Latest developments in labelling trends

19 July 2018



Aside from relaying crucial information to the end-user, aesthetic labelling and decorative techniques play a larger role in the pack format. Sonia Sharma finds out how brands are adding value through visuals and printing capabilities.


Food and beverages, as well as cosmetic products come in all shapes and sizes, requiring numerous different pack formats such as boxes, tubes, jars and bottles. Marrying together eye-catching packaging with labels that adhere to obligatory regulatory guidelines means that brands are adapting their previous techniques to produce more innovative solutions. 

New materials and processes are being utilised in order to meet current consumer preferences for labelling whilst still meeting the standard requirements such as declaring the ingredients, demonstrating a registered address  and providing an indication as to how long the product remains usable after opening or a 'best before' indication if the product is likely to deteriorate. Both new and established or adapted techniques are used to achieve this whilst still portraying the brand’s heritage and provenance.    

Transparency is key

The clean label trend has been gaining steady interest over the last few years. Simply put, clean label means uncomplicated, transparent labelling that allows the consumer to know exactly what is in the product they have purchased and where it has came from. Consumers are increasingly choosing products that are labelled more clearly with the belief that they are healthier, ethically sourced and sustainably produced. Leading companies, such as Nestle have already committed to removing artificial ingredients from their confectionary and leading food industry experts seem certain that this is less of a trend and more of a cultural shift that we are seeing.

For many this means being able to pick up a product and immediately understand what is in it – whether that is a cosmetic purchase or a food/beverage product. Consumer psychology plays a huge role in purchasing decisions with the layout of a label or the use of certain buzzwords enticing the purchaser. Caroline Werle, Associate Professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management carried out research into the psychology of labelling and found that the simplicity of a label, does indeed have an impact on the customer’s perception of the product. She said: “There is evidence showing that labels such as ‘low-fat organic’ or ‘local’ increase perceptions of healthiness. It is possible that clean labels have the same effect: they may be associated with healthiness through a health halo effect.”

Matthew Hepburn, editor of Coca-Cola Journey Great Britain said: “People are busy, so they want a quick and easy way to see what’s in their food and drink. So when you pick up a can or bottle you’ll see that we list all the ingredients and nutritional information on the back – and on our website too – to help you make an informed choice. A key priority for the Coca-Cola system is providing people with the clearest possible information about our drinks. In 2014 we started using the Department of Health’s colour-coded, front of pack nutrition labelling scheme. It’s there to help you choose the drink which best meets your needs and clearly shows you the calories and sugars in each serving.”

“On every Coca-Cola can and bottle you’ll find information about what the drink contains, including Reference Intakes (RIs), so you can see how it contributes to your daily consumption. The calories, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt values are provided in amounts per serving, and as a percentage of your RI, so you know exactly how much of everything is in your drink” the website states.

"Some of our drinks contain extra beneficial components, so we go into more detail on those labels. For example, the glaceau vitaminwater range provides additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and these are all written up on the nutritional panel. On other drinks, such as our sugar free range, we flag up the fact they contain 'no added sugar' on the front of the pack. “On the back of all of our products, you'll also see a nutrition panel showing the 'Big 8' which includes energy, protein, carbohydrate, carbohydrate of which sugars, fat, saturated fat, fibre and salt. Details are provided per 100ml of product as required by law. There’s also an ingredients list on every label, where we always highlight any allergens in the drink.”

Technical challenges

Although the consumer wants healthier products, they do not want to sacrifice the taste of the product. Companies face technical challenges and performance implications if they want to improve the ingredient list of familiar favourites. Popular chocolate spread company Nutella-maker Ferrero USA, was the target of a $3.05 million settlement because the promotion of the spread as ‘wholesome’ with a simple recipe duped a parent into thinking it was healthy despite the high levels of sugar and salt in the actual product. For companies and marketers these claims are an instrumental challenge. It will be tempting for many brands to start plastering ‘clean’ terms over their products to infer healthiness but these are broad terms that legally have narrow meanings.

Functionality and cost will also be difficult to maintain as many additives increase shelf-life and improve the aesthetic of products. It’s clear that development and reformulation of products may be required but ultimately the customer may have to accept that it may not be feasible to expect the same taste from their food and beverage favourites with drastically altered recipes.

Consumers have become increasingly savvy in their ability to flush out meaningful information on product labels. They have also become cautious of words and phrases that tend toward the gimmicky side of food and beverage marketing tactics, however consumer demand for clean food continues to gain momentum with Campbell Soup releasing a clean label soup line and Kellogg’s working to remove all artificial colours and flavours from their cereal.

“Serving size is important. And it’s the first place we all should start when reading a nutrition label. Why? Well, just like a good story, it helps to set the scene and paints a vivid nutritional picture of what you can expect to find. Toward the bottom of each label you’ll find the percentage of vitamins and minerals that accompany every serving, with a higher percentage indicating that there is more of a vitamin or mineral in that food.

These vitamins and minerals serve many functions in your body. And to help keep it working properly, you need a variety of these nutrients. Of course, the best way to get a diverse and dynamic mix of vitamins and minerals is to eat a variety of foods; of which a balanced, get-you-going breakfast, complete with a nutritious Kellogg’s cereal, can be a very important part” it continues.

Adhering to regulations

In addition to communicating vital information to the consumer, the food and beverage industry is working hard to stay on top of challenges, whilst ensuring they adhere to strict government legislation. Philip Clarke, Tesco’s Chief Executive said: “Tesco has led the way in giving shoppers clear information about the food they eat and was the first retailer to put nutritional information on the front of our packs in 2005 when we rolled out our Guideline Daily Amount labels.”

As labels continue to develop from over a decade ago when Tesco became the first retailer to adopt the GDA labels, other brands are using innovation to ensure that consumers have all the information they need in order to follow a balanced diet and make informed choices.

“To help consumers enjoy our confectionery in moderation, we display on-pack messages on relevant confectionery products encouraging them to share or save some for later. This includes ‘Love to Share’ messages on confectionery sold in pouch bags and sharing bags or blocks” Nestle states.

“To further encourage sharing and saving, we have designed many of our products to be easily divided into portions, and provide on-pack serving recommendations. As well as improving the nutritional value of our products, we also want to make sure that we communicate nutritional information in a way that’s easy to understand. Our Nestlé Nutritional Compass is an on-package communication tool that not only provides standard nutritional information, but also practical advice about how to include the food as part of a balanced diet.”



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