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Creator to Consumer – Packaging Compliance

Updated: May 9, 2020

Season 1 Episode 7 –

30 years and still learning - Having spent most of my career post leaving the Royal Navy working in consumer goods, primarily in the perishable food sector. I find it fascinating that I still learn every day, sometimes it’s a reminder of what I have forgot but for the most part, I learn something new every day… Today’s episode is about Packaging Compliance.

Eye’s down this is going to be long episode, but an important one, just like #GOT’s.

Why is packaging compliance important?

Simply, from a legislation, regulation, health and hygiene perspective your packaging needs to comply, in addition to a customer and consumer perspective, it also needs to meet certain industry standards to fit the shelfs or comply to the systems.

There is only 1 type of barcode, right?

No there are 2, UPC’s and EAN’s – In the US and Canada UPC’s are king, the US and Canada exclusively use UPC’s, they can accept EAN’s however, there is one difference, literally 1-digit difference, EAN’s have 13 digits and UPC’s have 12.

What sort of barcode must we use?

Must is a strong word, however, it is strongly advisable to use UPC’s only in the US, if you have 13 digits as you would if you use an EAN, you will have issues completing all the new item paperwork for your customers as they are usual designed for 12 digits. There is no need to give your new customer a reason to not buy your products… so for the US and Canada use 12-digit UPC’s.

Can you convert barcodes from one style to another?

You can convert UPC’s to EAN’s but not the other way around, the country code for the US and Canada is 0 so it just gets added to the front of the UPC and it becomes an EAN, however, you cannot remove the front digit from an EAN to make it a UPC.

What are the key regulatory requirements?

Nutritional Labels, Date Coding, Weights and Measures, these are the key points that need to be right every time, to get the latest news and updated requirements go to the FDA website

Date coding or code life what is it and why is it so important?

Date coding, usually denoted by Use By, Best By or Best Before, if not a risk Manufactured Date is used.

Use By – simply means the product is guaranteed to be safe up to that date, anytime after that is on your own head as a consumer.

Best By or Best Before – is less of an issue, it indicates the product could and will degrade from its intended premium quality after this date, it is usually safe to consumer shortly after this date.

It’s important from a food safety perspective because you don’t want your consumer getting sick from eating your product, date codes tell consumers up to what date the product is safe to consumer, as long as the guidelines on the packaging are followed, such as Keep Refrigerated or Keep Frozen until use etc.

How do I arrive at the date code?

You should do initial and ongoing shelf life tests to guarantee your product maintains the same quality and does not degrade or go moldy in the period that the code life indicates. Again, check out the FDA website for guidelines on this.

What format should the date be?

For the US, the date should be in the US format, of MM/DD/YYYY 04/22/2020 or Month/Day/Year, Apr 3 2020, etc. no other format is acceptable.

What languages should be on the packaging?

For our International readers – In the US, American English is expected and the only mandated language for the packaging is English. Why do I call it American English?

Because its not true English, America should say it uses American because not only is z used instead of s on some words and u is dropped from many words, such as color, some words don’t mean the same.

Rant over!

If you have a product that is targeting the Spanish speaking population, adding Spanish as well would help with sales, but not mandated.

If you are selling into Canada, you must have Bi-Lingual Packaging featuring French and English.

What are callout and accreditation badges for, and do I need them?

You don’t need them, they are there to let consumers know if your product is Plant Based, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free etc., creating a value-added statement. This helps with selling and consumer selection, however, some claims such as Organic or Kosher won’t be accepted if not accredited. If accreditation is available it is always wise to feature the accreditation badge as this gives consumers the confidence to trust the claim, do your research on accreditation bodies some are held in better standing than others.

We will touch on accreditation a little more in another episode, however, to do the subject of accreditation justice you would need a whole section and I am not the guy to write that piece, therefore I suggest this, if you think you can claim something and want accrediting for it, check out the appropriate websites, remember this, many accreditations are expense to have and not all will return on the investment. So, take care when checking them out as he costs can negate the benefits.

How important is the weight accuracy of the product?

2 things here, in the US pounds and ounces are still used, the old imperial measurement system, so as a minimum you need to show the weight in that format, you can use metric as an addition like a second language, but not needed in most cases, check out on the FDA’s website. The font size of the weight information like the nutritional labels has minimums size standards, these need to be adhered to.

How important is a nutritional label and do I need one?

Very important and you need to have one, not only do you need one it has to comply with the regulations set out by the FDA. Check out their website for updates to standards, making sure you comply. If you don’t comply your customers will not buy your product and if you are already selling and don’t keep to the current standards you will get pulled by the FDA inspectors causing a product recall, which will cost you many thousands of dollars. I have known small companies go bankrupt over a product recall.

Ingredients list, how detailed do I have to be?

The are standards set by the FDA, which like the nutritional labels need to be adhered to. The best option is to make a product with the least amount of ingredients and stabilizers as possible, the cleaner and simpler the ingredient list, the more attractive the product will be for both your customer and the consumer.

What sort of outer box do I need?

A simple brown or white box with a black and white printed label with all the regulatory information on, like case barcode, manufacture date or shelf life date code, product code and description etc. works great.

If you want to stand out in the supply chain from the thousands of other cases/boxes, you can produce a color outer box, using you brand image etc. beware it adds cost.

If your product is better for being displayed in a outer box on shelf, like snack bars, you can develop a branded and colorful SRP (Shelf Ready Packaging) these are also called shippers or dispensers, they help retain space on shelf and give more brand presence in store, above and beyond the packaging itself. Some items, like snack bars are expected to have SRP’s to ensure the product is not falling all over the shelf.

Now it’s all clear as mud, need more, please ask.

In our next episode, we will be talking about Production Options, thanks for reading and continuing your journey from Creator to Consumer.

Interested in reading or finding out more about selling your passion or our Creator to Consumer series please visit our Chatter page at and click on Creator to Consumer or our general site at, for more direct interaction please e mail us at

Remember, whatever you know “good luck keeping up”

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