food label detail

Food labeling – A comprehensive guide

As consumers, we depend on a wide range of information displayed on food, including:

  • The name of the product
  • The ingredients and nutrients that it contains
  • The shelf life of the product
  • The location where the product made

We trust the information on the packaging to be correct, accurate and understandable. Product labeling is therefore an extremely important issue in the food industry. Without it, the food industry would not be able to put its products on the market in the first place. Labels are extremely important in this industry. Continue to read if you want to find out why.

Food labeling – why is it so important?

There are different types of food labeling. One consists in using labels.

Kennzeichnung Lebensmittel mit EtikettenSelf-adhesive labels in the food sector are mainly used for decorative reasons. The appearance of the labels serves primarily to promote the sale of the respective product. These labels often show appetizing or recipe suggestions, health information and more. Since they are supposed to be an absolute eye-catcher, companies put a lot of attention on the appearance of the labels, especially with regard to print quality.

However, labels are not only an eye-catcher in the food industry that creates the desire to buy. They are the most important information carrier of all because they fulfill the following functions.

Labels give information to the consumer

Food labeling serves to protect consumers and creates trust. Food labels contain information such as the ingredients, properties of the food, additives, allergens, genetically modified organisms, energy, sugar, fat, salt, best before date or origin. Consumers appreciate transparent labeling and are often prepared to spend more money on a high-quality product.

All food manufacturers are obliged to display certain information on the packaging in a clearly legible form. The marking can be made directly on the packaging or by using a label. Uniform standards apply in all member states of the European Union.

Labels ensure traceability

Labels as a marking carrier on a product ensure traceability. This way, the consumer has the opportunity to trace a food product through all stages of production, processing and distribution.

Moreover, batch marking can be used to identify food products. Batch marking consists of a code noted on the sales units of food products produced under the same conditions. This code consists of numbers or letters or a combination of both and usually begins with an “L”. For the food producer, the lot number allows him to identify directly the production batch. This is extremely important, for example, in the event of a necessary product recall.

Labels can be used for marketing and advertising

Labels on food products are not just a data carrier. They also work as an advertising medium. They give the product its unmistakable appearance and arouse sympathy and a buying desire in the customer. Labels give the product its appearance and ensure the recognition effect. Promotional offers such as winning codes can also be found on it.

Labels guarantee brand and product protection

Brand and product protection guarantees the distinctiveness of goods. The name and motto of a product are its unmistakable features. In order to protect them, labels can be used to fight counterfeiting and ensure the origin of a product. This benefits not only the brand owner, but also the consumer.

Individually developed labels with special properties such as holograms, ink tipping effects, broken label materials, sealing labels or hidden contents in the labels (e.g. built-in threads or special colors) make it virtually impossible to counterfeit a product.

Labels offer first opening and manipulation protection

Labels with first-opening protection guarantee the consumer’s trust and minimise the risk of counterfeiting. They indicate when a product has already been opened and can incorporate unmistakable contents to erase the risk of manipulation.

drug packaging with tamper evident label

This can be achieved, for example, with seals in special shapes or labels with special perforations that tear when opened.  Closure seal labels made of a special material that cannot be removed from the product in one piece, but breaks into many small components, also offer reliable protection against manipulation. So-called void labels leave an unmistakable mark on the product when they are removed. Re-gluing is impossible.

What information must food packaging contain?

In order to protect consumers, EU law requires food labels to indicate the ingredients, origin and properties of a product. The following information must be included on the labels:

  • Sales description: The product must be described clearly and objectively so that everyone understands what it is about.
  • List of ingredients: Information on ingredients contained in the product must be listed in descending order of their weight percentage. The 14 most relevant allergens are always marked in the list of ingredients.
  • Filling quantity: The product quantity must be indicated by number of pieces, weight in grams or kilograms or, in the case of liquids, in millilitres or liters.
  • Best before date: How long does the product retain its desired quality, possibly under certain storage conditions? On certain products (e.g. raw meat), a use-by date must be indicated, after which the food is no longer fit for consumption.
  • The name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller must be visible.
  • Lot number: This number allows you to trace back when and in which lot the product was produced, manufactured and packaged.
  • Nutritional labeling: All legally required nutritional information must be listed in tabular form.
  • Price indication: The final price of the foodstuff must be indicated on the packaging or near the goods (e.g. on the shelf). For all foods sold by weight or volume, the basic price (price per 100 g/ml or per 1 kg/l) must also be indicated.

Etiketten Lebensmittel mit Etiketten

Manufacturers can also use optional markings. These are additional indications that offer added value to the customer. A current example is the nutritional-value label Nutri-Score. Organic seals and other labels such as CO2 footprint can also be applied.

How to find the right food labels

In the case of food labeling, it is imperative to ensure that all food law regulations are observed. These apply to the labeling of the material components that are used and cover the following information:

  • The nature of the outer material and the ingredients of the adhesive
  • Whether the material components can penetrate through the packaging and change the contents if necessary
  • What should be taken into account when selecting labels for direct food labeling
  • The types of labels that can be used for indirect food labeling

The individual requirements must be precisely defined with the food manufacturers. Therefore it is important to get familiar with food production and packaging types before choosing a label. The following questions should be answered:

  • What is the packaging like?
  • Can ingredients of the adhesive diffuse?
  • When does each production step take place?
  • When should the label be applied?
  • What are the environmental conditions (temperature, deep-freezing, humidity, fat resistance)?
  • Should direct or indirect marking be used? (Examples of direct food labeling include fruit, vegetables, bakery products, meat and sausage products or cheese; examples of indirect food labeling include glass, plastic, foil or paper packaging and cans)

These requirements can already be met with cost-effective blank labels, among other things. If the food label must only contain a barcode and other monochrome elements, blank labels can be used in combination with a label printer and the right labeling software.

Weißes Kartonetikett mit Adresse und Barcode

Decorative labels or pre-printed labels, which give the product its unmistakable appearance, can be produced in our production facilities according to the customer’s requirements. The possibilities are almost unlimited: individual shapes, sizes and imprints give food products an impressive label.

Etiketten individuell bedrucken - Etikettendrucksoftware

You can also print coloured labels yourself by using a high-performance colour label printer. This is particularly useful when producing different types and quantities of products that require different labels.

Alternatives to the label

Depending on the production environment, applying traditional labels may not be the best approach. For example, dust and moisture can be a real challenge for food manufacturers. So what labeling machine should be used in these situations? There is a variety of solution, including:

Weber Marking Systems: Your partner for food labeling!

The selection of the appropriate marking solution requires a lot of expertise. As a full-range supplier for industrial labeling, we can provide comprehensive advice on the right technology and the ideal labels for your application. Just contact us!

Get in touch with our labeling experts