.
The newly designed label has been hailed as more transparent in terms of nutritional information for consumers. It updates serving sizes to be more realistic approximations of what people eat or drink at once. The calorie count is in a larger and more prominent font. Line items for dietary fiber and added sugars will be included, so consumers can know if a product is truly high in fiber and low in sugar. Vitamin D and potassium — which today's doctors place a high premium on — are also added. Leaving the label are vitamins A and C, which medical professionals have said are no longer deficient in most Americans' diets, and calories from fat, since research and current understanding have shown that not all fats are bad.
According to Label Insight, more than 8,000 products were in circulation this summer with the updated label. The group, which works with brands and the FDA to increase consumer transparency, estimates there will be 15,000 items with it in stores by the end of the year. Major brands, including Hershey, Campbell’s Soup and Mondelez, are among those already including the new label on some of their products.
While many food manufacturers would like to avoid the costs of having to research and update their nutrition labels, transparency will not be denied. Astute brands are doing the research now and getting updated labels on their products — delay or no delay. Chances are they'll be glad they already took the step and won't have to risk consumer backlash later.