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Labeling Products for Retail

For many, the transition between their hobby becoming a small business is fairly seamless. Once you begin selling your products, however, you need to be well versed in the regulations regarding how products must be labeled.

Making the transition from creating products for personal and family use to selling your products to others often just “happens” without any conscious thought or planning. Often it starts out by selling “extras” to friends or at a local craft fair just clear the shelves and recoup some costs so you can make more products. When people love your products and will pay for them, it can quickly evolve into making products specifically to sell and finding ways to sell them. For many, moving from “hobby” to “business” isn’t so much of a leap as a gradual slide.

Whether you end up in the business of selling your products with forethought and business plans or you just happened to slide into it, once you start selling your products, you’re in a whole new ball game. With it comes a new set of rules; you’ve entered the realm of governmental regulation and requirements. Along with all the standard business requirements (business registrations, accounting, sales tax, licenses, etc.), products for retail sale have very specific regulations covering how they must be labeled.

Consumer Products For Retail Sale

The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) is the basis for labeling requirements for nearly all consumer commodities (things that are consumed or expended in the household). Its purpose is to “facilitate value comparisons and to prevent unfair or deceptive packaging and labeling.” From the FPLA, the Food and Drug Administration issued regulations covering the labeling of foods, drugs and cosmetics and the Federal Trade Commission issued regulations covering other consumer commodities.

Regardless of what the product is, the following information is required on every label:

On the FRONT of the package (where the consumer would see it when viewing the product on a shelf or in a display):

  • Identity: A statement identifying what the product is (e.g. soap, lotion, cream, candle, potpourri, bath fizzie, etc.).

  • Net Quantity of Contents: The amount of actual product in the package (without the weight of the package or container). It must be in both the inch/pound system (ounces, pounds) and metric system (grams, liters). For fluid products it must be in terms of volume (fluid ounces, quarts, milliliters, liters) and for solid products it must be in terms of weight (ounces, pounds, grams, kilograms). It must be parallel to the bottom of the product, in the bottom 1/3 of the front and in bold text. For most soap or body care products, the text size must be 1/8” high (based on the size of a lower case letter).

On the BACK, SIDE or BOTTOM of the package:

  •  Name and Place of Business: The legal name of the business (as registered with your state or your personal name, if no business name is registered) and the street address (actual street address, not a PO Box), city, state and zip code. The name and place of business can be that of the manufacturer, distributor or packager. The street address may be omitted if the business name is listed in a print phone book or city directory.

Ingredient Declaration on Cosmetic Labels

Cosmetics are defined as products that are “applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering the appearance.” Cosmetics include lotions, creams, bath melts, bubble bath, scrubs, cream soap, bath fizzies, lotion bars, perfume, lip products, body butters, lotion candles, etc. Note that candles and room scent products, which are not applied to the body, are not considered cosmetics. Soap is a cosmetic if cosmetic claims are made (other than cleansing) OR if it isn’t made primarily of fats/oils, lye and water (e.g. it contains detergents).

  • Ingredient Declaration: Cosmetic products require that the ingredients are declared on the package (not on the front, but on some other surface of the package). The ingredients should be in “descending order of predominance,” which means that the highest percentage ingredient goes first, then the second highest, etc. Ingredients that are in the product at less than 1% can be listed in any order after all the other ingredients that are 1% or more.

When you’ve made the transition to selling your products, nothing is more exciting than the first sale. There’s a reason why businesses often frame that first dollar – it’s a sign that the leap (or slide) is made and you’re actually in business.

Labeling your products correctly is part of staying in business. Yes, it’s part of following the rules and regulations, but it also – and maybe more importantly – provides your customers with the information they need and expect in order to make an informed decision to buy your product. When your customers trust you and your products, they will return to buy again and again.

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