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May 20, 2024
May 20, 2024

How to Build a Food Labeling Style Guide for Your Brand

Rangan Das

How to Build a Food Labeling Style Guide for Your Brand

May 20, 2024
May 20, 2024
Rangan Das


For food and beverage brands, navigating the intricate world of food labeling can be a daunting task. Striking a balance between captivating consumers with visually appealing designs and meticulously adhering to a complex web of regulations is a constant challenge. Regulatory bodies across the globe meticulously define the information displayed on food labels, encompassing detailed ingredient lists, clear allergen labeling, specific font sizes, and mandated nutritional facts panels. Ensuring unwavering compliance with these ever-evolving regulations while maintaining a distinct brand identity can feel like traversing a labyrinth.  

However, there exists a powerful tool to help brands navigate these complexities: the food labeling style guide. This comprehensive document serves as a brand's blueprint for crafting labels that are both visually compelling and meticulously compliant. By establishing clear and consistent guidelines for fonts, colors, imagery, and messaging, a style guide empowers brands to achieve the following:

  • Unwavering compliance: A well-defined style guide ensures all labels adhere to regulatory requirements, mitigating the risk of costly non-compliance issues and potential product recalls.

            Also read: Understanding the FDA Food Labeling Guide: A Comprehensive Overview

  • Cohesive brand identity: By establishing a consistent visual language across all packaging and labels, the style guide fosters brand recognition and builds consumer trust.
  • Design efficiency: Clear guidelines streamline the design process, enabling designers to create impactful labels that resonate with the target audience without compromising on regulatory requirements.

Furthermore, leveraging the right software solutions can significantly enhance the food labeling process. Design automation tools and label management systems can help brands manage multiple label variations, ensuring consistent branding while seamlessly integrating mandatory regulatory information.

Adobe Creative Cloud.
Example of a brand style guide.
Adobe Creative Cloud.

Key elements of a food labeling style guide

Your food label style guide serves as a comprehensive roadmap for crafting labels that are both visually captivating and meticulously compliant. It's a vital tool in your brand's arsenal, ensuring consistency and brand recognition across your product line. Here's a deep dive into the key elements that deserve careful consideration:

1. Brand identity:

  • Logo: Your logo is the cornerstone of your brand's visual identity. Define its placement, size, and any color variations that may be necessary for different backgrounds.
  • Color scheme: Colors evoke strong emotions and influence consumer behavior. Establish a primary and secondary color palette that aligns with your brand personality and resonates with your target audience. Consider using complementary colors or exploring the psychology of color for strategic impact.

             Also read: 7 Worst Color Combinations You Need To Avoid - Artwork Flow

  • Brand voice & tone: Define the voice and tone you'll use in your label copy. Will it be playful, informative, or authoritative? Ensure it aligns with your overall brand image and resonates with your target audience.

2. Information hierarchy and readability:

  • Font hierarchy: Establish a clear hierarchy for different types of information, such as product name, ingredients list, and nutritional facts. This helps guide the consumer's eye and ensures easy readability. Choose fonts that are clear, legible, and complement each other visually.

          Also read: 10 Principles of visual hierarchy for designers

  • Information organization: Define a consistent layout for your labels, ensuring important information like allergens and nutritional facts are easily accessible and prominently displayed. Consider utilizing white space effectively to avoid clutter and improve readability.

3. Imagery and visual appeal:

  • Image type: Determine the type of images you'll use, whether it's high-quality photos of the actual product, enticing illustrations, or a combination of both. Each option has its advantages:some text
    • Photos: Offer a realistic portrayal of the product and its ingredients, fostering trust and transparency.
    • Illustrations: Allow for more creative freedom and can be used to convey specific brand elements or highlight key features.
  • Image guidelines: Define image quality standards, including resolution, aspect ratio, and any specific cropping requirements. This ensures consistency across your entire product line.

4. Additional considerations:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensure your style guide incorporates all mandatory regulatory requirements specific to your target markets. This includes details like font size for specific information, allergen labeling guidelines, and nutritional facts panel formatting.
  • Sustainability: In today's environmentally conscious landscape, consider incorporating sustainable practices into your label design and materials. This could involve using recycled paper or biodegradable materials for your labels.

While crafting a comprehensive style guide is crucial, maintaining compliance across numerous labels and ever-evolving regulations can be a challenge. This is where creative operations solutions with AI-assisted compliance features come in. These innovative platforms offer a multitude of benefits:

AI-powered compliance checks: These solutions utilize artificial intelligence to automatically check your labels for compliance with various regulatory requirements, mitigating the risk of non-compliance issues.

Centralized label management: Manage all your label variations and iterations within a single platform, ensuring consistency and brand adherence across your product line.

Version control and audit trails: Track changes made to your labels over time and maintain a clear audit trail for regulatory purposes.

