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    Menu Labeling Rules: Marketing Opportunity or Compliance Nightmare?

    Tips to prepare as Dec. 1, 2016 deadline nears

    By Howland Blackiston, King-Casey

    The U.S. Food & Drug Administration gave grocers with foodservice operations some breathing room in July when it delayed compliance with new menu labeling requirements for one year until Dec. 1, 2016.  Those grocers now face a simple choice: (1) move aggressively adopt the new requirements and use the extended lead time to learn how they will impact their business, or (2) treat the regulations as bothersome compliance work and delay adoption until the last possible minute.

    Based on our firm's work in this area, we heartily recommend the former choice.  The new regulations, which have been endorsed by the National Restaurant Association, offer grocers an opportunity to gain a leg up, particularly in the competitive market for Millennials, who are fast becoming the core of every retailer's customer base.

    Specific Steps

    Begin by checking to see that you are not making any of the four most common mistakes that King-Casey found its clients making:

    • 1. Not knowing which foods are covered by the new rules; there is no point in determining calories for foods that do not apply to FDA guidelines;
    • 2. Incorrectly formatting calories; knowing when to use a "slash" or a "range" is complicated, but necessary in order to be compliant;
    • 3. Not listing calories for all flavors/varieties; if your menu lists different varieties of a standard menu item, you must declare the categories separately for each one;
    • 4.  Inappropriate use of the terms "calories" or "cal;" both terms are accepted and interchangeable, but the way in which the term appears determines the type size of the word used.

    Then consider going beyond the FDA requirements to list the facts that really matter to Millennials -- food content beyond calories, such as carbohydrates and source of origin. This plays directly to the Millennials need for both wellness and transparent communications. Burgerville has long recognized its Pacific Northwest suppliers of items like Tillamook Creamery cheese, Walla Walla sweet onions and cage free eggs. Doing so communicated its commitment to sustainability and local sourcing of food, while increasing market share. Similar strategies could help you as well.

    By Howland Blackiston, King-Casey
    • About Howland Blackiston Howland Blackiston is a principal and co-owner of King-Casey, a retail consulting and design firm. He serves a portfolio of clients in the retail and restaurant fields, and is a key proponent of King-Casey’s COZI (Customer Operating Zone Improvement) strategic discipline and process. As a book author, lecturer and noted authority, Blackiston has been a featured speaker at hundreds of conferences, workshops, universities and special events in more than 40 countries.

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