BrainTrust Query: Do ingredient and nutritional labeling requirements hurt consumers?
By Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting
Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal featured an article on the new tomato Heinz is developing. Basically, Heinz is trying to insulate themselves from the price hikes being caused by the hunt for renewable fuel sources. This new tomato has a “natural” sweetness that reduces the need for corn syrup in their tomato products.
This got me to thinking about the effect of ingredient changes on package labeling. I know this was the initial concern when ingredient labeling requirements were first announced. Manufacturers were worried that the traditional variation in ingredients that were used to cope with raw ingredient price changes would no longer be possible. I don’t know how we have survived to this point, but it seems the wide swings in commodity prices that have been initiated by the renewable fuel craze make it more necessary to provide manufacturing flexibility.
It only stands to reason that the cost of packaging changes is a hindrance to changing product formulas. This cost creates a hurdle that must be exceeded by the savings on ingredients.
But what if the ingredient and nutritional information were separated from the packaging? Instead of printing the information on the package, there would merely be a lot number or reference code that, combined with the UPC or GTIN, would enable the consumer to access all the information they needed from a website or an in-store digital display.
Eventually the ID would be provided by the RFID license number, but in the meantime a printed lot number would enable manufacturers to react more quickly to ingredient cost changes. Manufacturers would be freer to produce their products using the most economic formula for the current market conditions and use the lot number to indicate which formula the package contains.
Discussion Questions: Do the current requirements for printing ingredient and nutritional labeling restrict manufacturers to the detriment of product quality and pricing? Is there an alternative to current packaging requirements that could offer manufacturers more flexibility?