The Unprecedented Branding Opportunity of “Nutrition Keys”

Private Brands and their packaging will soon lead the way in the historic effort to teach America more about what they are eating. With the introduction of front-of-package nutritional labeling as will name brand products, a panel of industry leaders announced during a press conference at the Food Marketing Institute’s midwinter conference on Monday.

A $50 million industry-funded marketing campaign will launch in the fall to support the new labeling.

This comes as a result of a 2010, call by First Lady Michelle Obama to the food industry to develop a front-of-pack labeling system that could be widely adopted on food packages and that would help busy consumers – especially parents – make informed decisions when they shop.  In response, America’s food and beverage manufacturers and retailers have joined forces to develop and implement the Nutrition Keys initiative, an unprecedented voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labeling system that will provide nutrition information on the front of food and beverage packages, including calories and three “nutrients to limit.”

Nutrition Keys is a fact-based approach that summarizes important nutrition information from the Nutrition Facts Panel in a clear, simple and easy-to-use format on the front of food and beverage packages.  The new icon and label changes adhere to current U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines and regulations, ensuring that consumers receive consistent and reliable information. The icon will inform consumers about how the key nutrients in each product fit in a balanced and healthy diet as part of the federal government’s daily dietary advice.

The four basic icons, for calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugars, represent key nutrients for which dietary guidance recommend limiting consumption in the diet.  The four basic icons are always presented together as a consistent set:

On small food packages, one icon may be used, representing calories in a serving of the food.  This is an option for food manufacturers, recognizing that small food packages may not have enough space to accommodate the four Basic Icons.

As an option, certain labels could include “nutrients to encourage” – nutrients needed to build a “nutrient-dense” diet.   In addition to the basic four icons, packages may include up to two “nutrients to encourage”: potassium, fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium and iron.  All of these are either shortfall nutrients or are required to be on the nutrition facts panel.   These “nutrients to encourage” can only be placed on a package if the product has more than 10 percent of the daily value per serving of the nutrient and meets the FDA requirements for a “good source” nutrient content claim.

The GMA-FMI front-of-package labeling system will make the FOP icons graphically distinct from other nutrition-related claims on front-of-pack.

This is a unprecedented opportunity for retailers to rethink their Private Brands, they will by necessity redesign, I challenge them to go beyond simply adding the new labeling system and use this opportunity to reexamine their brand and portfolio strategies and build compelling consumer relevant brands that truly set them apart from their competitors. This could be marked as the true turning point for retailer brands, the moment when private labels truly became BRANDS.



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Christopher Durham

Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan).

Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s.
Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago.

Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.