- SmartLabel is gradually gaining consumer acceptance, and information is now available on about 14,000 different food products via QR codes, Julie Savoie, director of industry affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said earlier this month during a GMA meeting in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, according to Food Business News.
- Those 14,000 products now in the SmartLabel system contrast with about 2,000 that used it last year. They include 410 brands and 35 parent companies, versus 70 brands and 13 companies a year ago.
- Despite virtually no educational outreach about the service to date, Savoie said there were 400,000 visits to SmartLabel from May through July. She noted that a "substantial consumer awareness campaign" would begin late this year or in early 2018.
This recent status report on the SmartLabel initiative, which is being spearheaded by GMA, indicates that it is becoming more popular — although customer knowledge of its existence — let alone how to access and use it — is spotty at best.
The situation echoes the findings of a mandated study on the GMO labeling law released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That report revealed that technical problems, inadequate grocery store infrastructure, and lack of consumer awareness that QR codes are there and what they're for, have combined to limit its potential.
However, as more companies implement SmartLabel — and eventually the GMO disclosure, which according to the law can exist in a smartphone-accessable format — on their products, educational campaigns could make the QR code as easily noticed and understood as Nutrition Facts or ingredient information.
Consumers with smartphones, computers or tablets have a lot to gain by accessing the SmartLabel system. There are 335 different product attributes that can be incorporated into a label, including ingredients, allergen information, health claims, sustainability practices, how animals are treated and usage instructions. Of those, 95 are required by federal law and the rest are voluntary.
The more information available to the public about the food items they buy, the better, and food companies are very aware of this trend. As a result, they are starting to participate more consistently in SmartLabel. If the technical and educational challenges to more fully using it can be adequately addressed, it is likely to be a win-win arrangement for all.