Time to Boogie with the Canadian Food Label Changes

Time to Boogie with the Canadian Food Label Changes


Last December Health Canada announced a list of food label changes as part of its new healthy eating strategy.   There is a five-year transition time provided to meet the new regulations as they mercifully take into account that manufacturers’ product will exist on shelves for a while with more replenishments in stock.


Five years to transition is good news and sixty months seems like a comfortable amount of time to be able to make your food label changes.  After all, the year of the NHL lockout, Superstorm Sandy and Gangnam Style happened ages ago…  OK, um… wait, what? My favourite dance craze was five years ago? It seems like yesterday!

I know you know.  Time does fly and December of 2021 will be breathing down our necks before you know it (check out Repack Canada’s blog about it too!).  So why this disruption for Canadian food manufacturers and food brokers? Does it even matter? Well, yes it certainly does because it matters to your customers.  And they are the ones keeping you in business.

“Objectives of the Food Labelling Modernization initiative are to:

  • improve access to information about food labelling to help consumers make informed decisions about the food they buy for themselves and their families,
  • protect Canadians, while enhancing opportunities for industry to be competitive, and
  • respond more effectively to consumer, industry and government needs in the area of food labelling that is specific to the CFIA’s mandate.”

If you are feeling perturbed that label changes are an inconvenience, rest assured the food label changes are not devised as a random make-work project.  The changes are based on two years of feedback from consumers and stakeholders, giving us insight as to what our Canadian shoppers want to see on food package labels.  For the food manufacturer, this information translates into leverage as to how to directly appeal to your buyers.


So the way I see it, these changes are of great advantage, especially to those manufacturers already selling healthier foods. It is a glorious opportunity to partner up with your consumer for a dance and show her how you mambo.   Let’s take these new regulations and make them bop.  Let’s make food labels easier for your loyal customers to read in 4/4 time.  Let’s dip that first time buyer in a commanding tango! You get where I’m going — the new label regulations should help you, the manufacturer, compel purchase, making it obvious as to why your brand leads in its category.

It takes a little discipline to get through the food label regulations and changes without dozing off after a few paragraphs.  And since I’d like you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed reading through this blog post, here is the bottom line:  all of the changes affect important factors on your label, namely the Nutrition Facts Table and the ingredient listing.

This blog post is not intended to give a full review but to give you a peek at what is involved, here is a tiny sampling of only a few of the ways in which food labelling will change.


  • Revising the percent daily values based on updated science
  • Adding a new percent daily value for the total sugars
  • Add potassium but removing vitamin A and vitamin C

Oh and we’re just warming up here.  There are quite a number of checkpoints on the new Nutrition Fact Tables.


  • Grouping sugars-based ingredients in brackets after the name ‘sugars’
  • Using both upper and lower case letters for the ingredients in the list
  • Creating minimum type height requirements for ingredients

Yup, you guessed it, there are a bunch more.


If you have any part of your label that you are ready to revise immediately, you must adhere to all of the new regulations simultaneously.  We are not allowed to pick & choose, mix & match from the current regulations and the ones that have just been introduced; labels must adhere to all of one set of regulations or the other until December of 2021, after which time only the new regulations are queen.

So if you’re ready to go for even one of the changes, it’s time to tackle the rest of your food label too.  I’m sure you already know what a label design timeline looks like, but I am in the mood to blab some unsolicited advice about how time sneaks up on you:

Boogie Tip #1.  Whether you think or hope it won’t take long to make the changes, sometimes you encounter a snag.  Always allow buffer time!

Boogie Tip #2.  Get a food label audit done first.  Assess if you only need to tweak your current label or if you want to take the opportunity to create a fresh new design altogether.  You can submit your food label for a label audit to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) or a third party, such as The Freelance Portfolio.  Don’t rush it, make it right. 

Boogie Tip #3.  Smart planning takes a bit of time.  Approvals take time. Printing takes time. Shipping takes time. Yes, lead time is a factor, especially when multiple team members or vendors are involved.  And if you need a third party contract packer like Repack Canada to help, even when they apply their fastest turnaround magic they may need a day or two.

Boogie Tip #4.  Waiting until deadline (December of 2021) means you’re now pushing it right into end of the year (a.k.a. “holiday time”) — do you really need that hassle when you can plan ahead and avoid being a last-minute-Larry?


Instead of a footnote in your To Do list, make the food label changes your priority.  Better yet, experience only a fraction of the work by assigning The Freelance Portfolio as your “Food Label Taskforce Team” for 2017.

The Freelance Portfolio has over 35 years of experience in food label and package design, following the most updated revisions by Health Canada.  Our whatever-it-takes branding guarantees we are a well-matched dance partner, making your labels jive perfectly with all new regulations, leaving you with a giant grin and jazz hands.

We are hungry to get started on your food labels today.  Contact us at The Freelance Portfolio now and let’s polka!

416-656-6227 | 1-877-804-4841 | info@freelanceportfolio.com

Canadian Food Label Changes - The Freelance Portfolio

*From “Food labelling changes“, healthycanadians.gc.ca / **From “Government of Canada Finalized Food Labelling Changes“, blakesbusinessclass.com

Bottom images:  Retail Facts statistics quoted from “Package Design Workbook” by Steven DuPuis and John Silva / “Whatever It Takes Facts” table created and designed by The Freelance Portfolio

MORE info on how to prepare your timeline at Repack Canada’s blog:  “How To Be Ready For The Canadian Food Label Amendments

by Eira Braun-Labossiere