Understanding the differences between fixed weight labeling vs. catch weight labeling allows you to more accurately record the exact weight (or "actual weight") of products coming in and going out, offering you an effective data-driven foundation for any changes you might choose to enact. While both measurements have value, the terms yield different data points in context — both of which are equally important to calculating your accurate statement of profit, certain costs, and more.
Below, we’re exploring what fixed weight and catch weight labeling are, the differences between fixed weight labeling vs. catch weight labeling and examples of each. We’ll also look at the role that net weight labeling can play in your logistical and business calculations as a food and beverage manufacturer or distributor.
What Is Fixed Net Weight?
Fixed net weight is often a key step in the production process, in which a label weight is determined before the product or batch leaves the center.
A total quantity reflecting a proper and fair range that the company specifies is determined. It is then confirmed by the conveyor scale, which can indicate if a product or batch is properly in range based on its approximated fixed weight. Finally, the product moves into the next phase of production where a label weight that features the fixed weight labeling value is affixed.
All of this information is usually tracked by a certain scan or code that can easily be read by the machinery in the production process, identifying fixed weight patterns to determine if they are in the appropriate range at every point in the industry process.
One of the benefits to using a fixed net weight system is that you can tailor your approach to weighing and confirmation based on a predetermined appropriate range by specific food product — giving you the opportunity to perfect your end-product before it gets sent to its distribution center(s) and consumers.
As fixed net weight (or net wt) is considered an approximation within a specific food product weight class compared to the more specific catch weight measurement that tracks actual known amount(s), it can be a great way to visually track how much you are releasing (actual output) compared to the total value of your production run — otherwise known as your nominal output. These two calculations play a vital role in determining a product's overall profitability.
What Is Catch Weight?
Catch weight is a more specific measurement of a unique weight by unit or product, and is determined uniquely as each product crosses the conveyor scale. This nearly eliminates the risk of human error and tracks every fluid ounce or decimal fraction of foods leaving the facility. The products still undergo a labeling process, in which all content is defined and labeled by its own unique weight, down to a common or decimal fraction value.
This can be commonly seen with goods such as meat or loose food items, where each product will feature an individual measurement that accurately reflects its quantity. Such declaration allows the consumer to pay based on quantity and unique weight rather than approximate weight, which can lead to more accurate invoicing for smaller food and beverage manufacturing companies.
The Main Difference Between Fixed Weight VS Catch Weight
The main difference between fixed weight labeling vs. catch weight labeling is the degree of specificity that is present in either definition. While fixed weight’s broad nature can be helpful for large-scale food and beverage operations that are looking for different variables to base their reporting on, catch weight labeling is ultimately more specific and accurate, reflecting exactly what the consumer is paying for.
Depending on the context of your use, you might consider either measurement to be equally valuable. However, many consider catch weight to be more valuable to both the consumer and the manufacturer, serving each in multiple different ways.
From a consumer perspective, they benefit from company transparency which results in their confidence (and long-term brand advocacy) — having no doubts that they are getting the exact value and amount of product for the price that they are choosing to pay. From a production and manufacturing perspective, production centers and companies can track exactly how much product is going out and correlate that to the nominal amount shown in inflow and outflow. This allows a greater level of specificity to be taken with any strategies used to fine-tune the production process for greater resource and cost savings.
There are many incidences of fixed weight labeling vs. catch weight labeling that one can encounter daily as a food and beverage manufacturer. These can include:
Meatpacking: Meat is a commodity that is known for both fixed weight labeling and catch weight labeling, and has recently undergone an update from the USDA/FSIS.
Currently, there is no requirement to have a dual unit of measurement present on meat that reflects a fixed weight label (such as net weight: 24 oz (1.5 lbs). Manufacturers may choose to list one or the other based on a fixed weight by batch (not including elements such as held product water in their calculation).
They may also opt for catch weight, which simplifies their product presentation visually, presents a transparent product to their consumers, and offers new opportunities to save on label printing costs.
Bulk products: Many times in the food and beverage world, you’ll encounter bulk products that are calculated by fixed weight rather than catch weight. This can be because it can be more costly, in this case, to comply with a more specific catch weight system. Being off by a certain amount but still within accurate and compliant ranges is a far more cost-effective way to track and sell in bulk for many mid-sized and large-scale manufacturers.
Challenges With Catch Weight
While catch weight is the more specific measurement and offers a range of benefits, it’s important to consider the challenges associated with catch weight. Many producers have noted that it can be prone to errors, as the process is done nearly exclusively with automation and tech. It can also be incredibly labor intensive to set up, verify, and process.
There are also extra costs associated with tracking for reporting purposes. These costs can accrue and result in a fairly heavy bill, which may not be considered a worthwhile expense to some food and beverage manufacturers.
Does Net Weight Include Packaging?
Packaging is not included in net weight. Instead, it’s included in what’s known as the tare weight — which also includes elements such as the box or other packaging material. This is calculated out of a product’s gross weight when the approximation is being given, offering the producer and consumer as accurate of a number as possible.
Why Is Net Weight Important?
Your net weight is a valuable metric to track, as it is a value that can influence your report showing the overall cost of goods sold (also known as COGS). With regular tracking, you can optimize your entire production line to save as much cost as possible — keeping your organization adaptable and lithe in the face of overwhelming industry uncertainty.
Listing net weight can also boost consumer confidence for those who remain savvy around value and food production processes. Because packaging weights and other superficial values aren’t calculated into this end weight, it can still offer your consumer a transparent view into what they are actually paying for when they choose to purchase, similarly to catch weight labeling.
Looking for support with accurate food labeling and tracking for your food and beverage manufacturing operation? Connect with the team at Inecta today. Our comprehensive food ERP system conveniently has included catch weight into the native platform — offering users direct access to one of the most accurate and efficient methods to report and track your product outflow. Visit our website and request a demo to experience the benefits of a centralized food ERP firsthand.