The benefits of food labelling

Why food labelling is important to your customers?

Even over the past decade, the amount of information we see – and seek – on the food we buy has grown massively.  But why, and why is food labelling important to customers?

In recent years, the British public has become increasingly interested in what’s in their food,  its nutritional value, and where it’s from.  Our lifestyle choices, religious and/or ethical beliefs and medical conditions can all influence the food we buy.


Knowing that food is safe to eat

At a very basic level, people want to know that their food is safe to eat!  Use By and Best Before dates are required by law so that past-its-best food goes in the bin and not in a customer’s mouth!  Storage and cooking instructions also help consumers store and prepare food correctly.

 Also required by law is allergen information – which can be a matter of life or death for food allergy sufferers.  Any of the 14 allergens must be listed in the ingredients and highlighted using a different font, style or background colour. 

 For allergy sufferers – or the parents of children with allergies – it’s helpful to have quick and easy access to this information.  Many food items contain ingredients in small amounts, which wouldn’t be obvious from the product name alone.

 The tragic death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, after she ate a baguette containing sesame seeds which weren’t mentioned on the snack’s label, prompted the government to take action to prevent other allergy fatalities.

In October 2021, Natasha’s Law will bring new regulations about allergy labelling in England, and the rest of the UK is expected to bring in similar measures – you can find out more in our blog

Knowing what’s in our food

Ingredients lists and mandatory nutritional information are also required by law and allow customers to see if the food they want to buy contains things they want to include in their diet – or want to avoid. 

Artificial sweeteners, flavourings and colourings, caffeine are ingredients that many people would like to regulate in their diet – and these are among ingredients that must be shown on food labels.

Beyond the legally required info, if your product targets a particular audience – vegans, gym-goers, dieters – your wider packaging is the perfect opportunity to get that message across.  However, you must make sure that any claims you make are truthful and backed by evidence or have the necessary compliance required.


Healthier choices for lifestyle or medical reasons

With the UK’s growing obesity issues and ageing population, it’s helpful for customers to easily make healthier choices when buying pre-packed food. 

However, companies can expect to be called out – sometimes very publicly – if their products aren’t as ‘healthy’ as they appear to be.  A common example is where products are low in fat, and enthusiastically labelled as such, but are also high in sugar.

As we live longer, more people are managing medical issues like heart conditions, diabetes and high blood pressure, and looking to reduce the amount of salt, sugar and fats in their diets. 

The traffic-light systems introduced by supermarkets is a good example of how labelling can show consumers nutritional information in an accessible way, without them having to interpret the data in the mandatory tables.


Buyer preferences/ethics

An increasing number of UK consumers are making food-buying choices based on their ethics – often putting price second. 


Animal welfare standards

Today’s consumers care more about where their meat and dairy products come from and how animals are treated.  One survey found that nearly 80% of British shoppers were happy to pay more for free-range eggs, for example. 

Voluntary schemes, like the Red Tractor Certified Standards, aim to show customers that products are “traceable, safe and farmed with care”.


Buying British or local

Country of Origin is legally required to be included on food labels and is also important information for many customers. 

The latest Buying British survey found that 90% of UK consumers would rather buy British produce where possible – with two-thirds saying that they didn’t mind if those products were more expensive than others.  The two main reasons given were to support the economy following the COVID pandemic and reducing climate change.


Organic food

The organic food market is now worth around £2.5 billion and shows no signs of slowing down.  In response, leading brands like Babybel, Carte D’Or and even Red Bull have recently launched new organic products.

According to research from Kantar Worldpanel, the top reasons that some UK consumers choose organic are: taste (57%), health benefits (52%), nutrition levels (44%) and ethical standards of production (40%).

To say that a product is ‘organic’, at least 95% of the ingredients must be organic and there are rules about how organic products should be labelled – you can find out more here


Vegan and vegetarian options

There’s been a huge rise in vegan and vegetarian consumers and people choosing to have meat-free days in their diet (600,000 people signed up for Veganuary this year – up 50% from 2020).  So more consumers are seeking out vegetarian and vegan options in their weekly shop.

It may surprise you that there are no legal requirements governing how food is labelled vegetarian or vegan in the UK.  However, you can sign up to schemes voluntarily to show that your food is meat/animal product free. The Vegan Society, for example, has its own marque that can be used by approved suppliers and retailers


Religious beliefs

Food that complies with some religious beliefs, like Halal and Kosher, are becoming more widely available in mainstream supermarkets.  For people of these religions, it’s essential to know that the food they’re buying it meets the necessary requirements.


Getting in touch

There must be a name and postal address (of the manufacturer, packer or seller) on food labels so that customers know where they can go for questions or comments about a product.

Adding social media handles to your labelling can be a good call too.  Yes, people use social media to complain, but they also use it to shout out products that they love!

For food retailers and producers, some food labelling is a legal requirement, while some is ‘nice to have’: but all types of food information is useful for your customers.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy and cost-effective way to get on top of your food allergen labelling - particularly with Natasha’s Law on the horizon - Allergen Checker can help.  Get in touch and we can talk you through the options.