I have developed a hot sauce that I think is delicious and now I want to prepare to sell it through the local stores and markets. Selling hot sauce in stores will need nutritional labeling per FDA guidelines. Here are the methods to use to determine the nutritional contents of your hot sauce to be printed on an FDA supported label.

Laboratories will test hot sauce samples and provide the data that is needed per FDA food nutritional label guidelines. These tests can also be performed based on a recipe if there are not any complicated processes associated with it. Costs for theses tests, and others can vary from $100 for pH testing or $225 to $850 for nutritional label testing.

How do I know the nutritional benefits of my hot sauce?

While making your sauce either from contents in the recipe or from the process, you probably have a good idea whether it is healthy or not and what some of the nutritional benefits are. Obviously adding sugar adds calories but adding peppers and other fruits and vegetables can add, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Some of these nutritional benefits, as well as some other nutritional information, will not be known to you through taste testing.

If you intend to sell your hot sauce outside of farmers markets or outside of your circle of friends than your hot sauce will have to be labeled correctly with exactly what the nutritional contents are. Unless you have expensive high-tech laboratory equipment or access to a laboratory, you will have to have it tested through a test site that provides this service.  

How do I test hot sauce for nutritional contents?

Testing the nutritional contents (and other things like pH and shelf life) of your hot sauce can be done in laboratories specifically set up to provide these services to manufacturers producing and selling food products. The costs and time frame of receiving results can vary depending on the type of testing that you are requesting.

Typically shelf life testing and pH testing will require the submission of samples but nutritional tests for labeling can be done with the submission of a recipe card if it does not go through elaborate processing methods. Reports in the form of PDF files can be emailed in 3 to 5 business days whereas results from samples testing could take weeks.

If your sauce needs special processing like fermentation or a cooking reduction process than it would not be eligible for the recipe card submission at most labratories. Other processes that would not qualify for recipe testing are dehydration, pickling or anything that contains alcohol. A physical sample of the hot sauce would need to be sent to the lab in their pre-approved containers, usually non-breakable such as plastic.

Most laboratories will provide you with a PDF Report of the nutritional analysis and a nutritional label and some labs will provide you with up to three different sized labels. These labels will most likely also be sent in PDF format and will have to be converted to another format for printing.

What to test for?

The general results for what an FDA compliant lab will test for are the same due to the FDA guidelines but there may be some other outcomes that could be beneficial to your label. If you intend to label your sauce fat free or low calorie than these claims need to be validated through testing.

Nutritional label

This type of testing can often be done with a simple recipe and this can also provide you with the label requirements needed. Some labs may require additional information such as pictures or other documentation about the ingredients.

Nutritional analysis

This is an analysis of the nutritional contents of your hot sauce to include carbohydrates, trans fats and some vitamins. These tests are not designed to measure the heat level of sauce or any other claims relating to taste.

This can be a complicated and time-consuming process but it can also be complete and thorough analysis of the elements that your hot sauce contains. The simple process of cooking hot peppers could be considered a “gray area” and my not clearly be defined as a process that needs nutritional analysis.

Shelf life testing

Shelf life testing will give you the expiration date for your product. This is good to include on your product but it is not in the FDA Label Guide. Most hot sauces will have an extended shelf life to them if they include contents and packaging to provide preservation to give them a realistic expiration date.

Most condiments, dips and dressings will have this on their label or bottle. Hot sauce has one of the longest expiration dates among other condiments. Although a hot sauce may not need this type of testing or information on the label, it is still good to know.

pH testing

You may have been doing some pH testing of your hot sauce on your own. Some of these meters are relatively inexpensive but may not be precisely as accurate as laboratory testing. A one-time pH test through a laboratory may be beneficial to validate any of the “home” testing you have been doing. Samples would need to be provided for pH testing but turnaround time may be much quicker.

Where do I send my hot sauce for nutrition testing?

Get your sauce tested for nutritional content at an FDA approved laboratory throughout the US, Canada and Europe. RL Food Laboratory is an FDA compliant laboratory located in the US and they offer pH testing, shelf life, and nutrition testing as well as other food related testing services. Cost are about $1,700 per sample if you request a complete testing package. If you have a basic sauce recipe as stated above, costs can be greatly reduced by sending the recipe card instead of the sample. Other laboratories offer similar services but prices may vary from lab to lab.

