Labels, Packaging and Design

Everything Food Producers Need to Know Now About Canadian Front-of-Package Nutrition Labelling

If you work in the Canadian food industry, you already know: the game is changing for nutrition labelling on food packaging. Back in July 2022, Health Canada put out new Front-of-Package Nutrition Labelling regulations, and the industry is mobilizing to keep up.

Basically, a new symbol will need to be displayed on the front of certain food packages. The deadline for incorporating this new symbol in your packaging is January 1, 2026.

So, do you produce foods high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fats? The new regulations are targeting you—but, fortunately, so is this post!

Why Front-of-Package Nutrition Symbols?

We know that eating foods high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fat too often can hike up health risks. Some of these risks include stroke, obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancers.

So, here’s the Canadian government’s rationale for the change:

  • It helps your customers zip through grocery shopping by making quick and informed choices.
  • It backs up the health professionals who teach folks to limit foods that include large amounts of sodium, sugars, and saturated fat.

What Does the Front-of-Package Nutrition Symbol Look Like?

nutrition-label-sample
Nutrition Labelling – Source: Government of Canada

It’s a classic black and white nutrition info box we’re used to seeing, but with a twist. It features a magnifying glass zooming in on what the food’s high in: sodium, sugars, saturated fat, or a mix of these.

Fortunately, regulators aren’t requiring designers to reinvent the wheel. A compendium in the regulation describes 300 different versions of the symbol for different applications. Everything is spelled out: layout, colour, sizes, no guesswork.

Which Foods Get the Front-of-Package Nutrition Symbol?

Prepackaged foods hitting or surpassing set levels for sodium, sugars, or saturated fat must display the front-of-package nutrition symbol. The quick rule of thumb is that if a single serving of your food includes more than 15% of a person’s daily value of sodium, saturated fat, or sugar, you might need to display the symbol.

That’s right, we said “might”. Here are the exceptions:

  • Foods getting a pass for technical reasons, like:
    • Individual portions meant to be served with meals or snacks (think creamers with coffee).
    • Milk and cream sold in refillable glass containers.
    • Super-tiny, packaged goods.
    • Raw, single-ingredient cuts of meat, poultry, and fish without a nutrition facts table.
  • Foods featuring major health benefits, such as fruits and veggies sans added sodium, sugars, or saturated fat.
  • Certain dairy products like plain milk, yogurt, and cheese since they’re chock-full of bone-strengthening calcium.
  • Raw, single-ingredient ground meats and poultry to avoid any misunderstanding about their nutritional value compared to whole cuts.
  • Butter, sugar, salt, and other buttery, sugary, salty foods, including honey, celery salt, maple syrup, veggie oils, and seasoning salt.

How Health Canada Picked the Front-of-Package Nutrition Symbol

Apparently, feedback from Canadians and consumer research guided Canadian regulators in selecting the new nutrition symbol. There was little to no consultation with industry players.

How to Spot the Nutrition Symbol on the Front of the Package

The nutrition symbol has to be easy to spot and use, so Health Canada set some ground rules:

  • Size: It scales up or down depending on the package size, so everyone can see it.
  • Location: It hangs out in the upper half of most package labels. If the label’s wider than it is tall, you’ll find it on the right side.
  • Language: No surprises here—it’s bilingual. You might see two separate symbols, one in English and one in French, or both languages featured on the same symbol.
nutrition-labelling-on-food-products
Nutrition Labelling- Source: Government of Canada

Strategies for Mitigating the Nutritional Symbol’s Negative Marketing Impact

If you’re in the boat of food producers who need to incorporate the symbol, it’s understandable that you’re feeling nervous. Health Canada wants fewer consumers to choose your products; there’s no way to sugar-coat it. (Pun not intended.) How can you boost your product’s appeal?

Emphasize other claims

Think about your customer. What matters to them? Are there benefits that matter more to them than low sugar, salt, or saturated fat?

Some ideas could include:

  • Locally made
  • High in protein, fibre, or other various nutrients
  • Organic
  • Vegan
  • Probiotic
  • Ethically sourced/made

Remember to make it look good

Put effort into adding the symbol in a way that enhances the attractiveness of your packaging. Make sure there’s relatively little contrast between the symbol and the design elements directly bordering it. Use this process as an opportunity to up your game, design-wise. If your package still looks great, that goes a long way.

Need help making these changes?

There’s not much time between now and July 1, 2026, if you’re one of the producers impacted by these regulations. So, if you need help, contact us. As label and packaging experts with hundreds of clients in your industry, we’re so happy to brainstorm solutions and answer questions. Together, we’ll weather these changes.

 

 

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