In Nutritional analysis
Food labs are a more expensive and time consuming method of nutritional analysis.

Food labs are a more expensive and time consuming method of nutritional analysis. Photo credit: Flickr user: Provincial Archives of Alberta.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the excitement and urgency of launching a food product that you end up making a few rushed decisions along the way. Having worked with a lot of food manufacturers at that stage in the game, I totally get it. But choosing the wrong method of nutritional assessment for your product’s nutrition facts label could cost you time and money if you don’t carefully weigh your options first.

You usually have two choices when it comes to selecting a method of nutritional analysis for your product: chemical analysis performed by a food lab or computer database analysis done by yourself or a consultant. If time, money, and ease are of concern to you (which they always are in the world of business), then you’ll want to opt for database analysis and only use a food lab when totally necessary.

The Downsides of Food Lab Nutritional Analysis

Picture this: you are days away from pitching your product to a local retailer and one of the last things you have to do is get the nutritional assessment for your nutrition facts label. You’ve put all your resources—financial and otherwise—into creating this product, and after a little clicking around on the internet, you find out you’re going to have to cough up another eight hundred dollars to send your product to a lab. Not only that, but you see that it takes up to thirty days to get your product assessed—meaning you won’t have the label in time for your pitch.

Initial cost and time are only two of the downsides to opting for nutritional assessment by a lab, and you can also incur additional costs. If you decide to modify your product’s recipe, you’ll have to send the updated version back to the lab for reassessment, which is—you guessed it—another eight hundred dollars. Let’s hope you’re dead set on that recipe of yours. Plus, if you want to know if your product qualifies for any nutrient content claims (NCCs), you may need to fork out another hundred bucks or so.

Then there’s the less-than-ideal logistics of using a food lab. You have to make the product, pack up a sample, and ship it to the lab. In the world of food manufacturing, time is money, and the time it takes to organize and send samples adds up quickly. Especially in that last push to get a product in stores, you know your time is better spent perfecting brochures, securing packaging, and tweaking label design.

While using a food lab isn’t the cheapest, quickest, or most convenient choice, sometimes it is necessary. If your food product is fried or heavily processed (think chips or cheesies), you’ve got to go the lab route. This is required by the FDA because it is difficult to know how the ingredients and nutrients are altered by such a procedure and how much oil remains in a product after frying. The only way to have an accurate idea is to have it chemically assessed. Likewise, if your product is fermented—as is the case with kombucha or tempeh—you will need to have your analysis done in a food lab, as the raw materials undergo significant nutritional transformation during the fermentation process.

The Advantages of Web-Based Analysis

If your product isn’t fried or fermented, the cheapest, quickest, and simplest way of getting nutritional analysis for your nutrition facts label is the mighty database method. It’s just as accurate as lab-based analysis, and although specific prices vary, web-based software is generally much cheaper than CD-ROM programs. LabelCalc allows you to buy economical one-off packages if you only have one product to analyze. And if you are a larger producer with a bunch of products, you can buy a yearly membership and go nuts assessing as many products as you want.

Other than affordability, one of the best features of web-based nutritional analysis is how quick it is. So, for those of you on a tight schedule to get your product ready to pitch, this is your best bet. With LabelCalc, all you have to do is plug in your ingredients and your container size/servings per container, and you’re pretty much done. I’ll bet it takes less time to do this than it does to make your product. And if the thought of doing this yourself isn’t getting you all that excited or you simply don’t have the time, you have the option of hiring one of our consultants to do it for you. In any case, you can see the results instantly and print out your label right away.

Of course, you can also play around with your ingredient amounts at no additional cost, which is particularly useful if you want your product to qualify for any specific NCCs. I’ve worked with food manufacturers who’ve used this feature to tweak their product recipes to qualify for their desired “low fat” or “high fiber” claims. Sending your recipe back and forth to a food lab to do this? It could take months (and cost millions—okay, maybe more like thousands).

Choose Wisely, Choose LabelCalc

In most cases, choosing web-based database nutritional analysis over lab analysis is the best choice. Not only does it save you money and time, but it also gives you the freedom to tweak your product recipe as you see fit. Of course, there is a still a need for lab analysis for those few, special cases, but more often than not, it isn’t necessary.

From the many years I’ve spent working with food manufacturers, I’ve come to realize that the whole process, from product creation to selling in stores, can be incredibly overwhelming and mighty expensive. But analyzing the nutrition of your product and making your nutrition facts label doesn’t have to be.

To make things a whole lot easier and cheaper for you, use LabelCalc’s online nutritional analysis software for your FDA-approved nutritional facts label.

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