How to Design a Beautiful and Compliant CBD Product Label
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How many times have you wandered down a vitamin store or beauty store aisle and paused to stare at a beautiful label? How many times did you buy the product just because the colors, textures and words resonated with you? The importance of a well-designed product cannot be understated because up to 70% of purchases are made at the shelf level, and a product’s label is what the customer sees first. But food, drugs and cosmetics labels aren’t just blank canvases for creativity; they must also display regulatory information required by the FDA.
So how can you create an appealing Hemp-CBD label while remaining compliant with state and federal labeling requirements?
In this post –
Federal regulations for CBD
The consumer CBD industry is a bit like the wild west right now due to lack of written federal rules, but that’s about to change very soon. In 2018, the Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp, which opened up hemp-derived CBD products to state and federal regulations. As of today’s post, The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is still researching CBD to determine safe daily usage and establish rules for product labeling.
While the FDA investigates CBD, the best you can do is reference the current federal rules for dietary supplements and cosmetics. Then, check to see if your state has an established hemp program with other labeling guidelines. If you proactively design your CBD labels with today’s compliance in mind, you can help prevent costly product recalls that may require you to redesign and reprint thousands of labels down the line. The potential cost in damages and harm to your brand’s reputation is not worth the risk.
Federal Dietary Supplements Guidelines:
According to the FDA, dietary supplements are defined as products that can add onto your diet or contain one or more of the following ingredients: A vitamin, mineral, botanical or amino acid. Dietary CBD supplements may include ingestible oils, tinctures and gummies. Below is a quick recap of labeling requirements for all dietary supplements. For the full list click here :
What does the label need to say?
- Name of the supplement
- The net quantity of contents
- Nutrition information
- Ingredient list
- Name of manufacturer, packer or distributor
Where does all this info go on the labels?
- The product name and net quantity must be on the front display panel
- All other statements must be placed either on the front panel or directly to the right (the information panel)
Federal Cosmetics Label Guidelines:
According to the FDA, cosmetics are applied to the body for the purpose of cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering appearance. CBD Cosmetics may include skin oils, creams, body washes, and shampoos. Certain cosmetic ingredients are restricted by regulation, but that is not the case for CBD or other cannabis derived ingredients. All cosmetic products are expected to adhere to FDA regulations known as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Below is a snapshot of GMP requirements for labels.
What information do I need to have on the front panel?
- Name of the product
- The net quantity of contents
What information do I need to have on the information panel (panel immediately to the right)?
- Ingredient list
- Name of manufacturer, packer or distributor
- FDA 740.10 warning (where applicable)
- Any direction for safe use of product.
How federal regulations affect design
Not only do you need to include the information above, you must also ensure that regulatory text is clearly visible. Additionally, the remaining content that you add to the label for marketing purposes must be compliant as well. That means your label cannot include benefits that may be misconstrued as medical claims. Your design and marketing team must work together to carefully choose your label’s words, font, and layout.
- Panel Size. The label must be large enough so that all required details are prominently displayed.
- Font style & size. Letters must be at least one-sixteenth (1/16) inch in height.
- Label background. The background must be sufficiently contrasted with text for easy reading.
- Label design. FDA required statements cannot be obscured by any design elements
- Label content. Label content cannot make any therapeutic claim that indicates your product works at the physiological level.
State regulations for CBD labels
In addition to federal supplements and cosmetics requirements, you may also need to look at your state’s laws for final labeling guidance. All states have hemp laws in place, but not all states have comprehensive programs that establish CBD labeling requirements. The best way to find out if your state requires additional label elements such as QR codes or state approved seals is to search your state’s Agriculture Department, like Florida’s fdacs.gov . According to Florida’s Agriculture Department representative Maux Flugrath, Florida’s state-regulated hemp products will eventually need to include an approved hemp logo.
It is in this environment of state and federal regulations that you must find a way to design an eye catching label that engenders trust and separates your product from competitors. It’s not simple, but it’s definitely possible.
Tips for Eye Catching & Compliant CBD Labels
Be Unique. Be upfront.
Most companies design their labels with the same basic template: Product name or key ingredient like “CBD” is featured on the front panel while the remaining ingredients and nutrition details are placed on the side information panel. That’s because most companies see an ingredient list as an FDA requirement rather than an opportunity to differentiate their brand.
But what about looking at ingredients (and other regulatory content) from a different perspective? Companies like Upfront Foods and RX Bars are setting themselves apart by designing labels with ingredients at the forefront of their packaging. This is a unique approach to label designs that can draw attention to your CBD product and inspire trust through transparency.
