2 Essential Copywriting Checklists for Natural Health Product Packaging

 The thing about writing copy for packaging is that there's no room for error. Get it right the first time by using these checklists.

The thing about writing copy for packaging is that there's no room for error. Get it right the first time by using these checklists.

The past few months have been packaging intensive. I've written and proofed copy for several natural health products including Heavenly Sleep, Natural Calm, and SuperLeaf Moringa. In the process I've put together two checklists based on lessons learned.

The first checklist is a guideline for proofing natural health product packaging. It's amazing how checking the barcode or the NPN number can slip when you're focused on other aspects, like layout or the packaging copy itself. A checklist will give you a little more peace of mind when faced with the ever-fraught task of approving final art.

The second checklist goes a little beyond copy. It's an end-to-end packaging design and production process, specifically for natural health products in Canada. I put it together to illustrate how copywriting fits into the end-to-end process.

It's astonishing how many steps there are to finalizing a package. And the lead times are always longer than you imagined. To have a pouch printed, like the one pictured below, takes about 30 business days and we had an expedited service from the good people at Pouch Makers, out of Mississauga. 

 My most recent natural health product packaging copywriting project: SuperLeaf Moringa Plus.

My most recent natural health product packaging copywriting project: SuperLeaf Moringa Plus.

If parts of your packaging are sourced overseas, the lead times can be even longer. Certain parts of tea bags, for example, are almost invariably manufactured in Asia and can take three months!

My key lesson from a process perspective is to start early. Whether you're the copywriter, the designer or play another role, you don't want to be rushed. The price of errors is too high when it comes to packaging. 

Natural Health Product Packaging Must-Have's

  • Logo
  • Product name, if different from product description
  • Product description: what is in, in plain language
  • Barcode
  • NPN number/product number
  • Weight/volume and optionally the number of servings or supply in days
  • Distributed by/Imported by address and phone number
  • Medicinal ingredients
  • Non-medicinal ingredients
  • Recommended dose
  • Nutritional Facts Table (if applicable)
  • The dose (make it easy by including common kitchen equivalents, not just weight/volume)
  • Directions for use
  • Cautions/warnings/contraindications
  • Known adverse reactions

While the above are the absolute essentials, you should also include Benefits (e.g. "No Bloating"), Features (e.g. "Fermented") and Reasons to Believe (e.g. "Award-Winning"), which are the pillar messages about your product.

Steps to Getting Your Product Packaging Finalized

1.    Determine packaging specs:


o    What are the standards in the industry for this type of product?
o    What are the freshness/product preservation requirements?
    Does it need to be protected from light?
    How can contamination be minimized?
    Is it sensitive to oxygen degradation?
    Is it sensitive to humidity?

o    Are there any additional elements that can be added to help the consumer make the best use of the product? e.g. a peel-off recipe
o    The above will inform:
    Nature of packaging materials
    Size/dimensions
    Inner/outer packaging requirements
    Additional items: scoop/measuring utensil, oxygen absorber pouches, other

2.    Contract with packaging manufacturer:


o    Brief candidate manufacturers on scope of work, quantities, deadline
o    Obtain quotes
o    Negotiate details
o    Prepare and issue Purchase Order
o    Make deposit, if required
o    Obtain dielines from packaging manufacturer (your designer will need them)

3.    Procure additional items not provided by packaging manufacturer, e.g. oxygen absorbers, scoops

4.    Contract with co-packer:


o    Brief candidate manufacturers on scope of work, quantities, deadline
o    Obtain quotes
o    Negotiate details
o    Prepare and issue Purchase Order
o    Make deposit, if required

5.    Contract with packaging designer/ design agency:

o    Brief candidates on scope of work, quantities, deadline
o    Obtain quotes
o    Negotiate details
o    Prepare and issue Purchase Order
o    Make deposit, if required

6.    Obtain barcode and SKU

7.    If a licensed Natural Health Product, review product license and extract the necessary copy from the following:

o    Product number/NPN
o    Recommended dose
o    Recommended use
o    Cautions and warnings
o    Known adverse reactions
o    Medicinal ingredients
o    Non-medicinal ingredients

8.    Review health claims guidelines by Health Canada

9.    Confirm medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients with manufacturer

10.    Request status certificates from manufacturer on the following (pay for tests, if required):

o    Vegan
o    Non-GMO
o    Gluten-free
o    Certified organic
o    Other

11.    Draft copy based on:

o    Review of product license
o    Review of competitor products
o    Product positioning/concept documents

12.    Have copy reviewed by regulatory consultants (optional)

13.    Review and finalize copy 

14.    Send English copy for French translation

15.    Prepare and present creative brief to packaging design company. This should include:

o    Translated final copy
o    Any brand guidelines, including palette, fonts, logo usage
o    Any jpegs that must be included, e.g. logo, icons
o    Creative specifications, e.g. the ‘look’ (ideally illustrated by examples from other packaging)
o    Background information on the personality of the brand, the target audience, the marketing strategy, what about the product is different/new and should be highlighted

16.    Review drafts of packaging art, as per checklist above

People who review the package should include:

o    The copywriter and/or marketing lead
o    The translator
o    The product development project lead and/or operations lead
o    The packaging manufacturer
o    The product manufacturer
o    Someone who has never seen the copy

 Here's an example of what 'flat' package art looks like once your designer has laid it out for printing. 

Here's an example of what 'flat' package art looks like once your designer has laid it out for printing. 

17.    Sign-off on final packaging art

18.    Issue final art on dielines to packaging manufacturer

19.    Review and sign-off on proofs from packaging manufacturer

20.    Arrange shipment of finished packaging to product manufacturer/co-packer

It's a lot! 

I'll be working with my clients as well as the packaging partners to keep improving our process, and as I learn I'll update this post.

If you have any questions or comments, share them here. I'd love to learn from your experience with packaging.

And if you need help with the copy for your package, drop me a line.

Best, 

Anna O'Byrne

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