After the Nutrition Labeling Education Act (NLEA) moved out of the headlines food manufacturers nationwide were left with the task of making sure product labels complied with NLEA mandates. And making sure that labels on new products complied too. For Theresa Croteau senior graphic arts coordinator for Hershey Choc-olate U.S.A. that meant big head-aches. As part of the Special Mar-kets Novelty Mer-chandising Group of the Hershey PA-based company Croteau constantly works on new promotional and holiday products. Often these are packaged in unusual-shaped containers that make NLEA compliance with nutrition label formats even more difficult. The obstacle for Croteau (and probably other designers) is to recognize the product and package characteristics that require the selection of one or more of the information panels dictated as part of the Labeling Act. All too often the designers Croteau says would develop a graphic design have it approved through marketing only to have it returned by the legal department because it didn't use the appropriate Nutrition Facts box format for example. That ended when Croteau attended a label design seminar sponsored by the Institute of Packaging Professionals (Herndon VA). With her attendance Croteau received a copy of "Food Label Design a Regulatory Resource Kit" developed by Jean Storlie president of Ithaca NY-based Nutrition Labeling Solutions who also led the seminar. "I wanted to understand what the FDA was doing in layman's terms" Croteau says. "The seminar took much of the legal jargon that had been thrown at me and made it more understandable. "Now I look at the format templates as tools. And the manual takes you step by step through formatting all this information onto your packaging." The kit which sells for $470 includes manuals and software. It is now simplifying the selection of the proper formats for Hershey package graphics. With the software the designer can bring dummy display panels onto a computer screen so the actual ingredients' or Nutrition Facts panels can be created. Once Croteau took the kit to the office she was able to salvage some packaging materials that became obsolete because of the nutrition labeling requirements. "I went ahead and created some labels that had the correct nutrition label formatting and copy. These were printed up and affixed to the obsolete packaging materials that would have been discarded." She estimates this quick exercise saved Hershey $2 not counting the cost of disposal that wasn't required. Since then she's been working on packaging design projects that are still in the conceptual stage. "I'm now able to incorporate the correct information and panels early rather than wait until the legal department reviews finished art." Typically she says the marketers come up with graphic ideas and she adds the required information and format before the project is given to a designer. Thus the designers understand early on what panels they have to design around. "Designers don't like people taking their art and altering it. I'm able to give them the parameters up front" she adds. Croteau says she's documented significant cost avoidance using this process. "This has not only put a feather in my cap but in Hershey's as well. It saves us a tremendous amount of money."