Creatively display key benefits
Regardless of the amazing benefits that CBD is known to deliver, you cannot claim that your product produces therapeutic results. For example, you cannot say that your highly potent CBD gummy infused with melatonin relieves insomnia because insomnia is a medical condition.
But you can design a label that highlights your product’s key benefits and ingredients without using banned medical terms. These key call-outs will help explain how your product works without claiming to cure medical conditions. In the gummy example above, you might add a phrase like “CBD with soothing melatonin” to the front of the label. You might also get creative with your product’s name to hint at the benefits without making any direct health claims. You can tell customers why they may want to try the product, but don’t falsely promise a cure.
Highlight your brand’s key differentiators
Make sure that you prominently display your brand’s value propositions, like packaging that’s made from recycled materials or sugar-free gummies. Below are a few ideas to help you think about call-outs that you can add to your label.
- GMO Free
- Responsibly sourced
- Made from recycled materials
- Free of sugar
- Made in America
Use colors, textures, and fonts to your advantage
Colors textures and font styles can all help your product stand out on shelves. According to research published in the Journal of Marketing and Consumer Research, color can affect a customer’s mood and attract interest. Green is associated with nature and elicits feelings of calmness (perfect for Hemp CBD!) Blue is associated with health and peace. Yellow with cheerfulness. Products with brighter colors also have an advantage over darker colors, according to a psychological study from Avery UK . Another notable finding from Avery was that labels with bold lines, borders and stripes were viewed 42% more than plain labels nearby.
Educate your customer
CBD products are everywhere, so it’s easy to forget that the industry is still SO new and filled with confusion. In a survey by Know Instant Insights, 70% of respondents said they had never tried CBD and only about half said they knew the difference between THC and CBD. This provides an amazing opportunity for you to design a label with concise, conversational language that explains what CBD is and how to use it. For instance, you may want to feature content that explains CBD is a “natural” “non psychoactive” substance extracted from hemp. You can also make it clear that your product is THC-Free.
Advertise your product’s quality
Customers may not understand the benefits of CBD, but they’ve probably heard some of the recent negative headlines related to vaping illnesses and labels with false potency claims. Unfortunately, negative information is what sticks in people’s minds, and it can be difficult to overcome mistrust stemming from a few bad actors.
While the FDA has not issued testing requirements for Hemp CBD in supplements or cosmetics, you can guarantee that your product will stand out if you decide to test with an accredited third party provider, like ACS. Once your product is proven safe, you can add the QR code or testing badge to your label as proof of the results. Adding a testing seal to your uniquely designed label can make all the difference in determining whether or not a customer will trust your product enough to try it.
Before You Hit Print
OK, you’ve designed a beautiful label that stands out and contains all federally required information, in the right font sizes. You’ve also checked to see if your state has any additional labeling requirements. Maybe you even tested your product with ACS and added a QR Code for proof. Your product will likely stand out above the crowd without any risk of compliance issues, but we still recommend you take it a step further. Before printing any labels, you may want to hire an attorney who is familiar with state and federal regulations. Only then can you sleep easy knowing your product is compliant and retail ready.
ACS Laboratory in Tampa, FL – How to Design a Beautiful and Compliant CBD Product Label . We're an ISO17025 Certified laboratory dedicated to servicing the cannabis and hemp industries from cultivation through to MMTCs and recreational dispensaries.
How to read a CBD label
It’s the best of times and the sketchiest of times to shop for CBD. Consumers nowadays have to be savvy readers of CBD product labels, whether shopping online , over the counter, or in licensed adult-use and medical cannabis stores.
CBD is becoming more and more popular today. But are consumers sure of what they’re buying?
Keep an eye out for label must-haves like dosing information, and red flags like vague CBD sourcing. Read on to become fluent in the new language of CBD labels.
CBD label requirements
CBD label requirements vary by state. The strongest label requirements currently come in state-licensed adult-use programs and medical cannabis systems. States like California mandate many label features you’ll read about below.
Beyond state-licensed systems, there are no federal regulations around CBD. But CBD product manufacturers often mimic the look and feel of federal dietary ingredient labels.
The most suspicious CBD product labels won’t look like either a state-licensed product or a mainstream food label. A vape cart available online called “Morgue Juice” that says it contains “hemp oil” may contain CBD, or it may not.
What’s one dose of CBD? How many doses are in a package? Now you’ve got your thinking cap on.
CBD dosage is the most important thing a label can tell you, including the total milligrams (mg) of CBD in the entire package, plus serving size, mgs per serving, and number of servings. One note, though: Leafly tests have found that CBD labels are often inaccurate.
