Labelling requirements for confectionery, chocolate and snack food products
On this page
- Common name
- Standardized common names for chocolate and cocoa products
- Modified standardized common names for chocolate products
- "Chocolate" as part of the common name
- Common name for boxed confections
- "Semi-sweet", "bitter-sweet", "sweetened", "sweet"
- Belgian chocolate
- Cocoa versus cacao
- Potato crisps
- Salt and vinegar flavoured chips
- Trail mix
- List of ingredients
- Net quantity
- Percentage statements on nuts
- Nutrition labelling
- Voluntary claims and statements
- Other claims and representations
Confectionery products are foods that are generally recognized as sweet treats, including candy such as lollipops, candy canes, mints, candy floss, nut brittles, toffee, jellies, gummies, jujubes, licorice, fudge and caramels, candy bars, chocolate, chocolate-coated or chocolate-containing treats, chocolate compound confections, fruit snack products such as fruit leathers and fruit flavoured pieces, and frozen confections. Snack foods include foods such as pretzels, nuts, chips, and mixed snacks.
Confectionery and snack food products sold in Canada are subject to the provisions of the:
- Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA)
- Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR)
- Food and Drugs Act (FDA)
- Food and Drug Regulations (FDR)
When sold intraprovincially, confectionery and snack foods are subject to the labelling requirements under the FDA and FDR, as well as specific requirements of the SFCA and the SFCR that apply to prepackaged foods sold in Canada, regardless of the level of trade. Provincial regulations may also have labelling requirements that apply when these products are sold within that province.
Most confectionery products and snack foods are "unstandardized foods", meaning that no standard for composition is provided for them in the FDR, with the exception of mixed nuts and chocolate products such as chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, sweet chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate for which standards are provided in Part B, Division 4 of the FDR.
The labelling requirements detailed in the following section are specific to confectionery and snack food products. Refer to the Industry Labelling Tool for additional core labelling and voluntary claims and statements requirements that apply to all prepackaged foods.
One bite confections
Prepackaged one bite confections, when sold individually, are exempt from the labelling requirements set out in the FDR and the SFCR [B.01.003(1)(a)(i), FDR; 213(a), SFCR]. This exemption includes products such as wrapped mints, caramels, hard candies, individual sticks of gum or balls of bubble gum. A hard candy is considered to be a one bite confection when it is sold by itself, however, a roll of 10 of these candies is not.
Lollipops and suckers are not considered as one bite confections because the stick allows the candy to be removed from the mouth and it is generally recognized that they are intended to be eaten in more than 1 "bite". Candy canes are not considered one bite confections because they are eaten in more than 1 "bite".
When single one bite wrapped candies are sold together in a bag of candies, the product sold (the bag of individual candies) is no longer considered to be a one bite confection. Where more than 1 individual unit is sold together, the information required by the FDA, FDR and the SFCR must be on the outer consumer package (for example, the bag, the pack, the roll).
Standardized common names for chocolate and cocoa products
For chocolate and cocoa products that meet one of the standards in Division 4 of the FDR, the name appearing in bold-faced type that corresponds to that standard is the common name of the food. For example, the common name for a chocolate product meeting the standard provided in section B.04.006 of the FDR is "chocolate", "bittersweet chocolate", "semi-sweet chocolate" or "dark chocolate". Likewise, a chocolate product bearing the common name "milk chocolate" is expected to comply with the standard provided in B.04.008, FDR.
For more information, including placement, language and type size of common name, refer to Common name.
Modified standardized common names for chocolate products
Products with a composition that differs from a standard of identity (for example, added vegetable fats) are unstandardized foods and cannot use a standardized common name on its own. Another common name or a modified standardized common name that reflects how the food differs from the standard must be used.
Modified common name for chocolate containing additional ingredients (such as nuts or raisins)
If a chocolate product contains additional ingredients such as nuts or raisins, this must be indicated in its common name (for example, "dark chocolate with pralines" or "milk chocolate with nuts"). This is necessary to show how the chocolate product deviates from the standard in the FDR.
For more information, refer to Modified standardized common names.
Where ground nuts have been added to chocolate, the common name of the chocolate is not required to include the name of the ground nut. In this case, ground nuts are considered flavouring material, and since the standards for chocolate products in the FDR provide for the addition of flavouring material, no modification of the common name is required. However, an allergen declaration is required in this case. Refer to the Food allergens, gluten and added sulphites section for more information.