Nutritional Testing Laboratories

LabLocation Contact Email
RL Food Testing LaboratoryCalifornia, USA 1 800 753 6631 Contact page
Food LabCalifornia, USA 1 855 366 3522 info@foodlab.com
ESHA ResearchSalem, OR 1 503 585 5543 sales@esha.com
Certified LaboratoriesNY, CA, IL 1 800 237 8522 corp@certified- laboratories.com
Medallion LabsMinnesota, USA 1 800 245 5615 info@medlabs.com
MicrobacUSA 1 607 753 3403 Contact page
Contract LaboratoriesGlobal 1 855 377 6821 Contact page
Merieux Nutri SciencesChicago, USA N/A Contact page

Standard nutritional content on a label

The FDA requires the nutritional content of all foods products sold to be labeled with nutritional content, including hot sauce. I have written extensively about a number of ingredients in a traditional hot sauce of hot peppers and vinegar. You may think there is not much nutritional value in these two ingredients but that is not the reason for the label.

The easiest way to determine what is required on your hot sauce nutritional label is to read the label of a top selling product. Most nutritional labels will have the same items listed. This gives a good idea what you are actually testing your sauce for. A lab report can contain scientific information, symbols and figures that could be difficult to interpret.

What is listed on a nutritional label?

The FDA has specific guidelines for food product labels to include the product display, nutritional facts and ingredients. Read more on these guidelines here or you can find an FDA compliant laboratory in the table above.

How much does it cost to have my hot sauce tested for nutritional contents?

The cost of having your hot sauce tested vary depending on what you are testing for. The most inexpensive way to receive an FDA approved label (the FDA does not approve labels but offers a strict guideline) is to submit a recipe card indicating the ingredients in your sauce. This can range in pricing from $150.00 to $225.00 or more depending on the laboratory.

This is more than just your grandmother handwritten recipe card and will be a different format for any laboratory that you choose. Nutritional labels that require a sample to be submitted can cost $500.00 to $850.00 but is a much more accurate result than a recipe submission.

Does hot sauce label need FDA approval?

The FDA does not approve labels. The NLEA (National Labeling and Education act) requires specific content on labels. The FDA does provide the guidance for the food labeling regulations. New regulations may be published under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations but it the responsibility of the anyone manufacturing and producing these foods to be current.

Don’t make labels based on a guess of ingredients and don’t mislabel

The FDA, under state guided inspections, will issue warning letters if your hot sauce product is mislabeled through sample testing. Corrected labels will need to be provide in the time period specified, usually under a year. Penalties such as seizure or interjection could be applied.

The process of correcting the mislabel could be costly and time consuming. This could include re inspection costs. Know your label requirements from the beginning through a FDA compliant testing laboratory.

CID (Commercial Item description)

Commercial item description is for grades and standards and not any label requirements. This is the classified description of the type of hot sauce that your product is and this information is used across multiple governmental agencies. These documents are mainly used by schools, hospitals or the military as well as other established facilities.

Are labels required on food for sale?

The FDA requires packaged food for sale in stores to be labeled and they have extensive label requirements. Some vitamins and minerals are no longer required on these labels but ingredients, nutritional facts and serving size are.

These requirements are very detailed and go beyond simply including the nutritional content. You may have noticed the labels on popular condiments all have the same nutritional items listed. Labels need the nutritional content, ingredients and display panel, all with detailed requirements.

Save costs on nutritional labeling

Websites offer nutritional labels that only require the user to download their recipe contents. ReciPal.com is one such site where you can upload your recipe information and receive a nutritional label. This is an alternate method of getting your sauce labeled and could be suspect of an audit. The more precise you are with providing an accurate recipe, the more accurate your nutritional label will be.

Recipal is not a fool proof cost saving tool for your nutritional labeling. Laboratories can provide the same nutritional labels based on recipes as stated above. The last thing you want when your hot sauce is in full sales mode is to have the nutritional label audited by the FDA.

Take the labeling guidelines seriously and don’t cut corners because you think you know the contents of your sauce. Labels are common on all food products for sale so get your sauce tested so you can compete with some name brand manufacturers.

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