5 Real-life Stories That Reveal How Important Your Food Labels Are
It’s exciting, right? You’ve been working on your amazing, brand-new food product idea and now you’re almost ready for it to hit the shelves. There’s just one small issue left to organise – the packaging.
After only a few minutes of research, you’re swirling in a soup of regulations. There’s what you have to put on the label. There’s what you can’t put on the label. There’s ‘use by dates’ and ‘countries of origin’ and more rules than you could squeeze into your cooking pot.
Why does it all have to be so complicated?
Well, actually, there’s a very good reason for all the red tape.
The food we eat is an incredibly important part of our lives. Not only is our health on the line, but also our identities. Religion, ethics and cultural norms all play a huge role in the foods we choose. As food producers, it’s our job to make sure we look after the health and wellbeing of our customers. When we make a mistake, the results can have a significant, sometimes even dramatic impact on the lives of the people we’re trying to feed.
But it’s important for your business, too. Your packaging sets up expectations for the quality and contents of your product. When those expectations align with the experiences of the customer, chances are they’re going to buy your product again. Getting the packaging and labelling right can mean the difference between a successful food product and a total flop.
That’s why we’ve dedicated this post to some of the ways it can go wrong. Take a look below at the real-life examples of packaging mistakes made by companies in Australia, as well as the consequences. It’s often the fine details that catch out companies and cost them money.
And always remember, help is at hand! If you feel like you need some expert advice to nail your product packaging, skip straight to the bottom of the page.
Make sure your packaging reflects your ingredients
The FSANZ User Guide on Representations About Food stipulates that it’s the responsibility of manufacturers to “ensure consumers aren’t misled about the nature of ingredients”. Whilst this might sound straightforward, you’d be surprised how tricky it is to ensure your packaging really reflects your ingredients. You may also be surprised at how many companies get this wrong.
Arnott’s biscuits are a staple of supermarket confectionary aisles across Australia. Back in 2008, though, they were pulled before the Federal Court over packaging misrepresentations on a range of their Snack Right range. Their Apple and Blackberry Fruit Pillow, for example, contained only 1.7% blackberry concentrate, compared to 38.8% sultanas.
In 2014, the ACCC charged Basfoods $30,600 over misrepresentations on its Victoria Honey product. It turns out that Victoria Honey is not actually honey – it had never seen a honey bee in its life – and was not even from Victoria. Despite the fact that the product labelling and website was replete with pictures of honey bees, the product was actually a sweetener made from corn syrup and sugar cane.
Country of Origin Recall
Everyone likes to know where their food comes from. Suppliers can charge premium prices for locally sourced produce due to the implications towards its freshness and quality. Similarly, food from exotic, far-flung locations often fetches higher prices.
So when companies are dishonest about where their food comes from, it’s damaging to local markets and disadvantages competitors who invest in truly local food. That’s why the ACCC fined Kailis Bros $10,800 for misleading packaging on its prawn meat product. Alongside pictures of the Australian flag, Kailis Bros claimed that their prawn meat was “Australian Caught”. In fact, the product was packaged in Thailand. That’s even worse than the Victoria Honey!
Don’t make wild health claims
The world of marketing would have us believe that food products can solve all our health problems. I wish that were true! Unfortunately, some food companies are always pushing the limits of health claims around their products. It’s important to remember that not every customer checks the nutritional information tag on the back of the packaging. Your marketing must reflect the truth of your product.
In March 2018, the Federal Court found Heinz Australia to be in breach of consumer law for making misleading health claims on its packaging. Heinz marketed their products to parents of young children and claimed that it was healthy for kids using statements like “contains 99% fruit and veg”. Unfortunately for Heinz, the court found that the” products consisted of over 60 percent sugar, significantly higher than that of natural fruit and vegetables. An apple, in comparison, contains around 10 percent sugar.”
Get your allergen information right the first time
Incorrect food allergen labelling can have tragic consequences for consumers. It’s vital that manufacturers get this information correct. However, it’s not always easy to do. In 2019 alone there were 87 product recalls due to incorrect allergy information on the packaging.
That can lead to a massive lost investment for companies. For example, Patties – an Australian frozen food supplier – was forced to recall a product line in 2015. The total recall cost came to $4.4 million dollars. It’s worth getting this one right!
A great example of a recall enforced due to incorrect allergy information is Black Swan’s range of crafted dips. Although the product was described as containing basil, cashews and parmesan, it also contained peanuts that weren’t listed on the packaging allergy information. Peanuts are a serious allergen that can cause deadly health problems.
So, Let’s Recap
Some of the key things you’ll need to think about when you approach your food labelling:
– Understand the FSANZ Food Standards regulations
– Triple check allergy information
– Ensure accurate health and nutritional information
– Check imagery and naming reflects ingredients
– Detail country of origin carefully
That’s only the beginning of your food labelling journey. At Tastebuddies we have a step-by-step process that will ensure your labels are legal, accurate and show off the best sides of your recipe. With us on hand, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. We’ll guide you through the process so you can ensure the success of your food product for many years to come.
Check out also our previous PEAL blog posts.
- Oats & Gluten-Free Labelling
- Updated PEAL Allergen Statements
- Ten Essential Criteria For Plain English Allergen Labelling (PEAL) for Australia & NZ
- The 9 Tree Nut Allergens for PEAL
- 4 Resources You Need For Plain English Allergen Labelling
- 12 Major Food Allergens for Australia & New Zealand
This is general information rather than regulatory advice. We, therefore, recommend you seek further advice that takes into account your particular ingredients, products, processing, packaging and other circumstances before making commercial decisions for your business.