Industry News / Food Safety / Bar Codes/Labeling

Grocery Manufacturers Reveal SmartLabel QR Code

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Dec 02, 2015

The Grocery Manufacturers Assn. (GMA) today (Dec. 2) unveiled SmartLabel, a QR code that can give consumers detailed information about the grocery store products they buy … including, presumably, the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

"This transformative new program, created by manufacturers and retailers, enables consumers to get additional details about products by scanning a bar code or doing an online search to reach a landing page with information on ingredients and other attributes of a wide range of food, beverage, pet care, household and personal care products," the association said. "It is designed so consumers can easily have access to a wide variety of information but can hone in on a question they have on an ingredient or product in just one or two clicks."

The association, which represents the largest food & beverage companies in Washington, said more than 30 major companies already committed to taking part in what it called "the transparency initiative."

The potential information could include nutritional information, ingredients, allergens, third-party certifications, social compliance programs, usage instructions, advisories and safe handling instructions and company/brand information.

Each individual product in the SmartLabel program will have a specific landing page with the detailed information from the manufacturer. All SmartLabels will look alike and each SmartLabel landing page will be organized in a similar format, whether the consumer is looking at a gallon of ice cream or a gallon of laundry detergent.

In addition to the QR code on the package, which can be read by most smartphones, consumers could use normal web search to find the SmartLabel landing page, or find it via a participating company’s web site. Eventually there will be an app. A number of retailers said they will help shoppers without smartphones via their customer service desk in stores.

Some companies will offer products using SmartLabel before the end of this year, with projections of nearly 30,000 total products using SmartLabel by the end of 2017. Early estimates indicate that within five years, more than 80 percent of the food, beverage, pet care, personal care and household products that consumers buy will be using SmartLabel.

"Many companies will disclose GMO ingredients, but want [a] uniform standard," the GMA release noted. "Overall, companies are projecting that, by the end of 2017, they will disclose via SmartLabel whether 20,000 food products do, may or do not contain ingredients sourced from genetically engineered (GE) crops, commonly known as GMOs. Current estimates indicate that number could triple once a uniform national standard is set for GMOs.

"GMA and a wide range of agriculture and business groups are urging Congress to pass legislation setting a uniform national standard for GMO labeling to replace a patchwork of state labeling mandates that vary from state to state."

More than 30 of the nation’s major food, beverage and consumer products companies already are committed to using it: ConAgra Foods, Hormel Foods, Campbell Soup Co., Knouse Foods, Land O’Lakes, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Hershey, J.M. Smucker Co., Kellogg Co., General Mills, McCormick & Co., Bimbo Bakeries USA, Bruce Foods Corp., Bumble Bee Seafoods, Ferraro USA, Flowers Foods, Reily Foods Co., Rich Products Corp., Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Tyson Foods Inc., Ahold USA, Topco LLC, WhiteWave Foods Co., Pharmavite LLC, Clorox, Colgate, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.