Many brands are currently deciding how to best approach upcoming changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel. But why update your packaging and product data for the new label and then go back and do it all over again for GMO disclosure? Plus, these are just the two current mandates that are part of a much larger consumer demand for product transparency that will continue to evolve. As brands seek to find the best way to answer this demand, many are choosing to participate in the SmartLabel initiative now to get ahead of the curve.
Brands that adopt a "label it once" mindset and embrace a scalable and future-proof solution, such as SmartLabel, will be able to easily update their product data to respond to evolving regulation changes. SmartLabel is not a one-time, band-aid solution. It is a multifaceted, dynamic approach to delivering more complete and accurate information to your consumers while also complying with industry regulations.
We thought it would be helpful to share some best practices for getting started with SmartLabel including how to plan for your data, organize your internal resources, prioritize your products, and create high quality SmartLabel pages.
Create a Clear Plan for Your Data
This is the most critical step as SmartLabel is a dynamic vehicle for product transparency and not just a one-time solution. Think about all the places that your product data exists, and in what format it exists. This might be a little daunting to do at first. The issue is many brands and manufacturers lack the data, processes, and systems needed to provide the heightened levels of information great SmartLabel pages demand. Most often, data lives in silos in archaic formats that aren’t set up to communicate with each other or share a common or consumer-friendly language. Highly manual and resource intensive data generation and maintenance methods result in incomplete and inaccurate product records, making brands unable to deliver on the new requirements of transparency, such as robust SmartLabel pages.
As brands strive for, but are unable to achieve, a single-source-of-truth of product information, there is a notion that any data-driven request or initiative is "one more thing" that needs to be done.
Instead, brands should take a holistic approach to these data-driven requests now, not just from a regulatory compliance perspective, but in how they enable all of their data to tell their brand story. Brands that don't take a holistic approach will find themselves needing to redo their labels multiple times over the next four years, significantly increasing costs and resources.
Many of our customers are approaching label reform with the mindset that updating all of their labels multiple times to comply with updated regulations and mandates would prove to be costly and time consuming. Instead, they're adopting SmartLabel as their mode of compliance and are making it an essential part of their labeling process. They're creating a single-source-of-truth for communicating consistent, accurate, and comprehensive data to each of their industry and consumer touchpoints. Additionally, they’re creating an efficient process that ensures that every time product information is updated they're also creating or updating a SmartLabel page.
Get a Clear Understanding of the Impact on Internal Resources
Attempting to create SmartLabel pages in-house can put a significant strain on internal resources. In fact, the implementation guide alone is 80 pages long. It's a large investment of someone's time to become a an expert on SmartLabel requirements, which is often overlooked in the “we’ll build it ourselves” consideration. Maintenance of SmartLabel pages will also become someone’s responsibility as will keeping up with legal and regulatory compliance, data accuracy, and much more.
Many brands are finding that implementation can take longer than they imagined. It’s not quite as simple as taking existing product data from the package and pushing it out to a webpage. Truly great SmartLabel pages are much more than an ingredient list published online. Consumers want to know the how and the why behind product information as well. Plus, SmartLabel specifications don’t always align with how a brand talks about or lists its ingredients or claims. These small details can become challenging as the brand seeks a solution that will work internally and comply with the SmartLabel requirements - at scale across hundreds and even thousands of products.
Due to the cross-functional nature of transparency initiatives, and obvious systematic data challenges, getting pages up and running can take some time. Working with a solution provider can relieve a lot of stress from internal resources and make the entire process much more efficient.
Our model above calculates projected costs and role/time allocations based on the number of brands, products (pages), and months defined for the project. By working with Label Insight, instead of doing all the work in-house, you can be up to 15% more efficient and significantly shorten your implementation timeline.
Define a Cross Functional Team
Transparency initiatives tend to involve many players: marketing, CSR, legal, regulatory...the list goes on. All functions need to work together from the start and agree upon the product information that will be presented on SmartLabel pages. However, it’s also important to determine who is ultimately responsible for the planning, execution and long-term maintenance of your SmartLabel initiative.
We find the most cohesion when there is a single champion for the project, however, sometimes it makes the most sense to have each brand manager own the representation for their brand. Take time to plan ahead and work with your solution provider to decide who will be responsible for which pieces before you take on the project.
Prioritize the Right Products or Brands
Many brands consider a pilot with a smaller brand portfolio, or they prioritize a brand that has a story they are proud to tell. Once the right brands or products to start with have been identified, you'll also need to determine which voluntary SmartLabel attributes are most important to your brand in addition to the required attributes.
It is important to approach the process in phases to document learnings, and get a true sense for the entire scope of the project. This will also allow you to identify needs for ongoing maintenance.
I know, it’s a lot. Maybe more work than you thought? The good news is we have experience in creating high quality SmartLabel pages and making the process as streamlined as possible. We have a support team available to guide you through and answer your questions along the way. Ready to get started? Requesting a data audit is a great first step!