With inexpensive McDonald’s and Starbucks fare on every corner, it’s easy to take grabbing a quick bite for granted—you can literally follow your taste buds … unless you live with dietary restrictions.

What if you needed to know exactly what is in your meal, down to the specific nutritional value, calorie count and manufacturing history? What if your health—or social consciousness—depends on it? Would you know how or where to get this information? 

For the 15 million Americans currently living with food allergies, as well as the 45 million dieting annually, situations like these aren’t hypothetical. They are an everyday reality. Recognizing this struggle, the FDA recently established rules to help consumers easily find important product information. The Obama-era regulation demands chain restaurants post calorie and nutritional information for all menu items. The new standard applies to any restaurant or food establishment with more than 20 locations, and requires stores provide written nutritional information with details like cholesterol, sodium, sugar and more.

The goal is to put important nutritional information front and center—but it is up to food and beverage brands to improve their labeling strategies and deliver the information that consumers demand.

Improved labeling technologies offer universal benefits to food and beverage brands

Although the FDA’s current regulations are somewhat limited in scope, they represent a broader movement toward more—and better—information sharing.

Comprehensive, accurate product information helps shoppers feel confident making purchases, and they reward companies that provide the most data with their food dollars and long-term brand loyalty. For an industry as competitive and profitable as fast food, building trust among consumers and earning a reputation for providing ample, truthful product information can mean millions of dollars and lifetime loyalty.

Fast casual and quick-service restaurants face increasingly unprecedented product labeling requirements, from consumer demands and regulatory agencies. But they’re certainly not the first to commit to more transparent standards. Recipe-based food and beverage manufacturers already champion more frequent and easy exchanges of information with customers, understanding that access to this information is a crucial part of the overall customer experience.

Fast-food chains can turn to these manufacturers as examples of how to assure quality and responsibly navigate new regulations and expectations. More than anything, recipe-based manufacturers prove that end-to-end software solutions are the surest way to stay flexible and protect consumer rights to complete, accurate information on product labels and menus. 

Comprehensive data capabilities offer important benefits to any recipe-based food and beverage player, regardless of whether the new FDA regulations impact current business operations. Three advantages include:

Product traceability: Responsible food and beverage brands understand the importance of having full visibility into ingredient lifecycles—from production to processing to distribution. Traceability makes it easier for companies to share detailed information on labels, increasing consumer confidence. Traceability also helps identify and resolve specific supply chain issues in case of recalls, contaminations or other manufacturing errors. 

Regulatory compliance: Restaurants interested in operating globally must consider the various regulations they will encounter within new markets. Comprehensive data management technology helps companies keep labels organized and accurate to unique regulatory standards by country, as well as cultural variables like taste preference or values. It’s nearly impossible to successfully balance increasing consumer scrutiny and regulatory requirements without a data solution.

A holistic POV: Data management technology automatically centralizes all data sources and creates a complete, trustworthy repository of product information. This holistic perspective surfaces data-driven insights that help decision makers find opportunities to avoid non-compliance, improve operations and boost the ROI of their technology investments.

Delivering top-notch shopping experiences is nothing new for successful food chains and speed has always been a hallmark of the fast food industry. Consumers who eat fast food also reward convenience—the drive thru model is firmly entrenched, coast-to-coast.  

We prioritize what’s easy. But consumers have become savvier—they still expect easy, but they also require trustworthy and transparent information and product labeling. Speed and convenience remain just as important, but customers realize that they have a right to all the product information they want. 

However, many brands unintentionally skew these traditional experience differentiators, they simply fail to satisfy customer demands for complete, accurate product information focused on the latest in food trends. Product information has emerged as a primary area where consumers now expect food and beverage brands to innovate and address their diverse dietary needs and restrictions.

And as a food and beverage brand, you know that the customer is always right.

That is why it is crucial to pursue powerful data applications and integrate them across your entire organization. Only then can you enhance processing, packaging and labeling and better satisfy customer desires and demands for more product information—no matter where they choose to shop.

Severin Weiss is widely recognized as a global expert in integrated software solutions for recipe-based food and beverage manufacturers. Weiss earned his undergraduate degree in technology; he earned dual Master’s Degrees in advanced business studies from the prestigious China Europe International Business School, and State University New York. For more than three decades, Weiss has created and expanded international business systems, like Actebis, 3Com Switzerland, COPE/Mount10, Novastor, Tata Consultancy and Ness Technologies. He founded SpecPage in 2006.
Outside Insights, Story