For a fairly comprehensive guide to nutrition fact labeling, visit the FDA Food Labeling Guide. We'll try to cover the basics and most questions related to using ReciPal, but won't get into all the nitty gritty of the FDA rules. ReciPal is all about simplifying the process for you. You can also visit our blog for more questions, answers, resources and new features in a longer format than the FAQs below.
How do I use ReciPal? We try to make ReciPal as intuitive as possible, but we also provide fairly detailed walkthroughs, notes throughout the website as well as a series of How To Videos for nutrition labeling and inventory management (and a separate inventory FAQ) to help guide you through the process of doing database nutrition analysis, making high quality nutrition fact labels, ingredient lists, calculating the costs of your recipe, and managing your inventory and production.
Our blog covers many of our features and common questions - if you're curious if we have something search the blog to find out or search within this page. We also have a useful resources guide that has a lot of great information for starting a food business and setting up your packaging.
Look out for our information popups throughout the site (denoted by ) that will guide you through each part of the site.
Do I need nutrition facts on my product label at all? This depends on a lot of things and for a full understanding, it's best to read the FDA guide we link to above, or reach out to us by e-mail.
It is always a good idea to be clear and honest with your customers, and one way of doing so it to provide nutrition facts. You are never prohibited from including nutrition facts on your packaging, however there are certain foods and businesses that are exempt and others that MUST provide nutrition facts. For example, fresh fruit and vegetables don't require nutrition facts. Foods with nutrient content claims (e.g. "low-fat") must include nutrition facts. More broadly, the size of your business dictates whether or not you need nutrition facts on your packaging. Businesses that sell $50,000 or less worth of food or $500,000 or less worth of food and non-food combined are generally exempt. Businesses with fewer than 10 full-time employees and less than 10,000 units sold annually are also exempt. After crossing any of these thresholds, there is a leniency period of 18 months after which the business has to comply. More details can be found here.
What am I required to have on my food product label? There are a few things that every food label is required to have, whether or not it has a nutrition fact panel. These are the statement of identity (or the name of the food) and net quantity statement (amount of the product in the package), which both have to be on the principal display panel (usually the front of the package, but can differ depending on the packaging type). Other required statements include the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, the ingredient list, nutrition labeling (if necessary or desired) and any required allergy labeling (milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, soybeans). These last statements can be on the side or information panel.
See more on our blog post on Food Labeling Requirements.
But don't I have to send my food to a lab for nutrition analysis? Absolutely not. Database analysis is a perfectly acceptable method of nutritional analysis and often more accurate than a lab analysis. According to the FDA: 'FDA has not stated how a company should determine the nutrient content of their product for labeling purposes. Therefore, there is no prohibition from using "average" values for its product derived from databases'.
However, if you would like to do a lab nutrition analysis instead we have a partner lab that provides a discounted rate to ReciPal customers. You can see how it works on our hire a labeling expert page or order it directly on our lab nutrition analysis order page. You can also read more about how lab analysis works and when it's more appropriate on our lab nutrition analysis article.
Is database analysis as accurate as lab analysis? Each form of analysis has its merits, and the FDA does not prefer one method over the other, but the database analysis tends to be more accurate in the long run. That is because the database method relies on the average nutritional content of ingredients, whereas lab nutrition analysis only gives you the nutritional content of your product the one time you made it for the lab, which is not identical to every other time (ingredients, process, and measurements all change a little bit each time and especially over time).
I don't even have to pay a nutrition consultant to do it for me? Nope. Using ReciPal will be easier and faster. And if you have questions, ask us and we're happy to help.
If you are still uncomfortable doing your own nutrition analysis and labels, you can hire a nutrition label expert to do it for you. We've done hundreds of nutrition labels and created the software to do it, so we're remarkably qualified. You'll get your nutrition analysis, FDA-compliant labels in various formats, ingredient list, allergen declaration, and a free account with ReciPal to do your own costing and handle any changes free of charge.
How do subscriptions work? How do I cancel? There is no commitment for subscriptions and you can cancel anytime (when logged in, click on Account, then Settings - there's a big red button to cancel). Billing is on a monthly basis, so if you sign up the 15th of the month, you will be billed on the 15th of each subsequent month until you cancel your subscription.
Interested in a discounted annual plan instead of monthly? Let us know and we can accomodate.
