These days, busy is the new black. We spend more time in our cars than in our homes, and we’re always plugged into technology. And where do we go for a quick, easy snack? Convenience stores, of course. Thanks to our fast-paced lifestyles, the demand for convenience stores is increasing, and many are offering a wider array of food options, including fresh snacks and even meals.
Those in the restaurant industry are probably well aware that the FDA plans to institute new food labeling laws on May 7, 2018. But if you’re a convenience store proprietor, you may not realize that you also might need to start providing calorie and nutrition information for certain food items in your store. Sifting through pages upon pages of FDA regulations regarding the impending law is daunting, so let’s look at how it will affect your business and what you can do to prepare for any upcoming changes.
Do You Qualify?
You only need to worry about these rules if your convenience store is part of a chain of twenty or more locations that operate under the same or a similar name and sell restaurant-style food. Hot dogs, pizza, ice cream, grab-and-go sandwiches, and self-serve food items are what we’re talking about here—food that is prepared or partially prepared in or by your establishment and is meant to be eaten immediately upon purchase.
You only need to provide calorie content and nutritional information for regular menu items in your store. If you have any regular self-serve items—like nachos with cheese sauce—these fall into that category, too.
But there are also many items you won’t have to provide calories and nutrition facts for. Communal condiments, like mustard or ketchup, are exempt. Daily specials, temporary menu items (lasting sixty days or less), and items being used for market tests (less than ninety days) do not require calories or nutrition info either. You may still choose to include nutritional information for exempt items if you know such information is important to your customers, but you are certainly not obligated to.
What the FDA Needs You To Do
The FDA requires that the calorie amount be stated on your menu. This may be in the form of a menu board, signage, or pamphlets; essentially, you’re going to put this info wherever your customers look to select food items.
You’re required to include three pieces of information for the calorie count. First, you’ve got to include the number of calories the menu item has. The amount must be prefaced by “calories” or “cal” so that it reads something like this: Cal: 320. The connection between the menu item and the calories must be clear, so putting it right next to the menu item is your best bet.
Luckily, the FDA isn’t too picky about the format you use (no complex calorie charts needed), but they do require you to ensure that the calorie information is the same size font—and no less visible with regards to color and style—as the name of the menu item or the price (whichever you prefer).
You’ll also need to provide some context for the calorie amount so your customers understand whether it is a high or low-calorie food. An example of this is a statement like, “2,000 calories a day is used for general advice; calorie needs may vary.”
The last thing you’ll need is a note letting customers know they can request more nutritional info if they desire. Of course, this means you must have a complete nutritional facts panel for each of your menu items at the ready. This can really be in any form, as long as it is available upon request and is in compliance with FDA standards. Some proprietors keep it all in a binder, and some have pamphlets to give to customers.
Depending on your store’s menu, other rules may also apply. For example, if you offer one item in a number of flavors—like ice cream, fountain soft drinks, or muffins—you must provide a calorie amount for each flavor. If they are labeled on your menu as one item (ie. fountain drinks), you can simply put a calorie range—but you must know the specific calorie count for each flavor if a customer requests that information.
Let’s recap, shall we? You will need to provide:
- Number of calories in each menu item, listed next to the item in the same font
- Statement of context (or “succinct statement” as the FDA calls it), listed at the bottom of the first page of the menu or menu board in the same font
- Statement declaring additional nutrition info is available, listed above, below, or beside the “succinct statement” in the same font as the calorie declaration
- Additional specific nutritional facts for each menu item, in any format
- Calorie ranges for items that come in a variety of flavors on your menu board and specific calorie information on each flavor available upon request
Ask The Experts
Although I’ve tried to make this relatively straightforward, I’d be lying if I said that FDA regulations aren’t confusing or tricky. And if all this wasn’t enough, you also need to provide the FDA with info confirming the nutritional analysis of your food. As a business owner, you probably have a million other tasks to complete, so keeping up with these regulations can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to do it alone. At MenuCalc, we’re experts in FDA nutrition labeling. Not only can we provide nutritional analysis of your menu items along with complete nutrition facts panels, we can also provide consultation services to help you implement all these changes before 2018 rolls around—contact us today.