Changes in consumer attitudes toward their health, the environment and food safety are spurring big changes in the food industry. On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced that the industry will be required to implement a new Nutrition Facts Panel for packaged foods to reflect new scientific information, including the links between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The new label will make it easier for consumers to make more informed food choices. The deadline for compliance is July 26, 2018 – just more than a year away – by which time almost all packaged foods will be required to sport the updated Nutrition Facts Panel on their packaging.1 

Companies that start now have time to consider more comprehensive packaging upgrades and leverage the required remodel to implement greater innovation that speaks to consumers’ growing desire for product transparency and engagement.

Nutrition facts panel changes

The new label requirement specifies greater visibility for calorie values, more specificity in certain nutrient values, and some new facts previously not included, like “added sugar.” Visually, the main difference between the old label and the new one is that calories and serving sizes will be presented in a much larger font. The panel will otherwise look much the same, while carrying updated scientific information about nutritional makeup.

The impact on product packaging is significant when you consider scale. Every label for every packaged food product will need to be redesigned and manufactured to meet next summer’s compliance deadline.

Implementing the volume of packaging changes required will take time for food manufacturers, so it makes sense to start planning now. This required change also presents an opportunity for companies to take a fresh look at their packaging and think about making additional upgrades in the same redesign.

Just the facts

Today’s consumers want more detailed information about the products they buy and consume. They want to know if the food they’re eating is locally sourced, cage-free, organic, non-GMO, nut-free, allergen-free, gluten-free and more. These product attributes are becoming more important in many consumers’ purchasing decisions. The new Nutrition Facts Panel will help satisfy some of their information needs; at the same time, it’s worthwhile to consider highlighting these and other desirable product attributes on the package for products offering them.

Getting smart

As of June 2016, almost three-quarters of all consumers reported using their mobile phones while shopping in a physical store2  – and that number continues to grow. Trends like real-time product research and digital couponing show that shoppers want instant access to as much product information as they can get, prior to making a purchasing decision.

There’s no time like the present, when a package design is on the drawing board, to optimize its “wow” factor. This is a perfect opportunity for food manufacturers to look at the power of their product packaging in new and innovative ways. Imagine a reinvented package that takes consumer engagement to a whole new level – integrating the package, the product and the consumer’s growing preference for digital interactions to nurture a relationship with the brand. With “smart packaging,” a physical package can now be a convenient, interactive portal to share dynamic and useful content to consumers, both before and after the sale of the product. Smart packaging is a game-changing way to provide deeper levels of product information, in real-time, while dramatically improving consumers’ brand engagement.

GS1 US Mobile Scan is a new interactive packaging platform from GS1 US that uses imperceptible watermarks, called DWCodes, to embed the same number contained in the U.P.C. barcode, the Global Trade Item Number® (or GTIN®), into a product’s packaging artwork. The DWCode is embedded into the product’s packaging artwork during conventional design workflows. The package is then printed just like it was before, with no need for special printers, inks, or printing processes. 

A quick smartphone scan anywhere on the package will then connect consumers with brand-authorized product information – such as recipes, special offers, detailed product attributes, usage tips and more. GS1 US Mobile Scan can also enable ongoing engagement with products long after purchase – a few quick scans of a customer’s pantry might yield coupons, suggested ingredient combinations, video demonstrations, etc.

Consumers are already using their smartphones for product research. Instead of sorting through potentially inaccurate and dated information served up by search engines or unauthorized sources, shoppers using GS1 US Mobile Scan will know they are getting their facts straight from the manufacturers themselves. And consumers are more loyal to brands that go above and beyond to provide them with detailed product information, according to a recent study by Label Insight (

New, exciting solutions like GS1 US Mobile Scan will help brands communicate with today’s tech-savvy shoppers, and some retailers, like the regional grocery chain Wegmans, are already using Mobile Scan to get a leg up in this new “phygital” landscape of physical and digital shopping.

The time is right

Food manufacturers are facing an unavoidable packaging refresh for their entire product lines over the next year at the same time that “phygital” convergence is gaining momentum. Forward-thinking brands will consider building interactive packaging technology into the redesign to engage today’s consumers. By using this opportunity to innovate, brands can set themselves ahead of the pack and make the most of a moment in time.


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