The Role of Voluntary Nutritional Information in EU Food Labelling

Navigating food labeling regulations set out by the European Commission (EC) can be tricky, especially for businesses that are trying to stand out in the food and beverage industry. For many companies in the B2B sector, it might be advantageous to not only include mandatory nutritional information on food labels but including additional information on products can be a game changer. This extra information creates an added layer of transparency and resonates with consumers who are health-conscious and want to know more about what they are consuming.

This article will delve into the nuances of EC food labeling regulations, emphasizing the importance of voluntary nutritional information and how businesses can use this to gain a competitive edge.


  • Understanding EU Food Labelling Regulations: The European Commission (EC) mandates essential nutritional information on food labels to help consumers make informed choices.
  • Mandatory vs. Voluntary Information: Mandatory information includes basic nutritional data, ingredients, allergens, quantity, and expiration dates. Voluntary information can include additional nutrients, origin of ingredients, environmental impacts, production methods, and specific health or dietary claims.
  • Recent Changes and Updates: The EC regularly updates labeling regulations to align with new scientific data and consumer health trends, enhancing transparency and consistency across products.
  • Overcoming Common Challenges in Voluntary Label Additions: Challenges include ensuring the accuracy of information and maintaining compliance with regulations. Solutions involve internal reviews, regular training, and staying updated on regulatory changes.
  • Legal Considerations to Avoid Misleading Claims: It’s crucial to ensure voluntary information is accurate and non-misleading, adhering to EU regulations that require scientific substantiation and clarity.
  • Utilizing Labeling Software for Accuracy: Companies like Food Label Maker can help ensure that labels are accurate and compliant, simplifying updates and adjustments as regulations change.

Understanding EU Food Labelling Regulations

EU food labeling regulations, as outlined by the European Commission (EC), are designed to provide consumers with the necessary nutritional information to make informed choices when it comes to their food and diet. Nutrition labels need to include essential details on their packages but companies can also opt to include voluntary nutritional information, which is governed by EU Regulation No 1169/2011 and the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. This allows manufacturers to offer extra value to consumers and highlight particular benefits of their products.

Mandatory vs. Voluntary Information

In the EU, mandatory nutrition labeling helps ensure that consumers are well-informed about the food products they purchase. There is required or mandatory information on these labels, which includes:

  • Nutritional Information (details the energy value and amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, protein, and salt)
  • List of Ingredients
  • Allergens
  • Net Quantity statement
  • Best Before or Use By Date (informs consumers about the product’s shelf life)
  • Nutrition Claims 

This approach ensures that there is enough valuable information presented on food labels. This not only looks out for consumer safety but allows them to make more informed choices when it comes to their diet and health. The EC aims to standardize this information across products in the country, making it easier and quicker for manufacturers to create labels on a large scale and puts them at a level playing field with competitors. 

In addition to this, the EC also allows food companies to add extra information to their labels voluntarily, beyond what they are required to include by law. This information includes:

  • Additional Nutrients: Companies may choose to provide details on vitamins and minerals that are not mandatory to list, such as Vitamin D, Potassium, or Magnesium.
  • Origin of Ingredients: While the origin of the product itself might not be mandatory, companies can voluntarily provide information on where the main ingredients are sourced from if it’s different from the final product’s origin.
  • Environmental Information: Information related to the environmental impact of the product, such as carbon footprint or sustainability of the sourcing methods, can be included.
  • Production Method: Details on how the food was produced, like “organically grown”, “free-range”, or “non-GMO” can also be added if verified.
  • Health Claims: Beyond basic nutrition claims, companies might include specific health-related claims like “supports heart health” or “improves bone density”, provided these claims comply with EU regulations and are supported by scientific evidence.
  • Lifestyle Information: Information suitable for particular dietary lifestyles such as “suitable for vegans”, “keto-friendly”, or “gluten-free” can be particularly appealing to niche markets.

Recent Changes and Updates

The EC continually updates its food labeling regulations to adapt to new scientific findings, what consumers want in terms of health, and market trends. However, businesses still need to follow specific regulations when applying voluntary nutritional information to their food labels, and is guided by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011. These conditions include:

  • Accuracy and Clarity: Voluntary information cannot mislead consumers or cause any confusion. It must also be clear and easy to understand and read by a customer. 
  • Scientific Backing: The additional information should be supported by scientific research so that, like nutrition claims or health claims, it is both accurate and reliable.
  • The EC also has specific guidelines for certain types of voluntary information, such as:
    • Warnings about any potential allergens that might accidentally be in the food.
    • Details about whether a vegan or vegetarian can consume the food product.
    • Nutritional guidelines for specific groups of people, beyond the general information that is usually required.
    • Information about whether a food is gluten-free or has very low levels of gluten.

For gluten-related information, there is a specific rule, Regulation (EU) No 828/2014, which was established in 2014. This regulation details how foods can be labeled regarding their gluten content and specify conditions under which foods can claim to be “gluten-free” or contain “very low gluten”. It also outlines how to label foods as suitable for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, ensuring these consumers understand the difference between foods that are naturally free from gluten and those that have been specifically formulated for any dietary needs.

