The 4th semi-annual Food Labeling: Evolving Regulatory Compliance Conference took place February 27th and 28th, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. According to the conference description, the key theme this year was "recognizing and preparing for the impact of FDA & USDA label changes on special claims, serving size and ingredients, developing effective methods for transition and compliance, including reformulation and successfully managing the effect on consumer behavior and sales."
The conference hoped to provide updates to many of the issues addressed previously and additional topics not covered before. There were multiple open Q&A opportunities with FDA and USDA team members about top-of-mind issues including added sugars, updated dietary fiber information, and GMO disclosure. In addition, there were sessions about compliance, obtaining supplier data, and label claims. In one session, Label Insight Senior Vice President of Sales, Angie Kimes, presented "Case Studies on SmartLabel: Unilever & Albertson's."
Her session discussed SmartLabel business benefits, how high fidelity product data can make this and future transparency initiatives more manageable, best practices for implementing SmartLabel, and the economic benefits of a "label it once" strategy linking FDA new label reform, GMO disclosure, and SmartLabel.
Angie Kimes speaking on SmartLabel Case Studies
Day two of the conference kicked off with a morning panel discussion hosted by Label Insight Data Transformation Manager, Brooke Bright. The discussion titled The Impact of Food Labeling on Consumer Purchasing Behavior included panelists:
- Renee Mellican, PhD, PMP, Treehouse Foods
- Isha Saini, Danone North America
- Jill Konecnik, Tyson Foods
- Debbie Nece, Cargill
Panelists (from left to right) Renee Mellican, PhD, PMP, Isha Saini, Jill Konecnik, Debbie Nece
One question for the panel was "what keeps you up at night?" These were some of the responses:
Danone: "One general area that keeps me up is the federal level regulations down to the state, city and local regulations that can overwhelms me and how can a national brand prepare for … and be flexible enough and I think that really speaks to the digital space and what we can do in that area."
Cargill: “For me it’s what’s going to be the next process or ingredient that [consumers] question. I was part of the pink slime and … we weren’t trying to hide anything, we didn’t see anything wrong, and I still don’t, it was just wasted meat being thrown out. So I’m wondering what’s the next process they’re going to go after.”
Brooke went on to ask the panel what transparency means for their company. Danone replied:
"Transparency for our consumers very much is about where our food and milk comes from. Something we’ve done as a company to embrace that is partner directly with our farmers so we have that level of traceability and are able to communicate that to our consumers. One other big initiatives we took this past year, in the spirit of Vermont with GMO labeling and the desire to know about GMOs in your foods, we decided as a company to label the presence or absence of GMOs regardless of the state and federal [regulations], until the federal bill is passed and is a federal regulation."
Label Insight brought back a lot of valuable information from the conference and had the pleasure of connecting with other great transparency leaders in the industry. In addition to attending fireside chats, small group discussions, and valuable sessions, Label Insight was a proud sponsor of the 4th Semi-Annual Food Labeling Conference.
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