In general, for chocolate products, flavouring material is anything that is completely ground, such as hazelnut paste and peanut butter. Foods that are not considered flavouring material include butter or butter oil.
Modified common name for chocolate containing food additive sweeteners
The standards for chocolate, milk chocolate and sweet chocolate in the FDR require the combination of 1 or more of the listed cocoa products with a sweetening ingredient (and milk ingredient, in the case of milk chocolate). "Sweetening ingredient" is defined in section B.04.001 of the FDR as meaning any 1 or any combination of sweetening agents, except for icing sugar. "Sweetening agent" is defined in B.01.001(1) as including any food for which a standard is provided in Division 18, but does not include those food additives listed in the lists of permitted food additives. This definition is interpreted to mean that a sweetening agent is not limited to those listed in Division 18 (for example, maple syrup and glucose-fructose are sweetening agents that may be used as sweetening ingredients in chocolate). Concentrated fruit juices are not sweetening agents because they are not traditionally recognized as such, and neither is inulin. Unstandardized sugars such as dried cane sugar are considered sweetening ingredients. However, food additive sweeteners, such as aspartame, sorbitol and sucralose, are specifically excluded from being permitted sweetening ingredients in chocolate, these being food additives.
Chocolate-style confectionery products made with food additive sweeteners are unstandardized foods. These foods must use a modified standardized common name or another accurate description as the common name. For example, acceptable modified standardized common names for a milk chocolate product that is sweetened with maltitol would include "milk chocolate sweetened with maltitol" and "no sugar added milk chocolate", assuming the product meets the criteria for a "no sugar added" nutrient content claim. Note that for chocolatey confectionery products that contain aspartame, sucralose, neotame and/or acesulfame-potassium, additional labelling is required. See Sweeteners for more information.
White chocolate made without cocoa
"White chocolate made without cocoa" is an acceptable common name for a product meeting the chocolate standard except for the absence of cocoa solids.
Chocolate with berries
No objection is taken to the use of the common name "chocolate with (naming the berries)" to describe chocolate that contains berries (for example, blueberries) in powder form only, as opposed to whole berries. Refer to the section on "true, real, genuine" claims for more information on making such claims when the named ingredient is present in any form.
Dark milk chocolate
No objection is taken to the use of "dark milk chocolate" as a common name when used to describe milk chocolate with added cocoa. "Dark milk chocolate" in this case describes what the food actually is, meaning that "milk chocolate" is the standardized chocolate product and "dark" is the colour description that indicates how it differs from the standard, as opposed to plain "dark chocolate".
"Chocolate" as part of the common name
In general, the unqualified term "chocolate" may only be used when referring to food meeting the chocolate standard or as a flavour designation when the chocolate portion is not likely to be mistaken for real chocolate (for example, chocolate pudding, chocolate cake).
Chocolate versus cocoa
Chocolate and cocoa are different products, with chocolate having considerably higher cocoa butter content than cocoa. It should not be implied that products containing cocoa contain chocolate.
Examples of foods that are expected to comply with the chocolate standard when "chocolate" is used as part of the common name include confectionary products and "filled" chocolate products (as in "chocolate filled cookies"). Likewise, a garnish that is referred to as "chocolate shavings" or "chocolate chips" must be real chocolate. In these examples, the foods referred to as chocolate have the texture and appearance of chocolate so are expected to contain ingredients that comply with the chocolate standard.
The term "chocolate" may also be used as a flavour designation when cocoa or chocolate flavour is present and the chocolate portion is not likely to be mistaken for real chocolate due to different texture and other characteristics. Examples include "chocolate pudding", "chocolate cake (mix)", "chocolate icing (frosting)" and "chocolate cookies". If the name is more specific, such as "milk chocolate pudding", then the product would be expected to contain real milk chocolate.
Chocolate coating vs compound coatings
When something is referred to as a chocolate coating, it is expected to comply with the chocolate standard. Compound coatings, which are products having the appearance but not the composition of chocolate, are often used as an outside layer or coating for biscuits, candy and frozen confections or as chips within baked goods. There should be no indication that compound coatings are "chocolate". However, "chocolate flavoured", "chocolate-like" and "chocolaty" have been accepted as appropriate descriptions of such coatings and chips.
Chocolate candy and bars
Only a solid chocolate candy, bar or other completely chocolate product can be labelled "chocolate candy" or "chocolate bar". Candies and candy bars coated with chocolate or milk chocolate should not be called "chocolate candies" or "chocolate bars", but can be named "chocolate coated candies" or "chocolate coated bars", as applicable.
