A food product’s business case might be highly dependent on what you can stick on a label. If this is true, then you need to make sure early on that you’ll be allowed to claim what you want to say. This element of food labelling is a minefield.

A client recently asked us to do some product development and improvement work for them. I can’t offer many details other than that there was a ‘protein’ claim on the label. As a food technology consultant, most of the work we complete has some level of confidentiality.

The FSANZ Food Standards Code contains many rules on what you can and can’t say on a label and in your advertising. These restrictions include health and nutrition claims. For protein, there are two magic numbers – 5g and 10g. If your product has 5g of protein per serve, then you are allowed to say it is a ‘source of protein’. If it has 10g, then you can say it is a ‘good source of protein’. In the US, there is a similar system for a ‘high in protein’ claim.

The product in question had a high percentage of protein, but the problem was with the serving size, which was small. The result was that the product did not reach the 5g protein per serving threshold for making a protein claim, and this effectively ended the business case without some serious modification to the formulation. This modification wasn’t what the client was initially asking for, but we were able to offer a solution.

The Food Standards Code is a complicated beast, and there are always alternative options available. We were able to apply a range of product development and labelling skills to recommend a solution to our client to get out of this problem.

The client had sought professional advice on their labelling when developing the product. A ‘consultant’ had initially advised on their label requirements, but wasn’t a labelling consultant, had no food experience, and was just bluffing that they understood the requirements. On the surface, the Food Standards Code doesn’t look too difficult to understand. This protein serving size issue wasn’t the only error they made.

The moral of this story isn’t just that you need to get a consultant to avoid mistakes, but to get a good consultant.