I already know the nutrition facts of my product, I just need the label. How do I do that? The easiest way to do that is to create a custom ingredient. Add the nutrition facts you already have for your custom ingredient, add just that custom ingredient to a recipe, and finalize the recipe to create a nutrition label. This way, you treat your product as a single ingredient and your full recipe has just that one ingredient.
Can ReciPal do my nutrition label for me? Can ReciPal review my label for me? We would love for everyone to be able to do their own nutrition analysis and labels, as it's an important skill for a food entrepreneur to have.
However, if you are uncomfortable doing your own nutrition analysis and labels, you can hire a ReciPal nutrition label expert to do it for you. We've done hundreds of nutrition labels and created the software to do it, so we're uniquely qualified. You'll get your nutrition analysis, FDA-compliant labels in various formats, ingredient list, allergen declaration, and a free account with ReciPal to do your own costing and handle any changes free of charge.
You can also do your own analysis and have a ReciPal expert review your nutrition label for you. This is more affordable than having us to do the whole process, but will still give you the confidence that you've done everything right and that your labels are compliant. We'll review your nutrition values, ingredient lists, allergens, and serving size, providing you a detailed report of what you need to correct.
Will my recipes remain confidential on ReciPal? Absolutely. The recipes you create are only visible for your account and we enter into an explicit non-disclosure agreement for your recipe details when you sign up for ReciPal. Beyond that, you don't have to enter preparation instructions or any details aside from your ingredients and their amounts. Your recipes will always remain confidential, until of course you publish your cookbook :)
While we at ReciPal take the utmost care to protect your privacy and data, remember to protect yourself with a strong password, and if using a public computer remember to sign out and close all browser windows after you're done using ReciPal.
If you want more, read about our security practices.
How does ReciPal secure recipe data? We take several precautions for keeping your recipes secure on ReciPal and we get questions about this frequently. To be perfectly honest, stealing your recipe is probably the worst way for a criminal to get rich or a competitor to succeed, but we still take several precautions:
Unfortunately, most security breaches happen in much simpler ways - picking a bad password or using the same password on several websites, leaving your account open on a public computer, clicking links in phishy emails, and so on. So, make sure you are taking care of your end of the bargain as well!
Lastly, as someone that's started a food business, your recipe is one of the least valuable parts of your food business, especially as a relatively (or completely) unproven business. Sure, you might think your recipe is great, but there are millions of fantastic recipes available on food blogs, and they might even have more market validation than yours via hundreds of comments and ratings. What really matters is your marketing, branding, distribution, production and sourcing. Your recipe doesn't even have preparation instructions on ReciPal. We appreciate your concern about security, and we do take it very seriously, but as a food entrepreneur you might just have many more important things to focus on and worry about!
How do I decide what label format to use? As you may have already learned, there are a number of label format options, which you can select on the label page of your recipe under the Label Type dropdown menu right above the label itself. For most cases you'll use the standard vertical format, but depending on the amount of space available for labeling on your packaging as well as the actual nutrition facts of your product you may have the option of using a different label. For example, the tabular label can be used if your packaging has less than 40 square inches available for labeling. The linear label can be used if your packaging has less than 12 square inches available for labeling, or if it is less than 40 square inches but can't fit a vertical or tabular label. A simplified label may be used if your product has enough nutrients that would be listed as having zero grams. All these options and more are detailed in the notes (denoted by ) when you create a recipe and label.
What is the minimum font size for nutrition labels? If you're going to resize the label after downloading it from ReciPal, keep in mind that the minimum font size is usually 1/16th of an inch for the letter "o".
Does ReciPal offer Canadian nutrition labels? Yes! We currently only offer it for the standard vertical as well as the linear label formats (it's an option under our 'Label Style' menu when looking at your recipe's label on ReciPal), and will continue adding other label styles, so keep your eyes peeled! The label styles are actually very similar, but Canada requires both French and English to be displayed in most cases. Canada also requires all packaged goods to have nutrition labels, unlike the exceptions the US allows. For more details and differences between the label styles see our post on Canadian nutrition labels.
How can I adjust the nutrition fact label to fit my packaging? The FDA does not specify label width, so that is one aspect of each label that you can adjust on every label. On top of that, depending on how much space you have available for labeling on your package, as well as the nutrient composition of your product, you may be eligible for alternative labels. We talk about this more above in choosing label styles.
Do I have to include the table of recommended daily values at the bottom of my label? You are allowed to shorten this section if your packaging has less than 40 square inches for labeling or if your label qualifies for a style that shortens this section by default, as mentioned in choosing label styles.
