The Importance of Traceability
Nowadays consumers are more interested in the true quality of their ingredients, instead of just checking calories. After the irregularities found in many products which had to be pulled off the shelves for health & safety reasons, consumers are starting to be more aware and demanding with the components and ingredients of the products, especially if they contain allergens and/or GMOs. If consumers are not able to get this information or understand the information they’re looking for, they can move onto the next brand in a second. Transparency builds trust, as it shows that brands should have nothing to hide about the ingredients and sources of origin.
These irregularities and incidents in the Food Industry have led to the general public starting to care and be more aware about where their food comes from. There is a growing need to know exactly what goes inside the products they consume, as well as having the ability to hold brands to account when something irregular is found. This calls have led to a change in EU laws and a new e-certification system has been introduced to help eradicate this problem once and for all. This means that we’re able to trace the food right back to the source, among other important information consumers now look for.
Additionally, an increasing number of people are being diagnosed with intolerances or allergies (to gluten/ lactose, seafood, nuts, etc.). These kind of consumers are becoming more demanding in having a detailed ingredients list for their own safety reasons. Also, the “average” consumer’s interest about buying “healthier products” by principle or “family solidarity” is growing.
Labelling is crucial: it is required by law that a packaging contains all the information consumers need to know about each and every product, especially:
· The name of the food, which indicates what it is exactly and a list of ingredients, organised in descending order of weight, providing the net quantity expressed in the respective unit for the ingredient (units of mass in the case of solid products, and in units of mass or volume in the case of liquid products).
· Ingredients which may cause an allergy or intolerance should also be noted, as well as the quantitative ingredients declaration. This means that if a product contains an ingredient that is typically associated to that product, or it is highlighted in the label through words, images or a graphic representation, the exact quantity of this ingredient must be noted in the label.
· A lot, which is used to identify the whole set of units of the product that have been produced, manufactured or packaged on identical circumstances. This is one of the most important pieces of information, because it lets the product be traced in case of an emergency or recall.
Other important information which must be included is:
· The date of minimum durability or the ‘use by’ date
· Any special storage conditions or conditions of use
· The place of origin or provenance of the product shall be indicated on the label in cases where omission of such information would be liable to mislead consumers as to the real origin or provenance of the product. If there is a case in which the country or the place of origin of the food is not the same as the one of its primary ingredients, this information of those ingredients shall also be given.
· The nutritional information, which must include the energy value of the food, as well as the amount of fat, saturated fatty acids, carbohydrates, sugars, proteins and salt. Also, other ingredients such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, polyols and or starch, fiber, vitamins and minerals must be included if there is a significant amount.
As the demand for product content, and the complexity of this information continues to grow, many food manufacturers have found it challenging to keep content continuously updated and constant across all channels, although it is a needed effort that will just increase in the upcoming years, it should also bring a positive impact on the image & perception of a company, which could also be reflected as an increase in sales, as well.