(Leafly) A CBD product label showing amount of CBD per serving, serving size, servings per container, other ingredients, and a QR code.
Milligrams of CBD
Every CBD product package should clearly state the total amount of CBD in milligrams contained in the entire package. A milligram is one-thousandth of a gram.
Serving size/servings per container
Nearly as important as total CBD is the serving size, amount of CBD per serving, and the number of servings in a package.
- The serving size lets you know what one serving is (for example, one gummy bear is a common serving size).
- The amount of CBD per serving is what that gummy will contain (i.e., 10 mg).
- The number of servings per package is pretty self-explanatory (i.e., 30 gummies per package).
State-licensed and medical cannabis systems generally set one dose of CBD at 10 mg. But there is no standard dose of CBD. Your desired dose will vary by condition, weight, route of administration, and other factors.
CBD oil source
Exactly where the CBD comes from is important, too.
CBD products in the medical and adult-use cannabis markets come from plants bred for strong effects, aromas, and flavors. They often contain THC, cannabis’ main active ingredient, which causes euphoria. By contrast, hemp-derived CBD comes from industrial hemp plants consisting of less than 0.3% THC.
Other important pieces of jargon include “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum,” versus “CBD isolate.”
- Full spectrum CBD includes trace levels of other cannabinoids and terpenes, including THC.
- Broad spectrum CBD includes trace levels of other cannabinoids and terpenes, but no THC.
- CBD isolate consists of nearly pure CBD crystals with no other cannabinoids and terpenes.
No overarching federal authority polices the use of these terms, unlike, for example, the USDA with the designation “organic.”
One red flag for a label: vague CBD sourcing or no mention of CBD at all. Watch out for “hemp extract” or “hemp oil.” By using these phrases, the manufacturer is deflecting any claim to deliver actual CBD. Amazon.com is loaded with low-quality “hemp oil” products that make medical claims but contain no CBD.
Looking for legal cannabis? Leafly has all your local menus
Important things to look out for
Batch and lot number
Advanced state-licensed adult-use or medical cannabis systems mandate batch and lot numbers on product packages, including CBD products. For consumers, batch and lot numbers are a sign of accountability. If there’s a recall, regulators can hold an entire batch or lot. Without a batch and lot number, no one can tell when or where it was made.
Depending on the product and how you store it, CBD degrades over time. The manufacturing date is a great way to know how old a product is. When it comes to CBD-rich flower, the fresher, the better. CBD tinctures and edibles should be consumed within months, not years.
State-licensed cannabis product manufacturers must list their license number on the label, to distinguish themselves from non-licensed makers. Look for a name and series of numbers—most states allow you to look up licensees by their number.
A third-party certification attests to the accuracy of the manufacturer’s label claims. Testing for adult-use and medical cannabis is a legally mandated form of third-party certification. Outside the state systems, several voluntary, private third-party certification programs exist, including Leafly’s new Leafly Certified Lab program.
One popular type of third-party certification is a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from a cannabis testing lab. Lab quality varies, however. Beware of recycled, old COAs attached to current inventory.
Other good stuff to look out for
Beyond raw CBD oil or CBD isolate, most CBD products are going to come with other ingredients. Gummies will commonly contain glycerin, colors, and flavors. Tinctures often come mixed with some other oil, spirits, or glycerin. Scrutinize other ingredients for quality, purity, and the presence of potential allergens.
Look for special square barcodes that your phone can scan. QR codes are optional, but they remain one of the best ways to assure product quality. Scanning a product’s QR code will usually download its test results—a great sign of quality.
CBD has drug interactions and is not for everyone. Read and heed common sense warnings and disclaimers.
Beyond license numbers, basic contact information like a website for a CBD product’s maker should be on the label. This info allows consumers to better research the product and make an informed choice.
CBD ingredients to avoid
Watch out for the aforementioned “hemp oil” and “hemp extract”—two vague terms commonly used on products with zero CBD.
In CBD vape pens, avoid additives—including thinners, thickeners, flavorings, vitamins, or other essential oils. According to media reports, people are selling all manner of liquids in vapes as wellness products, and FDA oversight is severely lacking. Colorado cannabis regulators intend to ban three problematic vape pen additives: PEG, MCT oil, and tocopheryl-acetate. Washington state banned tocopheryl-acetate earlier this week. Other states will likely follow.
Vaguely worded “natural ingredients” are another red flag on CBD vapes. Many “natural ingredients”—like vegetable oil—do not belong in a vape.
CBD oil and other products come in myriad packaging—here’s the keys to deciphering CBD labels for what you need to know.