What color can my nutrition fact label be? There are two parts to your label: the background color, and font and border colors. The background is typically white and the font and border are typically black. The border color must always be the same as the font color. However, either one can be changed to fit the rest of your packaging aesthetic, as long as the label remains identifiable and readable. The font and border color can be changed to almost anything, but the background should be a neutral contrasting color relative to the font and border, to ensure readability. As with most other things, the goal is to be clear with your customers and make things simple for them. If you think your colors are misleading, confusing or hard to read, they probably are and you should simplify them.
When do I include the statement that looks like "Not a significant source of ... "? This is only an option when using the simplified format, which omits certain ingredients that are present in very small amounts. So, for most products you don't have to worry about it. But, when using the simplified label format, this statement is required if you are making any nutritional claims on your label, if you add vitamins or minerals to your product as a supplement, or if you choose to display any voluntary nutrients when using the simplified format.
What nutrients are optional and why would I include them? Some nutrients are completely optional, and by default they are not included when making a label. However, if you make a claim about a particular nutrient, then it must be included in the nutritional facts, and thus it is no longer optional. In that case, these optional nutrients can be added with a click of your mouse. They can also be added simply if you want to include them on your label.
The optional nutrients are: calories from saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, potassium, other carbohydrates, and protein percentage. Additionally, there are a number of optional vitamins (too many to list) which are optional, unless they are added to your product as a supplement or, as always, if a claim is made about the vitamin.
When creating a label using ReciPal, each option has detailed notes on when and how it should be used.
What if I get the facts wrong? The gist is that you should be honest and as accurate as possible, and it is OK if your facts aren't perfect. Of course, you should sense check your nutrition facts and compare them to similar products before finalizing your labels.
Our database has thousands of ingredients, but if you have the nutrition facts for each of your ingredients, it may be better to add those exact ingredients to your recipe by using the "custom ingredient" option. Your food suppliers can usually provide this information if it isn't on the packaging. At the end of the day, nutrition fact labels are not perfect, and the goal is to provide your customers a guide for what they are eating and drinking. So, don't purposefully deceive your customers. That's very bad, both for you and your customers. Even if your facts aren't perfect, the USDA and FDA can't make you reprint all your labels until you run out of the current batch of labels you are using.
According to the FDA: "FDA is unlikely to take regulatory action for minor errors. However, such errors should be corrected during the next printing of labels."
My nutrition facts look incorrect, what do I do? There are usually a few steps we take when label data doesn't look right. First, look at the recipe's Nutrition Breakdown page. That will show you how each individual ingredient contributes to the nutrition content of the recipe. Usually this will quickly show you where you went wrong, especially if you used an unverified ingredient or entered the wrong amount for an ingredient. Then, review the recipe you entered and make sure the ingredient amounts and yield match your actual recipe.
For more reliable recipes and improved nutritional accuracy you can weigh each ingredient and track it in grams or pounds instead of tablespoon and cups.
If your label is showing zeroes across the board and that is not what you'd expect, this is usually an error entering the 'Packages Per Recipe' or 'Servings Per Package' on the recipe's Edit page. The label shows per serving nutrition content. The total servings is figured out by multiplying Packages per Recipe by Servings per Package, so make sure those are correct. Re-read what those mean or ask us if you need help understanding them.
If the label format looks incorrect, let us know and we'll take a look. It might be your browser, or maybe you found a bug, so we'd love to fix it for you!
Why are my nutrition label values different from those on the nutrition breakdown page? The nutrition breakdown page shows unrounded values, whereas the nutrition label will be rounded according to the FDA and Canadian rounding rules, which vary by nutrient and value. The values might be off slightly, but that's just because of the rounding. If you suspect otherwise, please let us know. If you're interested, you can read all about the FDA rounding rules.
How do I convert the measurements in ReciPal's ingredients to what's in my recipe? We have lots of ingredients. And most of our ingredients have lots of options for units and measurements. But sometimes users add their own ingredients, which won't have every unit of measurement. Other times, your recipe will call for "cups" and all we have is "grams", "pounds", and "tablespoons". What then?
First, we recommend trying to stick with USDA ingredients wherever possible as they will have more unit options and generally have more accurate and unrounded data.
We also thought about building our own conversion widget, but what we do when we need to do a conversion is a simple Google search. So we recommend using their unit converter. You can convert any weight or volume measure using the menu, or just Google something like "5 cups to tablespoons" and the answer will pop right up. It's pretty neat and super useful. Try it out.
