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Thanks Uncle Sam! A New Windfall for Flexographic Printers

Posted by Mark Portelli

Jan 21, 2018 12:58:00 PM

Uncle Sam often leaves businesses on the hook when it comes to government regulations.  But a new decision by the Food and Drug Administration may be good news for printers.

On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced they're updating the requirements for food nutrition labels.  Of course, this means a lot of new labels will have to be printed.  But why was this decision made?

Put simply, the FDA hopes that the new label design will help people to control their eating habits — and potentially reduce the epidemic of obesity in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that all states have an adult obesity rate of more than 20 percent.

According to the FDA:

“The current label is more than 20 years old.  In order to make sure consumers have access to more recent and accurate nutrition information about the foods they are eating, it’s time to make changes to the Nutrition Facts label.  The changes announced today are based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups, and input from the public.”

The deadline for the changes is January 1, 2021.

While this update will undoubtedly cause a headache for food packagers, it’s an incredible windfall for the label industry — and that’s great news for flexographic printers.

What exactly is being changed on the nutritional labels?

Significant typography updates are required by the new design.  Serving size information and calories per serving are being made more prominent with larger, bolder type.

In the totals section, daily values have changed (based on new scientific information).  The nutrients section at the bottom now requires that actual amounts are stated.

You may also notice that it’s no longer required to include Vitamins A and C — this is because American diets are generally no longer deficient in them.

A line on total added sugars is also now included, and calories from fat (which used to be at the top) is now gone.  Lastly, the new label moves the bottom Daily Values footnote and changes its text slightly.

The infographics below show it all in action; the old on the left versus the new on the right:

What do flexographic printers need to do to prepare?

Flexo Magazine recommends that printers get ahead of the changes now.  Printing industry veteran Catherine Haynes states:

“As a prepress provider, though, you can help establish your relevance as the CPC’s supplier if you have check points built into your process to ensure you are following the latest rules and employ the current formats.  Ultimately, it is beneficial for all parties (CPC, designer, prepress provider and printer) to work together on the nutrition label update, as non-compliance can lead to stiff penalties and costly disruptions to supply chains when not followed correctly.”

Haynes recommends the usage of software solutions such as preflight tools and “dynamic tools for elements like bar codes and nutritional information.”  These tools make it easier to comply with the new regulations.

Preflight tools check elements such as fonts, line weights, minimum/maximum dot, etc., while dynamic generators use software intelligence to remove the manual work from building nutritional tables.

How to choose the right software solution to aid compliance

When choosing software to aid in compliance, Haynes advises printers to consider that:

  • Tools reside within Adobe Illustrator
  • Art is built on a non-destructive art layer
  • Content is locked so it is protected from accidental, non-deliberate changes
  • Changes are instantly mirrored within the art file via dynamic links
  • Elements can be linked to XML data provided by the brand owner/manager
  • A window can be opened allowing the prepress supplier to link other key individuals and decision makers as the package/label is being created

Taking advantage of the growth

The label update represents the potential for a lot of business growth, so it’s important that flexographic printers are ready. And while the software tools previously discussed will be helpful, there is an additional consideration for printers.


Or more specifically, consistent quality.

It’s incredibly important that the bigger, bolder fonts and large amounts of information featured on the new labels remain consistent.  But manual adjustments during a run are opportunities for disaster.

So how do printers reliably avoid problems such as bleeding, smearing, improper color, or uneven print?

Ink management…

Consistent print quality requires effective ink management, but ink management can be a difficult process.  There are many different elements to be held in careful balance, including viscosity, pH, temperature, and evaporation.  Fortunately, printers can simplify this delicate balancing act through ink control automation.

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Topics: Printing, flexographic printing, ink management, government regulation

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