The Strategic Benefits of Voluntary Information

Including voluntary nutritional information on product labels can significantly benefit businesses. It meets consumers’ demand for greater transparency and also builds trust which is a crucial factor in customer loyalty and brand strength. Additionally, voluntary information can differentiate products in a market that is already quite saturated, appealing to niche groups of customers such as those interested in gluten-free, vegan, or organically sourced foods. This strategic use of additional information on nutrition labels can serve a strategic purpose for businesses wanting to expand into new markets and who want to enhance their brand’s visibility and appeal.

Overcoming Common Challenges in Voluntary Label Additions

Adding voluntary nutritional details to food labels involves several challenges that businesses need to navigate carefully to remain ethical and legally compliant. Here’s a breakdown of these challenges and strategies for overcoming them:

Ensuring Accuracy of Information:

  • Challenge: Guaranteeing that the voluntary nutritional information provided is accurate and reliable. Misleading or incorrect data can lead to consumer distrust and potential legal issues in the long run.
  • Solution: Businesses should establish rigorous internal review processes where every piece of nutritional information is thoroughly vetted before being published. Investing in high-quality testing facilities or collaborating with external laboratories for product testing can also ensure the accuracy of the data provided.

Maintaining Compliance with Evolving Regulations:

  • Challenge: EC Nutritional labeling regulations are constantly changing, and it is difficult to keep up to date with every regulatory change.
  • Solution: Regular training and education for internal teams are essential. This could be done by getting industry consultations to give presentations and having regular workshops on regulatory changes. 

Managing Cost Implications:

  • Challenge: Adding detailed voluntary information can be costly as it requires a label redesign if it is being added on extra, and costly regulatory compliance checks.
  • Solution: Implementing scalable label management software can help manage costs by streamlining the label creation and update process. Software solutions like can also ensure that labels are always compliant with the latest regulations, reducing the need for frequent manual revisions.

Balancing Marketing with Ethics:

  • Challenge: There is always a temptation to highlight certain voluntary information to make a product seem healthier or more appealing than it is for consumers.
  • Solution: Businesses need to stay ethical to comply with legal standards and keep their customers loyal. This means that businesses must present both the benefits and limitations of their products. Making sure that all health claims are backed by scientific evidence and approved by regulatory bodies will help maintain these ethical standards.

When providing voluntary nutritional information, as we stated, it’s crucial to ensure that the data is accurate for a consumer and presented in a way that is not misleading. This means that manufacturers must avoid statements on their packaging that could give a false impression of a product’s health benefits. For example, claiming that a product is “low in sugar” when it is high in fats and that is not stated, can cause consumers to be misled or deceived about its overall level of health. Businesses must adhere to EU fair information practices, which stipulate that information must ultimately be clear, based on scientific evidence, and presented in a way that is easy for consumers to understand.

Utilizing Labeling Software for Accuracy

Companies like Food Label Maker can assist with any regulatory checks or expert opinions on whether your labels are following the correct EU regulatory standards. They offer software that automates and simplifies the calculation and display of nutritional information. This also minimizes the risk of any human errors and increases your business operation and efficiency. This software is also regularly updated to reflect current regulations which in turn helps businesses remain compliant. 

Best Practices for Implementing Voluntary Nutritional Information

When considering the addition of voluntary nutritional data to food labels, businesses should follow several best practices to ensure the information is both useful and compliant:

  • Relevance: Only include information that is relevant and beneficial to the consumer. This might mean highlighting nutrients that are of public health interest or that align with current dietary trends, such as fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, or antioxidants.
  • Transparency: Ensure that any claims or data provided are clear, truthful, and substantiated by reliable sources. This builds trust and helps maintain your brand’s reputation.
  • Consistency: Apply the same design and presentation standards across all your products to help consumers easily locate and understand the information. Consistency also helps reinforce brand identity.
  • Compliance Check: Regularly review your labels against current EC regulations and guidelines to ensure ongoing compliance. 
  • Consumer Testing: Before finalizing a label, conduct consumer testing to gather feedback on the design and comprehension of the information provided. This can help identify any areas that may be confusing to consumers.
  • Seek Expert Advice: Consider consulting with legal experts or dietitians to vet the voluntary nutritional information. This can prevent legal issues and ensure that the information is both scientifically accurate and meaningful.

Design Considerations for Enhanced Readability

Designing labels that are informative yet easy to read is crucial to ensure that voluntary information enhances rather than clutters the label:

  • Hierarchy of Information: Establish a clear hierarchy that guides the consumer’s eye through the label. Place the most important information (e.g., calorie content, allergens) in a prominent position and use formatting to distinguish between different types of information.
  • Font Size and Type: Use legible fonts and appropriate sizes to ensure that all text, especially critical health and nutritional information, is easily readable. Avoid overly stylized fonts that might reduce readability.
  • Color and Contrast: Utilize color and contrast them effectively to differentiate various sections of the label without overwhelming the design. 
  • Use of Icons and Symbols: Where appropriate, use graphical elements such as icons or symbols to convey information quickly and clearly. This can be particularly effective for conveying dietary elements (e.g., vegan, gluten-free).
  • Digital Tools: Leverage digital tools and software designed for label creation, which can help apply these design principles consistently and accurately. These tools often include templates and guidelines that adhere to regulatory standards.

Implementing these best practices and design considerations can enhance the effectiveness of voluntary nutritional information on food labels, making it a helpful tool for businesses to connect with and inform their consumers.