My recipe has a marinade. How do I account for that? Only include in the recipe the part of the marinade that gets absorbed by the rest of your recipe. The leftover marinade isn't part of your final product, so you shouldn't include it in your nutrition facts. You can do that either by only adding the portion of marinade that is absorbed, or adjusting the waste factor for those ingredients to account for how much is absorbed. Marinade based recipes and recipes that involve any cooking usually have yields that are less than the sum of the starting products (e.g. you start with 5 pounds of ingredients and get 4 pounds of finished product). Make sure to edit the "Net Weight Per Package" and "Packages per Recipe" if that is the case and you'll see that the yield value should be less than 100%.
Accounting for cooking process is a little different. While you probably don't have to worry about it for the most part, it helps to know. Vitamins and minerals may be lost in the cooking process, and the degree to which this happens depends on the food and method of cooking. This Retention Table has most foods and how they hold up to different methods of cooking. When using ReciPal, if using ingredients from our database, make sure to select ingredients with the proper method of cooking. For example, we have several different types of spinach, including 'raw', 'boiled and drained' (with and without salt), 'frozen', etc. While selecting the wrong one isn't the end of the world, it does affect the final nutrition facts, so it's good to get it right.
How do I account for moisture loss during the cooking process? For certain products, like baked goods, there will be some weight loss during the cooking process due to evaporation of water. This generally doesn't affect the nutrition facts, but it will affect your serving size weight. To account for this and make sure your label is correct, edit the "Net Weight Per Package" and "Packages per Recipe" fields in your recipe. The net weight should be your post-cooking weight (excluding packaging), which you should measure yourself.
I have several recipes that have the same 'base'. How can I avoid having to enter each recipe over and over? We actually created two features specifically for this purpose! They come in quite handy if you have a number of similar recipes or customizations that change a recipe slightly, but retain most of the original recipe. So, if you already have one recipe saved, there is an option to copy that recipe and save it as a new recipe. If you are signed in go to your 'Recipe Dashboard' with all your recipes and ingredients, click on the 'Recipe Actions' menu of the recipe that you want to copy and click 'Copy Recipe'.
The other option is to create an ingredient out of a recipe so you can use a recipe in another recipe. This option is also under the 'Recipe Actions' dropdown for each recipe, so if you click 'Create Subrecipe' in that menu, we'll automatically take the nutrition facts for that recipe and put it into a custom ingredient with the same name as the recipe. From there you can create recipes with these different subrecipes that have been turned into ingredients. This is great for things like ice cream bases, dry mixes for lots of other baking products, and any food business that has a build-your-own model.
I make big batches of my recipe, so I don't know how much is in each serving. What do I do? You can simply use the recipe for your big batch. Then, enter how many packages are in a recipe, and how many servings are in a package. We take care of the rest! Packages represent, well the number of packaged items your recipe makes, and servings are the number of servings in each package.
How do I calculate the costs for my recipe? Each recipe you create will have a page to calculate the per recipe and per package costs. This is accessible from your 'Recipe Dashboard' under each recipe's menu or from any recipe's page. Here, you'll enter the price you pay for each ingredient and the amount of the ingredient that you purchase, as well as any packaging, labor and overhead costs for creating the recipe. From that information we'll automatically calculate how much the entire recipe batch costs and also your cost per package, as well as helping you figure out pricing based on margins.
How do I create an ingredient list for my recipe? Each recipe you create will have a page to create an ingredient list for that recipe. This is accessible from your 'Recipe Dashboard' under each recipe's menu, or from any recipe's page. On the ingredient list page, the default list will include all your ingredients in descending weight order, as required by the FDA. This list is also editable, so if you want to change the names of certain ingredients, remove optional ingredients or make other changes it is a very simple process.
How do I scale an existing recipe to double or triple the size? Each recipe you create will have a link in its menu on the 'Recipe Dashboard' to scale the recipe to any size you want. When you click it, a popup will appear asking you what size you'd like to scale the recipe to. You can enter any number there and we'll automatically copy the existing recipe and scale appropriately. We'll also give it an intuitive name by copying the original recipe name and adding "Nx", with N being the multiple you asked to scale your recipe by. So, you can halve your recipe, double it, triple it, or make it 1000 times bigger.
How do I export my recipe data from ReciPal? You can export your recipe data to a CSV file, which you can open with any spreadsheet program like Excel.
