Finding opportunity in Nutrition Facts changes

by Jeff Gelski
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NEW ORLEANS — A proposed rule to change the Nutrition Facts Panel may bring both advantages and disadvantages, said Robert Post, Ph.D., chief science officer for Food Minds, L.L.C.

“This is really a historic opportunity to recalibrate what you say about your products,” Dr. Post said.

The Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule on the Nutrition Facts Panel appeared in the Federal Register on March 3. Dr. Post spoke about how changes might affect marketing at a June 23 session during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition going on in New Orleans.

Dr. Post, who once worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said companies will need to decide how to explain changes to customers and how to build consumer demand and maintain clients. They should assess production costs, too. New packaging designs, point-of-purchase materials and web-based information will be required to communicate the Nutrition Facts label changes.

The potential listing of added sugars could be a positive or a negative, he said. Some companies may be able to get ahead of competitors and start touting products with little or no added sugars earlier.

In another potential switch, vitamin D and potassium might grab spots on the Nutrition Facts Panel while vitamin A and vitamin C might leave. A claim might spotlight a product’s potassium content, Dr. Post said.

 Dr. Post said it is estimated 17% of the RACCs (reference amounts customarily consumed) currently listed may change.  For example, the F.D.A. has proposed to change the RACC to 1 cup from a half cup for the category “Ice cream, ice milk, frozen yogurt, sherbet, frozen flavored and sweetened ice, frozen fruit juices: All types bulk.” An increase in a product’s RACC may affect claims like low fat or reduced sodium, he said.

Dr. Post said a new Nutrition Facts Panel may not take effect for a while. An F.D.A. final rule may not come until the beginning of 2016, he said. Companies may not have to comply with the final rule until early 2018.

Companies already should start building research pipelines to support the nutritional benefits in their products, he said. Building such pipelines now may lead to a better marketing message later.
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