Notably, labels provide consumers with essential product information, nutritional facts and directions for use, said Anna Cline, marketing manager, Flexo Impressions, Savage, MN. “In addition, they provide important branding and messaging. The label is often the first impression a consumer has of a product and brand.”
As with any product, distinctive branding is important to generate awareness and drive interest in dietary supplements and nutraceuticals, noted Scott Proctor, vice president of sales, Lightning Labels, Denver, CO. “To the extent possible given generally limited space, education about the product in general and documentable claims about its effectiveness are always important. Increasingly, use of such label-to-digital tools as QR codes allows interested consumers to visit a website with additional, in-depth information.”
Considerations & Components
Mr. Proctor said product developers and marketers should consider “the three C’s” when thinking about proper product labeling: Clarity, Competency and Consistency.
“First, to the degree possible, labels need to be easily understood and read,” he said. “This runs the gamut from a clear, uncluttered design to type sizes that don’t require a magnifying glass to decipher. Second, be absolutely accurate with ingredient descriptions and other content pertaining to proper and appropriate use. Being and appearing competent in label presentation of a product drives credibility; sloppiness destroys it. Third, there is the quality of the label itself. Solid design, high-quality printing, even careful placement on the product (e.g., no crooked labels) all speak quality—and they must speak that quality consistently.”
Given growing consumer demand to know exactly what’s in the products they use, accuracy of information about ingredients, dosage and application techniques, is absolutely critical, Mr. Proctor reiterated.
“Multiple fact-checking and proofing protocols are also warranted,” he said. “Sloppiness in this area is inexcusable. If the ingredient list contains a misspelling, for example, it can trigger questions about how careful the company is being with the formulation of the product itself.”
Fundamentally, according to Mr. Proctor, labeling requirements for dietary supplements include: manufacturer and contact information; product contents, ingredients, dosages, cautions/warnings, and what it doesn’t contain (e.g., gluten); manufacturing/expiration dates as applicable; place of manufacturing, notes about other items manufactured in the same plant; and documentable claims about why the product exists/what it does to improve health, vitality, etc.
There are various components to labels, said Flexo Impressions’ Ms. Cline, and product developers/marketers must decide what type of label makes the most sense for the container, taking into consideration conditions the label will be exposed to (heat, moisture, rough surface, etc.) and product information to convey.
“Pressure sensitive labels are an easily customizable and affordable way to label your product, said Ms. Cline. “Shrink sleeves are increasingly popular to allow 360-degree product decoration and stand out on the shelf. Lastly, flexible packaging provides a convenience factor for on-the-go consumers with individual serve packets of capsules or powder.”
After deciding on a label type, there are several other components including material stock, adhesive type, design and decoration. “Companies have countless options for customizing their labels to differentiate from the competition,” Ms. Cline said. “Some examples include use of metallic or neon ink, holographic foils and film, matte or glossy coatings or unique materials and substrates.”
As companies begin the process of designing and creating labels, it is important that they speak with their printer and label application equipment provider to understand their options and limitations, Ms. Cline recommended. “Print and application technologies are catered toward volume—digital printing for small volume, Flexo printing for medium, and Web Offset/Gravure for large. Each of these technologies offers printing on pressure sensitive labels, shrink sleeves and flexible packaging. Flexo Impressions has experience working with several nutraceutical companies across all label types. Our team of experts is here to help from concept to completion.”
Advanced technologies have made it possible for companies to go in many directions when it comes to label sizes, shapes, materials, inks and dynamic graphics to serve as promotional tools, said Mr. Proctor.
“For example, extended content labels (ECLs) make it possible to substantially expand a label’s surface area, allowing more detailed instructions, warnings, explanations about product function, etc. In some cases, ECLs also perform the vital function of enabling larger type sizes for readability. In the promotional arena, instant redeemable coupons offer a way to encourage purchase with peel-off discount or other offers.”
Chief among label printing options today are digital and flexo, Mr. Proctor said, and the decision is typically based on batch quantity. “Digital is the overwhelming solution of choice when printing small quantities up to 10,000 labels. It doesn’t require costly pre-press charges, so frequent printing of small batches can be done quickly and affordably. Further, digital facilitates printing of variable data and images for those who want to present a variety of looks to the consuming public. Flexo is generally the better choice for 10,000+ quantities featuring one basic design.”
Challenges & Quality Control
Type size is a major challenge, according to Mr. Proctor, considering requirements for detailed disclosures, disclaimers and attempts to address consumer demands for transparency. These all are driving manufacturers to print labels with ever-smaller type, he said. “This is proving especially worrisome for an aging population, as it can be virtually impossible to read anything beyond the basics. When this includes such critical information as dosage, warnings and the like, it can become a health hazard in its own right. Manufacturers need to address the ‘small type’ conundrum in any way they can—from using extended labels offering more printing area to redoing designs to make sure that all critical information is readable, leaving the small type to less important label elements.”
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a mainstay of product tracking, according to Mr. Proctor, and is expanding into such areas as confirming store delivery, sell-by dates, and the like. “QR codes have made it possible to ‘extend’ the printed label to a digital platform providing everything from detailed product information to promotional offers.”
At a time when quality is of increasing importance in the supplement industry, packaging can help communicate that products have undergone testing and quality control measures, noted Juan Bruna, president, Bruna Seals, Doral, FL.
For example, the company’s Luxe Seal offers a variety of customizable branding options that can communicate a quality message and deliver shelf impact in a crowded market, while also confirming packaging integrity with an extremely low peel force.
“The custom embossing on the seal offers a new platform for marketing to use for brand awareness, quality assurance, as well as other creative, promotional concepts,” said Mr. Bruna. “Luxe Seal, combined with a transparent lid, creates a new potential to set your products apart on the shelf. Our Luxe Seal provides the consumer with a better image around the brand, as well as package security. The overall goal of LuxeSeal is to drive growth, product differentiation and an overall user-friendly consumer packaging solution. As a final protective barrier prior to product consumption, Luxe Seal provides a clear, visual security indicator to consumers, while creating an optimal, anti-tampering and counterfeiting solution.”
Changes would impact food and supplement facts panels.
In March 2014, FDA published a Proposed Rule that will change the content and design of the Nutrition Facts Panel for foods and the Supplement Facts Panel for dietary supplements. The agency amended the Proposed Rule in July 2015 to add “added sugars” as a mandatory element of the Facts Panel.
These changes represent the most significant changes to nutrition labeling since passage of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 and the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.
FDA is proposing to update the Nutrition Facts label to improve public health and to reflect new dietary recommendations and results from national dietary surveys, for example, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The proposed changes would include: