It’s estimated that 1.1 billion people across the globe live with vision loss, limiting how easy it is for them to select, understand, and choose products in the same way as those with full sight – factors that are crucial for making safe and fully informed decisions.
While taste, price, quality and product source are key components for the successful sale of foods and drinks, Jade Collins, Technical Controller at food labelling consultancy Ashbury, explains why manufacturers shouldn’t overlook the visual element when aiming to enhance the inclusivity of their products.
“Currently there is no specificity around the provision of information for the visually impaired, with Food Information Regulations only stipulating minimum font size requirements and emphasising the importance of including certain mandatory information on packaging to enable consumer choice. But the RNIB reported that nine of out of ten people who’re blind or visually impaired found medication or food labels quite difficult or impossible to read.
“Thankfully however, we’re beginning to see significant advancements break through regarding the inclusivity within this market – such as Co-Op including Braille on packaging where ‘technically and commercially feasible’. Plus, Kellogg’s is utilising NaviLens technology which means they’re incorporating codes onto some cereal box packaging allowing the user to have the label information read aloud or presented in larger font size on a digital platform.”
Working alongside these brands, the RNIB is campaigning for products and services to be reimagined with accessibility in mind. Their Head of Accessibility Innovation, Marc Powell added: “Since we collaborated with Kellogg’s back in October 2020 for World Sight Day with our world’s first pilot of NeviLens packaging, we have seen more brands step up to the mark by including accessible solutions on pack, and we urge more brands to join the movement and embrace accessibility as a key decision within the design process.
“Blind and partially sighted people should have the same freedom, independence and choice as sighted consumers. Technology is a game changer in achieving this as it can enable everyone to independently access key information on packaging.”
Jade continued: “As well as these, there are many additional options also available which could be adopted more widely by manufacturers to support visually impaired consumers in accessing information. From Braille, larger fonts, haptics and shapes, to narrative labels, barcode technology and freshness indicators.
“Understandably, introducing new packaging and labelling approaches doesn’t come without challenge. It’s important for brands and businesses to ensure that by altering or enhancing labels for inclusivity reasons, that they don’t hinder mandatory information which may risk compliance with existing regulations. And changing packaging can be both a timely and costly experience, so manufacturers may be forced to pass this onto consumers, which may not be positively received especially due to the current cost-of-living crisis.
“Innovative technology – and new ways of thinking – are helping more consumers shop independently, avoid the risks associated with (for example) food allergies, and make informed choices about the products they consume. It appears many food manufacturers are already looking at ways in which they can proactively make labels and packaging accessible for all, and this has led to an influx of ideas being introduced or adapted from other industries.
“For those who haven’t yet begun this process, there are certainly many considerations – but ultimately, enabling more people to access your products is a sound (and ethical) business decision which will see you keeping up with the likes of the most forward-thinking brands.”
For more information about the solutions currently available, and how to overcome some of the initial challenges, check out Ashbury’s latest blog.
Ashbury is a trusted regulatory consultancy dedicated to making global food compliance easy. Working closely with major brands and retailers, Ashbury’s experts help clients launch new products and expand into new global markets, confident that their products and labelling comply. It’s not just about supporting busy teams; it’s about protecting brands and consumers through accurate and compliant product information.