By implementing a creative operations solution alongside your well-defined food labeling style guide, you empower your brand with a powerful and efficient system to navigate the complexities of food labeling.

Understanding food label color schemes

In the fiercely competitive landscape of food and beverage marketing, where shelf space is precious and brand differentiation is paramount, color schemes on food labels play a critical role in capturing consumer attention and influencing purchasing decisions. Beyond mere aesthetics, colors evoke powerful psychological responses and serve as a strategic tool for brands to tell their unique stories and resonate with their target audience.

The science of color and consumer perception

Decades of research in color psychology have established well-defined associations between specific hues and emotions. By leveraging this scientific understanding, brands can craft color schemes that subconsciously influence how consumers perceive their products:

  • Warm colors: Red, orange, and yellow are often linked to energy, excitement, and stimulation of the appetite. These vibrant hues can be particularly effective for high-energy snacks, bold flavor profiles, or products targeting younger demographics. For instance, Lays employs a fiery red background for its "Flamin' Hot" potato chips, emphasizing the intense, spicy experience.
Source: LAY'S® Flamin' Hot Flavored Potato Chips (lays.com)
  • Cool colors: Blue, green, and purple evoke feelings of calmness, freshness, and tranquility. These colors can be ideal for healthy, organic, or calming products, particularly those targeting health-conscious consumers. Chobani, for example, utilizes a calming blue and green color palette on its Greek yogurt labels, aligning with its focus on natural ingredients and promoting a sense of well-being.
Source: Chobani® Vanilla Nonfat Greek Yogurt Cup, 5.3 oz - Baker’s (bakersplus.com)
  • Neutral colors: White, black, and gray provide a sense of sophistication and serve as a canvas to highlight other design elements. They can also convey a sense of simplicity and purity. Haagen-Dazs often utilizes a minimalist design with a white background and black lettering, emphasizing the premium quality and luxuriousness of its ice cream.
 Ice Cream
Source: Ice Cream Shop Menu | Häagen-Dazs® Locations

Also read: How to Use Color Theory in Graphic Design? - Artwork Flow

Beyond the basics: crafting compelling color palettes

While understanding the individual psychology of colors is crucial, creating truly impactful color schemes requires strategic combinations that go beyond single hues. Brands can leverage various approaches to craft distinctive visual narratives:

  • Complementary colors: Choosing colors opposite each other on the color wheel can create a vibrant and attention-grabbing effect. However, it's essential to balance the intensity to avoid overwhelming the viewer. For instance, this Tropicana concept utilizes a contrasting orange and blue color scheme on its orange juice packaging, highlighting the product's vibrant color and refreshing nature.
Source: Tropicana Package Concept – Packaging Of The World
  • Analogous colors: Selecting colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel creates a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing effect, often associated with a sense of calmness and familiarity. Quaker Oats employs a warm and inviting color scheme with brown and beige tones on its oatmeal packaging, conveying a sense of comfort and tradition.
Quaker Oats
Source: Quaker Oats porridge pots shift to new paper packaging for seamless recycling | Packaging Europe
  • Triadic colors: Utilizing three colors equally spaced on the color wheel can create a dynamic and visually engaging effect. However, careful balance is crucial to ensure visual coherence. Skittles, for example, utilizes a vibrant triadic color scheme with red, yellow, and green, reflecting the playful and diverse variety of its candy flavors. 

Cultural considerations: adapting to global audiences

It's important to remember that color perception can differ significantly across cultures. When designing labels for international markets, conducting thorough research into local color associations and preferences is essential to avoid unintended consequences. For instance, while red often signifies celebration and good luck in China, it can symbolize danger or anger in some European countries.

Color-coding information

A color-coding system is a quick and easy way to understand the nutritional content of food at a glance. It allows consumers to make informed decisions about what they put on their plates without getting bogged down in complex numbers. Red, amber, and green in food labeling (like traffic lights) indicate nutrient levels. Red means high (consume less often), amber is medium (consume moderately), and green signifies low (enjoy more frequently). 

Color-coding information
Source: British Nutrition

In conclusion, understanding the power of color and employing strategic color schemes on food labels empowers brands to shape consumer perception, strengthen brand identity, and ultimately drive sales success. By embracing the science of color psychology and strategically crafting their visual narratives, brands can unlock a powerful tool for differentiation and storytelling, carving a distinct space in the competitive landscape of the food and beverage industry.

Also read: A Detailed Look at Packaging Artwork Colors & Their Impact on Branding

How to set up a well-baked font hierarchy

Establishing a well-baked font hierarchy for your food labels is crucial not only for visual appeal and brand identity but also for ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. Just like meticulous attention to ingredients ensures a delicious meal, a well-defined font hierarchy ensures clear communication and avoids potential pitfalls.

