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Michael Adams Green Mountain Mustard and Gredio

Michael Adams, Owner
Green Mountain Mustard & Gredio

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label mistakes food businesses

How I Almost Lost $2k Getting My Labels Printed

It’s been a few weeks since my last post – sorry about that. Things have been crazy. January sales have been stronger than years prior, I went to San Francisco for the Winter Fancy Food Show, and I’ve been struggling to catch up.

One of the projects I’ve been working on is on our new packaging design. After walking the floor at the Fancy Food Show, I’m incredibly relieved that we re-did our branding. There was an endless amount of beautiful packaging. Booth after booth looked like a million bucks.

After working with my design team (thanks, Jar Design) for 2.5 months, we landed on the perfect look, to be relived in a few short weeks. To save on costs, I did some of the work myself – and that’s what this post is about today.

$2,000 is a lot of money.

To get cost/label down, I ordered a year and a half’s worth of labels. It dropped my cost by a whopping 63%, so it made financial sense. After all, these were the labels I was sticking with for the long run. I was all set to send them to the printer and the nerves set in.

Was everything correct? Are there embarrassing spelling errors? I better double-check everything. I opened all 10 files and stared at my computer screen. No errors. Ok – let’s triple-check.

The labels went off to my Mom and brother.

Three pairs of eyes are better than one. They found all kinds of mistakes (even a sentence ending in a preposition – whoops!). I even ended up completely changing a flavor name at the last minute.

Not only that, but a few of my UPC codes weren’t clear. I had a blurry background image (that’s what happens when you do the work yourself), and I even had the wrong phone number on one of the labels.

This panic and stress led me to write this post – including the five tips below that will save you from big label problems. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.

5 Things to Do Before You Send Your Labels to Print:


1. Send them to 3 different people who have never seen them

Whenever I’m spending thousands of dollars on printed materials – whether a postcard, recipe sheet, or labels – I have multiple people look them over. That way, your grammatical errors will (hopefully) get caught, and poor word choices will be replaced with better word choices. Have family and friends look them over to make sure everything is good to go.

2. Make sure your barcodes scan at retail

Before I send my labels off to the printer, I printed a sheet of barcodes, drove to my local grocery store (I did this at an independently owned store) and asked them to scan the barcodes to make sure everything scanned correctly. While it won’t show up in their system (unless it’s a matching code), you’ll known in seconds whether or not you need to change the size of the barcode. We cut our barcode height in half to save room for the nutrition panel, so we wanted to make sure product would scan.

3. Decide on your label material – get samples

When you’re getting quotes from label companies, ask for samples. Don’t just say you want some labels. They could be paper, matte, glossy, UV-coated, full-color, black and white, thermal, digital, flexographic. There’s a million different solutions to label your product. Have a conversation with the account manager to determine the label that’s best for your product.

4. Follow the FDA guidelines – if you have questions ask

There’s a lot required of your company when you want to take the next step beyond just selling at bake sales or to family and friends. Here’s just a couple requirements: business name, place of business, ingredient statement, net weight, and more. Nutrition facts aren’t required (although highly recommended), until you are producing over 100,000 units of a product. For a more detailed look at what’s required of your label, check out ReciPal’s blog post.

5. Print out labels and put them on jars. Then, put them on a shelf.

Hopefully you have a printer because you’ll need it to print out mock labels. When I was working with my design team, I initially looked at my designs on the computer. That led me to choose one design over another. Then I printed them out. The design I originally loved on the computer was immediately thrown out. Putting your labels on your jars and throwing them on a mantle or bookshelf is important because it gives you an idea of what your new label may look like on the retail shelf. Sure, it won’t be print-quality, but you’ll have a good idea.

Besides glass, labels are one of the most expensive investments you’re going to make starting your own food company. It’s crucial to get it right the first time so you don’t waste thousands of dollars getting them re-printed.


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6 Comments on this post

  1. AUTHORBetty

    on January 31, 2014 at 2:00 am - Reply

    Hi Michael,

    Very interesting article about labels!

    I’m just getting mine printed for the first time very soon, your article is helpful.



    • AUTHORmichael

      on January 31, 2014 at 2:02 am - Reply

      Thanks, Betty! Glad it was helpful. What do you make?

  2. AUTHORAmina

    on February 2, 2014 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    I liked the idea of sending the labels to three different people.
    Also I know the fealing when you see beautiful labels at trade shows.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on February 4, 2014 at 12:51 pm - Reply

      Absolutely — the second I sent them to my sister she caught something no one else caught!

  3. AUTHORBeth

    on March 16, 2014 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    I would just reiterate that colors on a computer screen don’t look the same once printed out. And different papers affect the color differently. Some printers will give you a proof and it’s worth asking for one.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on March 20, 2014 at 12:19 am - Reply

      Very good point, Beth. Proofs are definitely worth asking for – and paying for – if you have to.

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