I went grocery shopping late last night. I didn’t hit the checkout lane until 10 p.m. As I was putting my food on the conveyer belt, I spied one of my weaknesses in the candy display — Peanut M&M’s. It was late. I was tired. I felt like I deserved a treat after the 5 million items crossed off the day’s to-do list. I was saved —believe it or not — by the front-of-package label on the M&M’s.

I wish I had been able to take a photo of the packaging. It was a little larger than the usual flimsy paper packaging (as opposed to the cardboard packaging) that I usually see at in the checkout aisle. On the front, the package was clearly identified as one meant to be shared with someone else. It had two servings in it.

The calorie count was also on the front of the package. There were 240 calories in each serving. Even at 10 p.m., I could do that math quickly. If I grabbed a pack and huffed it down in the car on my drive home, I’d be ingesting 480 calories right before bed. I passed on them.

I’m not sure how good of a marketing tool it is when the front-of-the-package labeling turns a consumer away from buying a product, but I really appreciated that information being on the front.

The problem with package labeling lately has been that the claims often mislead a person into thinking it's a healthy product when that’s not true. The front of the Peanut M&M’s package could have said something like "a source of protein" since peanuts have protein, leading a consumer to think, “Oh, this candy is good for me.”

I’ve gone on record saying that perhaps front-of -packaging labeling should be done away with completely, but I’m not so sure now. Perhaps putting the number of servings in a package along with the calories per serving on all processed foods could be helpful — I, at least found it helpful.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Front-of-package labeling that's useful
Calorie and serving count, not nutrition claims, can help consumers make informed decisions.