Common name for boxed confections
A box that contains only one type of chocolate product
A box containing only 1 type of chocolate product which meets the chocolate standard can use a common name such as "chocolate" or "chocolate buds". If the box only contains a specific type of chocolate (for example, milk chocolate), a common name that describes the specific type of chocolate present, such as "milk chocolates", would be acceptable, but "chocolates" could not be used as it may be interpreted as being more than 1 specific type of chocolate.
A box that contains more than one type of chocolate
"Chocolates" or "assorted chocolates" are considered acceptable common names for the boxed confections described in the following scenarios:
- a box containing an assortment of chocolate products, all of which meet one of the various chocolate standards in Division 4 of the FDR, for example, a mixture of dark chocolate and milk chocolate
- a box of only filled chocolates (confections with real chocolate coatings)
A box that contains chocolate and confections
When a box contains an assortment of products, some of which meet one of the various chocolate standards in Division 4 of the FDR and others do not, an unstandardized common name such as "confections" may be used.
Alternatively, a common name that accurately reflects the nature of the products contained in the box (whether chocolates make up a majority, minority or equal parts of the box) can be used. For example, "chocolates and confections" is considered as an acceptable common name where chocolates make up a majority, and "confections and milk chocolates" can be used as the common name when a few milk chocolates are present in package containing a majority of confectionary products that do not meet the various chocolate standards.
"Semi-sweet", "bittersweet", "sweetened", "sweet"
The prohibition against claims that characterize the nutrient or energy level in a food in B.01.502 of the FDR does not apply to representations (such as prescribed common names) that are provided for in the FDR. As such, common names such as "semi-sweet chocolate", " bittersweet chocolate", "sweet chocolate" and "unsweetened chocolate" are permitted and no conditions or additional nutrition labelling requirements apply.
"Belgian chocolate" is a claim or statement implying that the chocolate was produced in Belgium by mixing Belgian chocolate liquor with sweetening agents and other ingredients permitted by the chocolate standard. "Belgian chocolate liquor" refers to a particular type of Belgian manufacturing process involving the intensive crushing of selected cocoa beans to produce a soft cocoa mass (chocolate liquor) having a fine texture and a pale colour. A sweetening agent is added to this liquor to produce the characteristic Belgian (sweet) chocolate.
Any chocolate made outside of Belgium by mixing Belgian chocolate liquor with sweetening agents and other ingredients permitted by the chocolate standard should not be referred to as "Belgian chocolate". The addition of ingredients elsewhere affects the origin of the final product. However, this chocolate may be referred to as: "Belgian style chocolate", "Belgian type chocolate", "chocolate made in (naming the country) using the Belgian process", "contains Belgian unsweetened chocolate", "contains Belgian bitter chocolate", "contains Belgian chocolate liquor", and so on.
"Chocolate" and "chocolate liquor" are not synonymous; the former must be sweetened and meet the standard found in section B.04.006, FDR and the latter must comply with the standard found under section B.04.004, FDR.
Cocoa versus cacao
In English, the term "cacao" may be used on labels to refer to cocoa solids, except in the list of ingredients and common name where the name in bold face type, "cocoa" or "cocoa powder", must be used [B.04.010, FDR].
Although the term "cacao" was removed from the English version of the Canadian regulations, it is acceptable to be used interchangeably with the term "cocoa" on other parts of a label. With respect to claims, a percent statement such as "X% cacao" is permitted provided that the claim is factual. This is a common declaration seen on dark chocolate products.
In Canada, "goober" is not an acceptable common name to replace the name "peanut". While the term "goober" is commonly used and understood in the southern United States, this is not the case in Canada. No objection is taken to the supplemental term "goober" as additional information provided that an acceptable common name is present.
For information on allergen labelling of peanuts, see the List of ingredients and allergens page.
In the absence of medicinal or therapeutic claims, there is no objection to the use of "lozenge" as a common name.
The common name "potato crisps" is an acceptable alternative common name for "potato chips" on Canadian labels. In French, the terms "croustilles" and "chips" are both acceptable.
Salt and vinegar flavoured chips
Potato chips flavoured with acetic acid rather than vinegar must not be described as "salt and vinegar". They may be described as "salt and vinegar flavoured potato chips", "salt and simulated vinegar potato chips", "salt and imitation vinegar potato chips" or "salt and artificial vinegar potato chips". In the list of ingredients, the ingredient name "acetic acid" should be used, not "simulated vinegar flavour".
