Thought Leadership

The Label Matters of 2014

Food manufacturers and packaging companies are getting a lot of work early this year as the Food and Drug Administration presses for a new set of nutrition information that not only changes how the labels look but also redefines some of the data of the label.

This is the first significant update to the labels since they were introduced in 1993, and the change is being spearheaded as much by consumer demands as changes in our understanding of nutrition. This push is a lesson all manufacturers should take to heart because it shows the power of cultural pressure to impact our practices.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has been a vocal proponent of these changes, so should you champion changes that come to your industry?

Is there a GMO in your supply chain?

One of the biggest points of contention in modern food manufacturing is the debate over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The anti-GMO trend had a very local genesis, leading 26 different states to attempt to pass GMO-label legislation in 2013.

Only Maine and Connecticut were able to pass laws, and their regulations are only applied to manufacturers if at least four different states pass similar laws.  This prompted the Grocery Manufacturers Association to seek a federal law to establish GMO-label practices managed by the FDA, essentially trumping state laws.

The regulatory musical chairs should cause all manufacturers to take a moment and consider what could be their industry’s GMO.

To a large extent, this involves the greening of our supply chains and our processes. Focusing on renewable materials, limiting emissions, and recycling are the best ways to stay ahead of today’s cultural push.

The supply chain industry has focused on greening for years and many of us are moving toward lean operations, limiting our carbon footprint without hindering the ability to make and move product. There are many available resources and systems to help with going lean and green, so we can quickly respond to any changes or new green regulations.

But, what if “green” isn’t our GMO? What if it is something else, or what if there is something in our industry even worse than a GMO?

Food manufacturers and packaging suppliers are currently embroiled in another concern: Bisphenol A (BPA).

BPA is a chemical found in many plastic bottles and research continues to raise alarm bells over potential hazards. However, a brand new study from Oakland California’s Center for Environmental Health suggests that plastic cups made with BPA-free processes are also dangerous – potentially more so.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer yet about the safety of BPA and BPA-free items. And, the science may not matter much in the end if public support gets behind either a pro- or anti-BPA camp, much as how the public moved behind the anti-GMO push.

Staying abreast of cultural trends will keep manufacturers on the right side of regulation, if not public opinion. Manufacturers must be ahead of the pitch, or they risk damage to product sales and costly retrofits.

Are you prepared for the GMOs and BPAs present in your sector?