Average Weight or Minimum Weight for Your Packages?

First Published: July 5, 2024

The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) employ different systems for regulating packaged product weights, each with its own rules and requirements. Here’s a quick review of the EU average weight system and the US minimum weight system to see which is best for manufacturers and consumers.

EU Average Weight System (e-mark)

The EU regulates packaged goods using an “average weight” system, also known as the “e-mark” system. This system is designed to ensure that packages contain at least the declared quantity on average while allowing for some variation in individual package weights.

Key features of the EU system include:

The e-mark: Products packed according to the average weight system can display the lowercase “e” symbol next to the declared weight or volume.

Three Packers’ Rules: Manufacturers must comply with these rules:

 The actual contents of the packages must not be less, on average, than the nominal specified pack weight.

No more than 2.5% of packages can be short of the stated weight by more than the Tolerable Negative Error (TNE).

 No package can be underweight by more than twice the TNE.

Tolerable Negative Error (TNE): This is the acceptable deviation below the declared quantity, which varies based on the nominal quantity.

Quantity range: The system applies to packages with nominal quantities between 5g/ml and 10kg/L.

Flexibility: This system allows for some underweight packages as long as the average meets or exceeds the declared quantity.

US Minimum Weight System

The US system, overseen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), uses a “minimum weight” approach, also known as the “Maximum Allowable Variation” (MAV) system.

Key features of the US system include:

Minimum weight requirement: Every package must contain at least the declared net quantity of contents.

Maximum Allowable Variation (MAV): While the contents of a package should be at least the number stated on the label, there is a little wiggle room, the Maximum Allowable Variation. This is the permitted negative error in package contents. Unlike the EU system, the US MAV is not based on a percentage of packages but applies to each individual package.

Maximum Allowable Variation (MAV): The maximum amount the actual net weight of an individual package or container may be under its labeled weight. It represents the maximum underweight or short weight a package can be and still be considered “reasonable” under good manufacturing processes.


Average requirement: The average net quantity of contents in a lot, shipment, or delivery must equal or exceed the labeled net quantity.

Stricter individual package requirements: Each package must meet the minimum weight, making the US system potentially more stringent for individual packages.

No equivalent to the “e” mark: The US does not have a symbol equivalent to the EU’s “e” mark.

Key Differences

Philosophical approach: The EU system focuses on the average weight of a batch, while the US system emphasizes the minimum weight for each package.

Tolerance for underweight packages: The EU system allows for some underweight packages as long as the average is maintained, while the US system requires each package to meet the minimum weight.

Marking: The EU has the “e” mark to indicate compliance with the average weight system, which is not present in the US system.

Flexibility: The EU system potentially offers more flexibility in packaging processes, as it allows for some variation, while the US system is more rigid in its requirements for individual packages.

Consumer protection: The US system may offer stronger protection for individual consumers, as each package must meet the minimum weight. However, the EU system aims to balance consumer protection with practical considerations in manufacturing processes.

International trade implications: Products complying with the EU system may not automatically comply with US requirements, and vice versa, which can impact international trade.

How To Minimize Giveaway With Minimum Weigh System

Since no filling system is perfect, there will always be a fill weight or volume distribution, usually following a distribution curve, as shown above.

While a filling system following the e-mark average weight rule can produce very close to zero giveaways, the minimum weight model always produces some overweight packages (giveaways).

Ensuring the distribution curve is as narrow as possible reduces this excess product, so it is an important place to start. In many cases, the savings involved could quickly create a positive ROI on new, more accurate filling equipment.

In some cases, manufacturers can set their filler system to fill slightly less product than normal. This would produce underweight packages that are then identified and diverted to a secondary filler to bring the contents up to the stated weight.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while both systems aim to protect consumers and ensure fair trade, they approach the issue of package weight regulation differently.

Companies that use the e-mark system can minimize the amount of excess product they need to give away and can sell their products in each of the EU countries without worrying about different rules for each.

The minimum weight system, on the other hand, provides consumers confidence that the amount of product they purchase meets the printed value of the package.

Companies operating in both markets need to be aware of these differences and may need to adjust their packaging processes accordingly.

Further Reading

e-mark rules from the EU site.

Guide for Labeling Consumer Package by Weight, Volume, Count, or Measure

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