This Innovative Program Is Helping Food Companies Be More Transparent

This Innovative Program Is Helping Food Companies Be More Transparent

In today’s food industry, consumer demand for accurate, easy to understand product information is at an all-time high. More than ever before, consumers want to make informed choices about the foods and beverages they consume, and they are increasingly putting pressure on companies to provide these facts in an open and transparent way. For example, according to an online survey conducted by Atomik Research in 2018, three out of four grocery shoppers would change their purchasing habits if they had more information on details like a product’s environmental impact, safety and usage considerations, and ingredients.

In response to this strong consumer demand for greater transparency and more information, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute came up with the idea for an innovative program called SmartLabel: a new and more effective way for food and beverage producers to provide consumers with additional details and facts about their products. Launched in 2015, SmartLabel is now one of the leading consumer transparency solutions in the food industry. Read on to learn more about the program, and how it benefits consumers, manufacturers, and the grocery industry.

What is the SmartLabel initiative?

SmartLabel is a new, web-based tool that allows shoppers to easily access detailed information about a wide variety of food, beverage, and household products. The idea behind SmartLabel is to take consumers “beyond the label”—after all, there’s only so much room for facts and details on a product’s package. SmartLabel compensates for this by offering a consistent digital format that is quick to access and full of real-time, accurate data provided by the manufacturer.

supermarket shopping

What types of product information can consumers find through SmartLabel?

With SmartLabel, consumers can find all kinds of details about the packaged foods and other consumer goods they purchase. Examples of information that consumers can access through SmartLabel include in-depth nutrition information, ingredient lists, allergen warnings, third-party certifications such as organic certification, usage instructions, advisories and safe handling information, and background details on the company or brand, such as their participation in social compliance or sustainability programs.

While some of this information can currently be found on package labels, SmartLabel allows for more comprehensive detail and for the inclusion of facts and data that are not typically printed on packages. Consumers should also note that all information provided by SmartLabel is subject to the same USDA and FDA accuracy requirements as the information on printed labels, so it can be considered equally truthful and accurate.

How can consumers access SmartLabel?

Consumers can access SmartLabel product information in a number of ways. The most popular method is via smartphone. Right in the grocery store, shoppers can use their smartphone to scan a QR code printed on the product package, or they can use the SmartLabel app to access the digital platform and the relevant product details.

These smartphone-based access methods are designed to take advantage of the fact that, according to the same Atomik Research survey, three out of five shoppers said they have been using their smartphones for grocery shopping more often in the past two years. The survey also revealed that over half of shoppers (56%) said they would use an app to learn more about a product’s ingredients. In addition, consumers can access SmartLabel by visiting the website or the landing page for a SmartLabel product, or by calling a product’s 1-800 number.

How do companies benefit from participating in the SmartLabel initiative?

It’s not difficult to see why more than 40 major companies, representing tens of thousands of different products, have joined the SmartLabel initiative. SmartLabel participation offers manufacturers many important benefits, including:

A leadership role on transparency and trust—Companies that participate in SmartLabel are demonstrating a strong commitment to openness and transparency when it comes to their products and practices. Joining SmartLabel lets companies show consumers that they have heard their requests for more and clearer product information, and that they are ready to respond with accuracy and honesty.

Greater responsiveness to consumers—Participating in SmartLabel lets companies give consumers the information they want exactly when they want it. With instantaneous tools like QR codes and apps, companies can be more responsive to consumers in real-time and more reflective of the way people today actually shop.

Ownership of product information—SmartLabel puts companies in charge of their own product information. Each company or brand provides their own SmartLabel product facts and data, which reside on that company or brand’s website. Because there is no single industry database and no industry website for data collection, consumers’ privacy is protected.

Consistent implementation and design—Participating SmartLabel companies agree to comply with the program’s design and implementation guidelines. This ensures that information is accurate and consistent across different brands and products, which makes it easier for consumers to understand the information they’re accessing and to compare and contrast their purchasing choices.

Mark CrumpackerMark Crumpacker is the CMO and President of Zume Culinary at Zume Inc.,  the Silicon Valley company that has revolutionized the pizza delivery business through its fleet of mobile kitchens outfitted with smart ovens. Mark has more than two decades of experience in the realm of consumer behavior and its effect on brands’ marketing strategies. Mark studied economics at the University of Colorado and earned a bachelor of fine arts in advertising and graphic design from the ArtCenter College of Design. You can follow Mark on Twitter at @markcrumpacker and read his full bio here