Most food businesses eventually grow to the point where they need to learn how to create nutrition labels. This can be for a number of reasons:
- Being large enough to be required by the FDA to have labels
- A wholesale client or distributor requesting them for sales reasons
- Customers asking for nutritional information
- Having a healthy ingredient to show off nutritional information
For my company, SlantShack Jerky, we needed them once we started doing wholesale business with larger retailers. I started our research from scratch and wading through all the FDA documents was painstaking. The prices we found for consultants and labs were dizzying for our startup budget.
In the end, I learned more than you’d ever want to know about nutrition labeling rules and regulations, but I also managed to create all our nutrition labels for a fraction of the cost. I realized no other food business should go through the same process, so I made a web-based tool for companies like ours to create their own nutrition labels easily and affordably. We now help some of the best commercial kitchens and food incubators, food startups, and even fellow contributor Michael Adams of Green Mountain Mustard.
Nutritional Lab Analysis
There are several options for getting nutrition labels done. The first option most people think of is lab analysis. That’s just how we all imagine nutrition analysis is done for some reason. Lab analysis generally costs $200-500 per product and takes a few weeks to accomplish between sending in your product and paperwork, getting the analysis done, and getting everything back. Sometimes you have to pay extra for the nutrition label itself. If you have the cash burning a hole in your pocket and don’t have a deadline looming, go for the lab analysis. Most state universities have food science departments that can provide this service. There are also plenty of private companies.
Database Analysis for Creating a Nutritional Facts Label
The other method for nutrition analysis approved by the FDA is database analysis. Ingredients in an approved database are analyzed via lab analysis as described above. Those ingredients and their nutritional profiles can then be added up to determine the nutritional information of a whole recipe.
When doing database analysis on your own or through a consultant, you need to have several recipe details prepared:
- A list of all ingredients and amounts (and possibly nutrition information from your suppliers for more exotic ingredients – in case the database doesn’t already have an ingredient)
- The final yield (by weight) of your recipe
- The number of packages and servings made by your recipe
Working with a Food Consultant
If you work with a consultant or dietitian for your nutrition labels, they’ll ask for all of the above as well as processing information to understand your recipe better. They’ll probably have some follow up questions and then take a couple of weeks to finalize your nutrition analysis and label. It’ll generally cost you $100 or more per recipe. You might be able to cut a deal if you’re doing multiple recipes.
Nutritional Facts Label – The Do it Yourself Route
Consultants will be using software just like ReciPal for nutrition analysis and since you did most of the work already (organizing your recipe and ingredients), we figure you might as well close the deal as well by using ReciPal yourself. Nutrition analysis is an important skill to have as a food entrepreneur, because you’re going to need it for recipe development, new products, and updated recipes. The turnaround time is minutes or hours instead of weeks. Plus, the cost savings are huge, especially for a startup.
If you really want to go the extra mile, you can download the USDA database and do the math yourself in Excel. Then you can use ReciPal to enter your final nutrition data or find a label template online. But that’s exactly what we wanted you to avoid by building ReciPal.
More Tips on Nutritional Labeling