Three questions that can give you the answers you need to label your “food on display” with calories

I recently had the opportunity to work with a large supermarket chain who was preparing for menu labeling. Determining their approach for “self-service foods” and “food on display” was a particular point of interest. The cross-functional team I was working with entered into a fantastic debate and discussion about how to label these items.

The regulation provides some flexibility for these categories as they’ve recognized some venues (like convenience stores and grocery stores) don’t have menus or menu boards to label. If the Common Sense Nutrition Act passes, there may be even more flexibility to go around.

Flexibility is a good thing, but you’ll need a framework to be able to evaluate your choices and find the best approach for your business.

I recommend using these three questions as your guide:

1. Which option will require the least amount of EXTRA materials to be created? Controlling costs will be critical.

2. Which option will require the least amount of versions to maintain? Menu labeling isn’t a one-time event. Increasing your efficiency in maintaining this information will be critical to your long term success.

3. Which option is in service of the consumer? After all, this is about your customer.

For those who are unclear about what your options are with self-service foods and foods on display, send an email to and I’ll get you the specifics.


Cheryl L. Dolven, MS, RDN is a nutrition consultant with over 15 years in corporate dietetics, including experience in packaged foods, retail, and restaurants. In addition to her work in nutrition affairs and food & nutrition communication, Cheryl works with restaurants to guide them through the menu labeling regulation, with the goal of making it manageable for businesses and meaningful for consumers. Cheryl is co-author of Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best Practices for Calculation and Chemical Analysis and was recognized by FSR Magazine as one of its “40 rising stars under 40” in 2014.


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