E-labels are coming, but do we really need or want them? Or will they be just a marketing ploy?
E-labels: What are they?
E-labels have been around in the medical device world for many years now with both EU and FDA regulations. These electronic labels will soon be available and found on food products in your local stores, thus meeting the need for greater transparency of information and traceability. Consumers will be able to access additional product/producer information by simply clicking on a link or scanning a label’s QR code. This will then direct them to a webpage with further information.
E-labels will display the same regulative data shown on current packaging but will include other additional information, such as:
- Allergen inclusions
- Country of origin of production
- Genetically modified organism (GMO)
- Social responsibility
- Farm, grower, producer
- Batch and lot numbers
E-labels for the consumer
E-labels will give consumers additional and easier-to-understand information on products, providing them with a more informed choice. But without regulation, where will this stop? Do we really want to know that the meat we are just about to eat came from Dolly? Or that our potato chips can be traced back to 12 Acre Farm who grew the potatoes in Italy? One thing is for sure, they will provide an opportunity for building confidence in the supply chain, traceability and food governance that has, to date, been sadly missing.
E-labels for the retailer
The retailers can only gain, with the click or the scan taking consumers to pages of information where they can provide feedback on what they like and what they don’t. Data capturing websites that will allow them to market similar or ‘on offer’ products and consumer profile analysis will enable ever-more focused sales and new product development direction.
E-labels for the producer
The producers will surely burden the cost and need to invest to provide the capability, new printing and labeling machines or specialist labeling integrations. Producers will also need to provide up-to-date websites or data streams to supply content. But there are opportunities for producers as well, especially for branded products where retailer influence is minimal:
- Instant access to recall information
- Marketing of similar products and promotions
- Providing recipes to drive future purchases
- Building trust on their ethicacy and wellness of their products
- Providing openness to build brand loyalty
So, what’s next?
Producers need to look to their IT solution providers to understand how they can help to provide capabilities to store and deliver the labeling information. It will be important to keep a watching brief on legislation and, where possible, start an e-labeling project since early adopters are likely to be rewarded by improved sales, especially among the millennials.
There are concerns that this technology will discriminate against the poor who may not possess a smartphone and whether the average consumer will even care. Whatever the answers to these questions are, e-labels are coming and will bring about a transparency in the food industry as never seen before.
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