On any recipe page where you see this button - - you can download the data on that page. You can also download all the relevant information for a particular recipe from the 'Export CSV' Recipe Actions item on the Recipe Dashboard.
You can use this to see how many different ingredients are across your recipes, to see all your ingredient costs together, or to jumpstart a business plan. For more details we have a blog post on Exporting Recipe Data.
How do I get the nutrition fact graphic from the website into my label printing software? Once you've finalized your recipe and nutrition fact label there is a button on the page with your label that let's you save your label as a PDF or image (JPG) file - just specify where you want to save the file. It should be very simple and work automagically, but if you're having issues let us know or try the methods below.
First make sure you are using an updated web browser. Check for an update in yours. We generally recommend Google Chrome.
The alternative PDF method is to simply "Print" the webpage. Go to File then Print (or hit CTRL+p on Windows, Apple+p on Mac). That will open up your print dialog, at which point you should select 'Save as PDF' (or 'Print to PDF', or something similar - it changes by browser) in the printer selection menu. This will save your label in a high quality PDF format, which you can then combine with the rest of your label or pass along to your graphic designer.
If you're saving the label as an image and are having trouble with that, you can 'Print Screen' (there is a button on your keyboard), 'Paste' the image into your image editing program of choice (Paint or Photoshop work), and crop the portion of the image that has your nutrition fact graphic. You can also just capture the part of the screen that you want with a program like Snipping Tool on Windows (or Snip on Mac). To save it in higher resolution, simply "zoom" your browser (CTRL-+ or Apple-+ on Mac) and then do a screen capture.
How do I set the dimensions of my label? You can adjust the format and width of your label within ReciPal. You can also control the zoom level of the file if you're downloading the image (not PDF) version. If you need a specific set of dimensions, you'll probably have to do trial and error since the actual print size will vary based on your printer's DPI.
Will ReciPal print my labels and send them to me? While we don't handle the label printing side of things, you have a few options and things to think about. We outline them in some detail with lots of resources, pros, cons, and advice in our blog post on printing your nutrition labels and go over them briefly below.
First, you can send your label design to a local or online print shop that will print your labels and send them to you. For smaller companies, that's probably the easiest option especially when you're still figuring out how to handle your labels, although may be more expensive for smaller runs.
You can print them on your regular home printer using Avery templates, although this can wind up being expensive in the long run and not as professional. If you're just starting out though, this is a great and simple option.
You can also buy a label printer to print your own labels. We've partnered with a great company called QuickLabel Systems that sells high quality label printers specifically for food businesses. For smaller runs, you can save a lot of money and gain a ton of flexibility as you finalize your label design by printing in-house.
For a more inexpensive option, you can explore a thermal printer from Rollo. We've had many customers have a good experience printing their ReciPal labels with a Rollo printer.
Am I required to perform pH testing on my food product? Most foods are not required to be pH tested. The purpose of pH testing is to make sure foods that rely on having a low pH for preservation are safe for consumption. If your food is "acidified" for preservation purposes (e.g. pickled products), then you need to do pH testing. Products such as marinades, sauces, and other liquids should also be pH tested.
Am I required to perform a shelf-life test on my food product? Shelf-life testing is not a requirement for most food products, but retailers will often ask for it. So, if you are planning on being in retail stores soon, you should do have an idea of your product's shelf-life. On a practical level, you can get a good idea for your product's shelf-life without sending to a lab immediately. Your product's shelf-life is likely very similar to that of some competitors, so that is a first step. You can also perform an informal shelf-life test on your own by storing your product in various temperatures and humidities and testing it over time. We have a blog post on Doing Your Own Shelf Life Study.
Do you do lab based nutrition analysis? We do! We have partnered with a laboratory so we can offer lab-based nutrition analysis to ReciPal customers at a discounted rate. It's still much more expensive than database analysis, but there are situations where it makes sense to do a lab-based nutrition analysis instead of using software. Feel free to reach out by email, call 978-801-1132, or chat us in the bottom right of the screen if you have any questions on how it works or want to discuss further.
Does ReciPal have an API? Yes! We have an API that allows you to programmatically interact with ReciPal similarly to how you would via the web app. You can create and edit custom ingredients as well as create and edit recipes and their component ingredients. So, if you have lots of recipes in your own application and need nutrition analysis, we're here to help. Read our recipe and nutrition API documentation to learn more.
I have a question that's not addressed here. Send us an email, call 978-801-1132, or chat us in the bottom right of the screen! We'll get back to you faster than you expect.