In Nutrition facts labels
First-time food manufacturers should have an understanding of mandatory nutrients, ingredient lists, and percent daily values in order to create their nutrition facts panel.

First-time food manufacturers should have an understanding of mandatory nutrients, ingredient lists, and percent daily values in order to create their nutrition facts panel. Image source: Unsplash user Hello I‘m Nik.

First-time food manufacturers have a lot of learning to do. And while the learning curve that comes with recipe testing, finalizing your first product, or figuring out how to package your product can indeed be steep, obtaining a nutrition facts panel doesn’t have to be.

Still, the nutrition facts panel is often what first-time food manufacturers fear most, in large part because the number of elements that make up a nutrition label seems overwhelming. However, the fear usually goes away when they begin to understand what all the various terms mean. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to address the top questions we get about understanding nutrition labels.

Remember, though, you don’t have to master the nutrition facts panel and all the FDA’s guidelines before you get started with creating your panel. It is, however, helpful to at least have a clear idea of some of the components of the panel and what they mean. So, without further adieu, let’s jump into the questions!

Which Nutrients are Mandatory on the Nutrition Facts Panel?

This is one of the question food manufacturers ask most frequently, and it stands to reason. One of the first things food manufacturers do when they are getting ready to make their nutrition facts panel is start looking at panels on other products. Quickly, they notice that not all products have the same list of ingredients on their panel and get confused as to which nutrients are mandatory and which ones are optional.

Here is a list of the current mandatory nutrients that must be on the nutrition facts panel:

  • Calories
  • Calories from fat
  • Total fat
  • Total carbohydrate
  • Trans fats
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Dietary fiber
  • Sugars
  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Any other nutrients provided on the nutrition facts panel are optional. So, if your product is high in Vitamin D or selenium, for instance, you may choose to include those values on your panel, but you don’t have to. Remember, though, that these requirements will change slightly when the new nutrition facts panel coming into effect in 2020, so stay tuned for further updates.

How Do I Write My Ingredient List?

Many first-time food manufacturers ask this question, and it’s a good thing they do because the FDA has specific guidelines for how a nutrition facts panel should be written. Here is a list of things to keep in mind when writing your ingredient list:

  • You must weigh out your ingredients in the quantities used in your recipe and write them in order of heaviest to lightest.
  • Ingredients with sub-ingredients (i.e. chocolate chips) should be followed by a list (in parentheses) of the ingredients it contains in the same order as above.
  • Any chemical preservatives in your product must be listed along with their purpose (i.e. “sodium benzoate to preserve freshness”).

Using these three rules, you should be able to write an FDA-compliant ingredient list. There are other guidelines to be aware of, too—like including water as a listed ingredient and using an ingredient’s common name rather than its scientific name (i.e. salt, not sodium)—but these are the main ones you should know. If you have questions about your ingredient list, it’s a good idea to talk with an expert menu labeling consultant, as they will be able to help you create a perfect, compliant list. They can also help you with any other elements of the nutrition facts panel that may be tripping you up.

What are Percent Daily Values and How Do I Determine Them for My Product?  

Percent daily values tend to be the source of much confusion. Basically, they represent the percentage of the recommended daily intake for a specific nutrient in a single serving of the product. For instance, if the percent daily value for saturated fat is 45%, that means one serving contains almost half of what is recommended daily by the FDA based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

It’s important to know that percent daily values are not required for all the mandatory nutrients on your nutrition facts label. Below is a list of nutrients that must be accompanied by a percent daily value on the current label:

  • Saturated fat
  • Total fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Total carbohydrate
  • Dietary fiber
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Calcium

Determining your percent daily value may seem difficult, but if you use an online nutrition analysis software, it’s actually incredibly easy. In fact, you can have your percent daily values and your entire nutrition facts panel finished in only a few minutes.

Using Online Nutrition Analysis Software to Create Your Nutrition Label

While it is certainly important to understand nutrition labels, it’s not worth stressing over every little detail. With FDA-compliant online nutrition analysis software, you really only need to enter your recipe using the software’s database and serving size, then the rest will be generated for you. The best software will leave you with a label complete with values for the mandatory nutrients, a properly written ingredient list, and accurate percent daily values.

Although creating your first nutrition facts panel can seem daunting, online nutrition analysis software simplifies the process. And now that you understand the ins and outs of percent daily values, ingredient lists, and mandatory ingredients, creating your label and getting your product on store shelves will be a breeze.

LabelCalc is an industry-leading online nutrition analysis software for food manufacturers. Short on time? Our expert consultants are happy to create your nutrition facts panel for you. Contact us today to learn more.

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