When I met Shelley, she had been running her own salsa business for three years. She sold her line of all-natural salsas at local farmers markets and craft fairs almost every weekend, but as a busy mother of two girls, manning a booth wasn’t the most efficient way for her to spend her time.
I asked why she wasn’t selling her salsas in retail stores, and she told me she’d been meaning to for the past few years. But between looking after her little ones and attending markets and craft fairs, she hadn’t had the time or energy to commit to the nutrition label-making process.
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in my years working in the food labeling industry, it’s that small-scale food manufacturers often feel intimidated by the process of making nutrition labels. Some of them, like Shelly, avoid it for years, limiting their potential profits and preventing their unique products from reaching a larger audience.
Once I explained to Shelley how simple it really is to use an online nutrition label calculator, she was able to make labels for her entire salsa line in less than an hour. So, in hopes of helping first-time food manufacturers get their products into retail stores, increase their profit margin, and share their food products with a larger audience, I’m going to guide you through the simple process of using a nutrition label calculator.
Step 1: Choose the Right Nutrition Label Calculator
There are a lot of nutrition label calculators out there, but they aren’t all created equal. CD-ROM nutrition label calculators, for instance, are often expensive, complicated to use, and inconvenient since so few computers have disk drives anymore.
Online nutrition label calculators, on the other hand, are a much better choice because they are easier to use and more convenient, as they can be accessed from any computer. Many are also very affordable, making them a great choice for first-time food manufacturers.
When choosing an online nutrition calculator, be sure to look for the following features and capabilities:
- Affordable, with various pricing options to choose from
- A USDA-compiled database of around 18,000 ingredients
- Customizable nutrition labels and various FDA-approved layouts
- Backs up your recipes daily
- Securely protects your recipes with a username and password
- Flags allergens
LabelCalc is an example of a nutrition label calculator that meets all these criteria and has many other valuable features that make it intuitive to use for those who are intimidated by the process of making food labels.
Step 2: Enter Your Recipe into the Nutrition Label Calculator
Once you’ve chosen your online nutrition label calculator and created an account, you are ready to begin! To enter your first recipe, you are simply going to search for each ingredient in the database, enter the quantity, and add the ingredients to your recipe. If you can’t find an ingredient in the database, some online nutrition label calculators, like LabelCalc, allow you to create and add proprietary ingredients.
LabelCalc also comes with a nutrient comparison tool that lets you see the specific nutritional value each ingredient contributes to the overall nutritional profile of your food product. Then, you can swap out ingredients or adjust ingredient amounts in order to get the nutrition results you want. Just be sure that your product recipe and your nutrition label match up with one another!
Step 3: Determine Your Serving Size and Servings Per Container
Once you’ve finished entering and tweaking your ingredients, it’s time to find your serving size. For some people, this step is confusing, so I recommend consulting a step-by-step guide to determining your serving size.
Essentially, your serving size needs to comply with the FDA’s guidelines for reference amounts customarily consumed (RACC). You’ll then use the suggested RACC for your specific product to determine your serving size. Once you know your serving size, you can easily determine your servings per container by weighing the contents of your package and dividing that value by your serving size.
Step 4: Modify Allergen and Ingredient Statements
After you’ve determined your serving size and servings per container, the next step is to modify your allergen and ingredient statements. Some online nutrition label calculators automatically flag any of the eight major allergens if they appear on your product and provide an allergen statement. At this point in the process, you can modify the wording in your allergen statement so it aligns with your preferences.
This is also the time when you can tweak your ingredient statement to your liking. Some people change the font to be all uppercase, change the names of some ingredients (i.e. “Roma tomatoes” instead of “fresh tomatoes”), or remove any unnecessary descriptors the database has automatically added (i.e. chopped or raw).
Step 5: Choose Your Label Format, Download, and Print
Once you’ve modified your allergen and ingredient statements, it’s time to choose what FDA-approved label format you would like to appear on your product. You may decide you’d like a linear format, or perhaps if space is limited, a side-by-side would be most appropriate. There are plenty of formats to choose from, so take your time looking at each one to see what will be best for your product.
When you’ve chosen your label format, simply download your label. Some nutrition label calculators give you the option of downloading your label as a .jpeg, .tiff, or .bmp file, so you can choose whatever is most convenient for you. Then all that’s left to do is print your label!
The Advantages of Creating Your Nutrition Label Early
Whether they have one product or an entire line, I always encourage food manufacturers who are just starting out to not delay making the nutrition labels for their products. And when I tell them just how simple it is, I can convince almost all of them to get a jump on it. After all, Shelley put off making nutrition labels for her products for quite some time, but now that she finally took the leap, her business has been growing steadily ever since.
Having an FDA-compliant nutrition facts panel makes your product seem much more legitimate and trustworthy even if you keep selling at farmers markets or craft fairs. Plus, you can pitch to retail stores and once you do, your earning potential becomes practically limitless.
LabelCalc offers web-based nutritional analysis and FDA-compliant label software that is affordable and simple to use, making it a great choice for first-time food manufacturers. For any label-related questions or to create a FoodCalc account, contact us today.