The saying “you must please the eyes first” is both wise and accurate. It applies to many parts of the food industry, including restaurant physical appearance, food presentation, retail store interior appearance, retail display appearance and, yes, retail labels. The first thing customers see relative to a package of your product is the external appearance. A big part of your external appearance is your label. An attractive label will catch the eye of potential new customers and remind loyal customers of why they like your product. Your label needs to be more than accurate from a regulatory standpoint. Much more.


Label colors and font size

The colors in your label should be bright and eye catching. If you have a company logo, it is desirable to put that logo on your labels. Your logo should be something that is easy to understand and one that people can readily identify with your company and your products. The font size on your label should be bold and large enough that it is easily read. A potential customer that has to struggle to read your label is likely to put your product down and purchase something else. Consider pausing long enough to take a critical look at your labels. Visit a couple of stores and buy some products that you think have particularly attractive labels and take them back to your plant and compare them to your products. You just might come up with some good ideas.


Product shelf life

When your customer consumes your product you want it to be a safe and flavorful product. All labels should have a “use by date” and recommended storage conditions such as “keep refrigerated” or “keep frozen.” All products have both a food safety shelf life and a quality shelf life. The food safety shelf life is based on the potential microbial load. Raw products will not last as long as fully cooked products, and fully cooked products will not last as long as shelf stable products. Refrigerated products will not last as long as frozen products. When setting your product’s shelf life, it should be based on testing and scientific information, not a guess. 

The product safety shelf life is determined by microbiological sampling and testing. Quality shelf life is determined by the senses of sight, smell and taste. Your products must have both acceptable safety and quality characteristics. Once you have determined an acceptable shelf life based on product safety, make sure you sample the product to make sure it still has acceptable quality. Over time the intensity of the flavor profile in shelf stable products may diminish. Products that are frozen for an extended length of time may develop off flavors due to the oxidation of fat in the product. Yes, this can occur during frozen storage even when products are properly packaged and stored at good frozen temperatures.


Product preparation

In order for someone to have a good eating experience with a particular product it must be properly prepared. Consider including preparation directions on your label. If you don’t have room on your label for complete cooking instructions refer them to your website where you have them posted. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce consumers to other products you have. Make sure your directions are accurate and that you have an easy-to-navigate website. You can also have available printed cooking directions in your plant’s retail area.

Remember: You are not a product of your circumstances. You are a product of your decisions.