No objection is taken to a common name such as "trail mix" or "harvest blend". It is not necessary to include additional words or descriptions, such as "snack" or a partial list of ingredients. These common names are considered to be the names by which these foods are generally known. The specific content of these mixes can be determined from the list of ingredients.
List of ingredients
Exemptions from component declaration
When added as ingredients, the components of cocoa and low-fat cocoa are not required to be shown in the ingredients list [item 19, table to B.01.009(1), FDR].
Cocoa as flavour
Cocoa cannot be declared as "flavour" at the end of a list of ingredients. Even though cocoa lends flavour to a product, it must be declared by its prescribed common name "cocoa" in descending order of proportion by weight in the list of ingredients.
Cocoa requires a list of ingredients, and the ingredient list must state whether the cocoa has been processed with one of the alkaline processing agents described in B.04.005, FDR. It does not have to be described, for example, as "dutch", "dutched", "dutch processed" or "processed with alkali", although no objection would be taken to the use of such descriptive terms.
"Confectioner's glaze" is the name of a food additive (glazing agent) typically encountered on labels for US confections. The acceptable common name for this food additive in Canada is "shellac".
Chocolate fillings – nitrogen declaration
When nitrogen is used to fluff up a chocolate filling, it is considered to be an ingredient of the filling and is therefore required to be shown in the list of ingredients. When the filling is used as an ingredient in another food, the nitrogen must be shown as a component of the filling.
Manner of declaring
Subparagraph 231(b)(ii) of the SFCR provides for net quantity to be declared according to the established trade practices in some situations. Information on established trade practices for confectionery products such as hard candies, chewing gum and candy floss can be found in the Established trade practices table of the Net quantity page.
Percentage statements on nuts
The percentage and common name of the type of nut that is present in a mixed nut product in the greatest amount by weight must be declared on the principal display panel near the common name of the product. This applies to both mixed nuts in the shell and mixed nuts which have been shelled, as the regulation does not specify the form of the nuts [B.01.071, FDR].
Exemption from the requirement for a Nutrition Facts table
Confectionery and snack food products are often prepackaged in very small packages. When the label of a prepackaged product has an available display surface of less than 15 cm2, it is always exempt from displaying a Nutrition Facts table, even when it contains aspartame, neotame, sucralose or acesulfame-potassium, or meets any other conditions listed in B.01.401(3) [B.01.469, FDR].
This exemption is not limited to one bite confections sold individually, but also applies, for example, to very small packages of gum, rolls of hard candy and very small packages of mints.
Basis of Nutrition Facts table information – chocolates
Nutrient content information for a box of assorted chocolates may be presented either as a composite value for all of the chocolates, using the standard, horizontal or linear Nutrition Facts table format, or separately for each variety of chocolate, using the aggregate format - different kinds of foods.
The above would also apply to a prepackaged product consisting of assorted chocolates sold within a chocolate shell (for example, assorted chocolates within a heart-shaped chocolate shell).
See Nutrition labelling for more information.
Voluntary claims and statements
Calcium enriched claim on pretzels
Calcium may be added to the flour that is used to make pretzels, in the amount permitted under the flour standard. Pretzels cannot carry claims such as 'calcium enriched'. Claims that are permitted include 'good' or 'excellent' source of calcium claims permitted by the FDR when conditions are met. See the section on Vitamin and mineral nutrient claims for more information.
For products such as gums, a health claim about a non-cariogenic substance is possible under some conditions. See the Disease risk reduction claims table for more information.
Other claims and representations
Chocolate pictures on food products
Certain foods whose flavour is derived from ingredients such as cocoa powder or chocolate extract do not contain any chocolate. In these cases, a picture of actual chocolate (for example, chunks or bars) may only be used if it does not create an overall impression that chocolate is an ingredient.
See General requirements for pictures, vignettes and logos for more information.
- Chocolate product
- "Chocolate product" means a product derived from 1 or more cocoa products and includes chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, sweet chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate [B.04.001, FDR].
- Cocoa product
- "Cocoa product" means a product derived from cocoa beans and includes cocoa nibs, cocoa liquor, cocoa mass, unsweetened chocolate, bitter chocolate, chocolate liquor, cocoa, low fat cocoa, cocoa powder and low fat cocoa powder [B.04.001, FDR].
- Sweetening ingredient
- "Sweetening ingredient" means any 1 or combination of sweetening agents, except for icing sugar [B.04.001, FDR].
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