Small brands are lagging behind on their preparations for new food labelling regulations, according to a study conducted by GS1 UK.
Researching progress on a basket of 20 products, the organisation found that smaller brands were far less likely to be compliant with the incoming EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation than their larger rivals.
Under the new rules, changes must be made to the way that processed foods display nutrition information, the origin of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep goats and poultry must be marked on the label, how brands should go about highlighting potential allergens and even formatting rules such as a minimum text size to ensure that consumers can check labels.
But the research revealed that there are key areas where companies are lacking either awareness of the rules or the capability to handle the changes. For example, it appears that businesses are struggling to understand exceptions where no nutritional information is required at all, such as on boxes of fruit.
GS1 UK says that it may be that big brands have to start moving towards compliance earlier to ensure all their product lines are compliant by the time the rules take effect, but they also benefit from having additional resources to devote to compliance.
However, the research finds that there are other failures holding firms back. For example, brands are moving slowly to fulfil their obligation to produce nutrition information in formats that can be easily added to retailer websites.
Meanwhile, brands are increasingly changing the way they go about presenting ingredients to merge them into a single list, rather than including compound components in a separate list below the main ingredients. This appears to be a space-saving measure, perhaps to accommodate a new minimum font size.
“The larger brands have made far more visible progress than the smaller brands and we are concerned about possible bottlenecks at the printers toward the end of the year,” says Gary Lynch, chief executive of GS1 UK.
“We recommend all suppliers of food and drink products make FIC compliance across all channels a priority or they risk not being able to sell their products legally after 13th December.”