There are various types of labels used in the produce industry used for price identification, inventory tracking and category management. There are different requirements for labeling cases and pallets (trade items) and consumer units (items sold in retail outlets). The labels can indicate the brand, variety, country of origin, a barcode and other information.
The composition of a label depends on the application, legal and regulatory requirements for the target market and desired optional data such as marketing information. The content will typically include a barcode and a human readable portion.
Data standards and barcodes exist today in the fresh produce industry to assist with your labeling needs. Standards include the GTIN, and barcodes include the UPC and GS1-128. These standards and barcodes used are detailed in the GS1 Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Labeling Consumer Units Guideline.
Placement of labels or barcode symbols is critical to successful scanning. Please refer to GS1 US Guidelines for Barcode Symbol Placement for information on general principles that apply, mandatory rules and recommendations for placement on specific packaging and container types.
Label manufacturers are available to assist with printing of your labels.
Consumer Unit Labels
Labels used on individual units sold at retail point-of-sale include PLU stickers, which may also include the GS1 DataBar, and UPCs.
PLU labels are affixed to small individual pieces of fresh produce and in addition to the PLU code, packers/shippers may choose to include variety name, country of origin, brand name or logo, a barcode and company information. The amount of information displayed on the label all depends on the retail space available on the piece of produce. These labels can be applied by hand, with use of a hand-held pricing gun or fully automated equipment. PLU labels provide a means of differentiating varieties of similar appearance but of different price or product attributes.
The GS1 DataBar is a barcode designed to fit on smaller items that are not large enough to use a traditional GTIN barcode. Also called the Stacked Omnidirectional DataBar, it can be printed on the PLU sticker. This barcode yields benefits including improved category management, increased check-out accuracy, reduction in shrink and self-checkout improvements.
UPCs and EANs (European Article Numbers) are used to label packaged produce. They can be printed on a label of loose/bulk produce if enough retail space is available on the item, but most likely they are printed directly on the packaging. The barcode and the identification number must be printed so the number can be key entered if the product doesn’t scan at the point of sale.
Case (Trade Item) Labels
Case labels, due to their size and availability of space, contain additional attributes that describe the contents within the case. To comply with PTI, at a minimum, the GTIN from the brand owner, the batch/lot number from the company packing the case and the PTI voice pick code must be shown in human readable form underneath the barcode. Refer to the PTI website for additional information.
There are a number of organizations including governmental bodies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which govern the labeling of fresh fruits and vegetables. These regulations, including country-of-origin or COOL and nutrition labeling, may vary country by country. It is important to understand the target market needs of the country to which you are selling. Interpreting these varied regulations can be challenging, so it is recommended to consult legal counsel when necessary.
It is important that labels on fresh produce comply with all relevant food safety legislation by internationally recognized regulatory bodies such as the FDA and various agencies of the EU. The label substrate, adhesive and inks are all important elements that comprise a label and as such, should conform to the highest level of quality and food safety.
Product being sold in Canada must have labels which meet Canadian labeling and language requirements (including provincial regulations). Please refer to Fruit and Vegetable Labeling for assistance with these regulations.
An overview of food labeling requirements and claims including wax labeling requirements, nutritional labeling, country-of-origin labeling (COOL), health and organic claims are located in PMA’s Nutrition & Produce Labeling Guide. It is important to note that in May 2016, the FDA released the final rules on revisions to the Nutrition Facts label and the change for all foods using the label in the United States goes into effect July 26, 2018. The guide has been updated with the label changes. However, in June 2017, the FDA announced that it would extend the compliance date for the final rules. FDA will provide details of the extension at a later time. More information can be found at Nutrition Labeling.
The U.S.A.-Canada Bilateral Labeling Guide is a user-friendly tool for those involved in the design of fresh produce labeling and packaging for products sold in the United States and/or Canada, including Quebec.
The guide, created under the joint leadership of United Fresh Produce Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association is a great refernce tool for companies looking to ship their products into Canada and the USA for the first time. It includes guidance and reference links for consumer packaging and master containers including cases, cartons and Returnable Plastic Containers.
SmartLabel Transparency Initiative
Consumers want an increasing amount of information about their food, beverage, and other products – and SmartLabel™ meets that need. Products marked with SmartLabel™ have a specific landing page containing detailed information on ingredients and other product attributes. The landing page is designed and organized in a consistent fashion across products – whether the consumer is looking at a jar of jam or can of tomatoes. This digital information can be accessed via smartphones, tablets and desktops. To learn more, visit http://www.gmaonline.org/issues-policy/health-nutrition/smartlabeltm-consumer-information-transparency-initiative/.
Log in to view PMA Nutrition Labeling Guide and USDA Database.