Food & Drink Labelling and the Opportunity for Print

EU FlagIf you have been keeping up to date with your EU regulations (and who doesn’t?) you’ll already be aware of the changes to food labelling requirements that will come into force at the end of this year. REGULATION (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, amending Regulations (EC) No 1924/2006 and (EC) No 1925/2006 – makes for fascinating reading and should be on every print professional’s reading list. Alternatively, keep reading this to get the key information you need to score new business in food packaging and labelling.

Food and Drink is big business in the UK (there are around 7000 food and drink manufacturers in the UK1) and many sectors are thriving. Food and Drink is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK economy (18%), employing over 400,000 and turning over £92bn pa2. If you aren’t dealing with food and drink at some level, you are missing out on a huge amount of print business. Packaging, labelling, POS, outdoor advertising, exhibition signage, coupons, loyalty cards, direct mailing – every imaginable type of print is up for grabs.

Food and drink isn’t just thriving, but it is also highly competitive and highly regulated. That means lots of marketing spend and lots of regulatory and compliance issues – and that means great opportunities for print.

Food & Drink Labelling is a great opportunity for print

For most of us product labelling may not be the most exciting of topics, but if you work in the food and drink industry it is a real pain point. As well as keeping up with EU and UK legislative requirements, there are constantly changing demands from supermarkets, the health lobby, consumers and of course their own marketing people. Much of the responsibility for labelling is probably dumped on the QA department who already have enough on their plate trying to keep horsemeat out of the lasagne, listeria out of the yogurt and rodents out of the breakfast cereals.

However, if you work in print, food and drink labelling is an opportunity to solve a problem, provide great value to the client and it is a great opening to get more of the food and drink marketing spend for print.

Now, whatever you think of the European Union – and the print industry really should be grateful for this wonderful source of directives, policies and consultations in 24 languages – it really is worth mugging up on Regulation 1169 and its Annexes.

The idea is relatively simple – to provide consumers with clear information about the food and drink they are consuming. An admirable endeavour, too.

However, by the time the process has been through the EU bureaucrats and every member state has had its own review and chipped in with various recommendations, you end up with a whacking great document with 15 annexes that tries to cover every eventuality in mind-numbing detail.

Although the regulations were adopted in 2011, most of the labelling requirements won’t be enforced until December 2014 and some not until 2016. The key takeaways for print are as follows:

1) From 13th December 2014 all pre-packed foods and beverages will have to meet the general labelling rules
2) From 13th December 2016 all pre-packed foods and beverages will have to meet the mandatory nutritional declaration rules
3) If nutritional information is voluntarily provided from 13th December 2014, it must be in the required format of regulation 1169. The importance of this is that nearly all reputable brands WILL provide nutritional information, so that effectively means that all elements of the rules will be required by December this year.
4) Information about allergens is also required to be displayed or provided about non-prepacked foods – more on this later; a huge opportunity for printers large and small!

The important thing is that pretty much every food and drink pack will need some sort of redesign to meet the new regulations, whether in terms of the information provided, the layout, font size, pack positioning or whatever. Of course any pack redesign for regulatory reasons means an opportunity to introduce other aesthetic changes, marketing messages or even a complete rebrand.

The big brands – Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Walkers, Robinsons and the like – will already be well prepared for this and will have teams of people working on it. Indeed, their lobbyists probably had a pretty good say in what the final legislation looked like so their workload will be pretty light when the regulations come into force.

However, with 7000 food and drink manufacturers to target, there will be plenty of business for the astute print company with the right capabilities.

Several factors combine to make this a great selling opportunity:-

– The approach will be to QA to solve a known problem rather than a pitch to sales and marketing.
– There is a time deadline in place and it cannot be missed.
– An opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in this area and become the go-to provider.
– While the approach is for labelling, this opens the door to other areas – in particular it is an opportunity to showcase your capabilities in print.

Here are just a few ideas to pitch on the back of this opportunity:

– Complete pack redesign (you never know!)
– Redesign pack size for exemption (Annex V)
– Dynamic digital printing of nutritional data
– Option to print in different languages (Food & drink is a big export market)
– Options to add additional marketing and health messages – “25% less fat”, “No added sugar” (make sure you are up to speed with EU regs on health claims!!)
– Using digital print for on pack promotions, regional variations, personalisation
– Other marketing material – print and promo
– Exhibition work – F&D industry exhibitions are faring better than the print industry these days!
– And do remember that as the deadline approaches, there is bound to be stock still around that will need over-labelling or dumping; get a note in the diary now!

Always remember that people outside the print industry probably haven’t a clue about recent innovations in print processing, digital printing and finishing. This is your opportunity to showcase the current capabilities of pack printing and labelling, gain new business and give your grateful new clients a competitive advantage!

If you are serious about tackling food and drink product labelling, here are some of the resources you’ll need:

1169/2011 Regulations

1169/2011 Regulations

EU 1169 Q&A

EU Regulation 1169/2011 Q&A

DEFRA FIC Guidance

DEFRA FIC Guidance











If you are a food or drink brand looking for a print partner with expertise in labelling, packaging or point of sale materials, drop us an email at and we’ll put you in touch with someone who can help.

1 – Food & Drink Association
2 – Office for National Statistics
3 – REGULATION (EU) No 1169/2011

Other Sources
Food Standards Agency
European Food Safety Authority

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