The importance of readability

At its core, the fundamental purpose of a food label is to communicate vital information to consumers. This includes:

  • Product name
  • Ingredient list
  • Nutritional facts panel
  • Allergen information

To fulfill this purpose effectively, labels must be easily readable for consumers of all ages and abilities. A well-defined font hierarchy plays a critical role in achieving this goal by:

  • Guiding the eye: By using different font sizes and styles for different elements, you can guide the consumer's eye toward the most crucial information, such as the product name and allergen warnings.
  • Enhancing clarity: Clear and legible fonts, free from excessive ornamentation or overly condensed styles, contribute to improved readability, especially for information in smaller font sizes.
  • Promoting accessibility: Considering individuals with visual impairments, ensuring clear contrast between fonts and background color, and avoiding overly complex fonts are crucial aspects of responsible design.

Navigating regulatory requirements

While crafting an aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly font hierarchy is important, adhering to regulatory requirements takes precedence. These regulations, established by various food safety agencies around the world, aim to ensure clear and consistent communication on food labels:

  • Minimum font size: Specific regulations often dictate the minimum font size permitted for various elements, particularly in the nutritional facts panel. For instance, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates a minimum font size of 8 points for most information in the nutrition facts panel, with specific exceptions for smaller package sizes (https://www.fda.gov/files/food/published/Food-Labeling-Guide-%28PDF%29.pdf). Similar regulations exist in other countries.
  • Font style: While regulations generally don't explicitly forbid specific font styles, they often emphasize the need for fonts to be "clear and legible" and "easy to read." This translates to avoiding overly decorative, excessively condensed, or script-like fonts that might hinder readability.

How hierarchy helps with compliance

Implementing a well-defined font hierarchy directly aids in complying with regulations:

  • Prioritize compliance: By assigning larger font sizes to mandatory information like allergen warnings and nutritional facts, your hierarchy ensures easy access to this crucial information, fulfilling regulatory requirements.
  • Maintain clarity: Utilizing clear and legible fonts throughout the label, adhering to regulatory minimum size requirements, and avoiding overly complex styles promotes readability, mitigating the risk of non-compliance issues due to unclear information.
  • Facilitate review: A well-organized hierarchy simplifies the review process for regulatory bodies, enabling them to efficiently assess the clarity and accessibility of information on the label.

Serve image recommendations with a flourish

You can use visuals for storytelling, brand differentiation, and driving consumer engagement. Here's how to strategically incorporate captivating visuals into your food label design:

1. Consider the "hero image":

  • Choice of medium: Decide between high-quality photos that showcase the product in all its glory, enticing illustrations that offer artistic flair, or a combination of both.some text
    • Photos: Offer a realistic portrayal of the product and its ingredients, fostering trust and transparency. This approach is ideal for showcasing the natural beauty of fresh ingredients or the mouthwatering appeal of a finished dish.
    • Illustrations: Allow for more creative freedom, enabling you to depict specific brand elements, highlight key features, or evoke specific emotions. This approach can be particularly effective for conveying the essence of a brand's personality or the playful nature of a product.
  • Strategic placement: Where you place the image on your label has a significant impact. Consider the emotional impact and guide the consumer's eye toward the information you deem most crucial. For instance, placing the hero image prominently near the product name can establish a strong visual association.

2. Enhance visual appeal

  • Quality is key: Ensure the chosen image is high-resolution and visually appealing. Blurry, pixelated, or poorly lit images can detract from the overall impression and undermine brand perception.
  • Composition matters: Apply basic design principles like the rule of thirds and leading lines to create a balanced and aesthetically pleasing composition.
  • Color coordination: Ensure the colors in your images complement the overall color scheme of your label, creating visual cohesion and reinforcing brand identity.

3. Leverage the power of storytelling

  • Evoke emotions: Go beyond simply displaying the product; use the image to tell a story. Does it convey a sense of adventure, indulgence, or family time? Align the emotions evoked with your brand image and target audience.
  • Highlight ingredients: Showcase the fresh, natural ingredients used in your product, especially if they are locally sourced or organic. This can foster consumer trust and transparency.
  • Depict the culinary experience: Use the image to transport consumers to a specific setting or occasion. Is it a picnic in the park, a cozy family meal, or a sophisticated dinner party?

Also read: What is Brand Storytelling and Why it Matters

4. Remember cultural sensitivity

When designing labels for international markets, be mindful of cultural sensitivities. Certain colors, symbols, or even food depictions might hold different meanings in different cultures. Conduct thorough research to ensure your visuals resonate with your target audience and avoid unintentional cultural missteps.


Ready to streamline your food labeling process and unlock the full potential of your brand storytelling? Consider exploring solutions like Artwork Flow. Our AI-powered creative management platform simplifies label creation, ensures regulatory compliance, and helps you bring your unique brand vision to life. Try out the demo today!

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