On Dec. 2, 2015, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced the launching of the SmartLabel technology initiative, an innovation which provides consumers with quick and easy access to all the information they want to know about products they are purchasing beyond what’s on the product package label, according to Pamela Bailey, GMA president and CEO.
To that end, each individual product in SmartLabel will have a specific landing page containing detailed information from the manufacturer on ingredients and other product attributes.
These attributes include nutritional information, ingredients, allergens, genetically modified organism details, third-party certifications, social compliance programs, usage instructions, advisories and safe handling instructions, and company/brand information, along with other pertinent information about the product.
“Consumers will be able to find this detailed product information in several ways,” Bailey says, noting that GMA considers SmartLabel a transparency initiative. “They can scan a QR code on the package with a smartphone, use a web search such as through Google, Yahoo, or Bing, go to a participating company’s website, or eventually through an app.
Bailey notes that both online and brick and mortar stores are exploring ways to make SmartLabel more accessible to their customers, including those that don’t have smartphones, such as by posting the SmartLabel link on their web page to allow access in one click or through customer service desks.
Simply stated, Bailey says, information through SmartLabel will be available to consumers in cities, suburbs, and in rural areas, pretty much instantaneously, whether they are in the store, at home, or at work, or whether they are using a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer.
SmartLabel was born out of a discussion that started in January 2014 with the GMA Board, immediately followed by a meeting of retailer and manufacturer CEOs under a structure that the GMA and Food Marketing Institute called the Trading Partner Alliance. “That discussion prompted the creation of a joint industry work group tasked with determining how to give consumers access to all the information they want to know,” Bailey explains. “For more than 18 months, more than 325 people from 90 different companies worked on the program that ultimately came to be known as SmartLabel.”
According to Bailey, as of early December 2015, 30 major manufacturing and retail companies have already committed to taking part in SmartLabel.
Some of these companies, such as The Hershey Company were offering products using SmartLabel in late 2015. And it is projected that some 30,000 total products will showcase SmartLabel technology by the end of 2017, Bailey relates.
“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 in the U.S. will feature SmartLabel,” she says.
J.P. Bilbrey, chairman, president, and CEO of The Hershey Company and chairman of GMA’s board of directors, is quick to extol the significance of SmartLabel.
“With the food transparency movement sweeping the globe and driving a healthy dialog between consumers, business, and government, we know that the creation of smart tools could help empower consumers to be confident about the food choices they make,” Bilbrey says. “Our industry is joining together to help build and support a shared technology solution to give consumers access to the food information they want and deserve. SmartLabel is a simple web-based platform that will allow consumers to easily access a wide range of information without the restrictions of size or space like on-package labeling. This includes nutritional and ingredient information, information on allergens, and whether ingredients are from natural sources, or if a product is gluten-free.”
“Since consumers want more information than ever before and are asking more questions about products they buy, use, and consume, SmartLabel is destined to change how people shop and will help them get answers to questions they have about products they purchase right when they want that information,” Bailey emphasizes.