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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Will Food labels become obsolete with smartphone and barcodes?

As consumer want to become more educated about the food they buy and consume, many turn to apps for the iPhone and other smart phones that can read the barcodes on the food labels. Once the barcodes are read, the application displays information about the food product that may not be on the label.  In Japan QR Codes have been used to tag fresh produce to show where it comes from including information such as soil composition.

Without a doubt consumers deserve to know as much as they want about the products they consume. Food Labels are limited in space and the amount of information they can display. The demand for more information that can be accessed instantly is answered by companies that created databases with nutritional information about hundreds of thousands of food products.

Although this technology is great and allows easy access to relevant information, many consumers still do not have access to it or do not know how to use it.
There is also a practical aspect – I loaded one of these applications on my iPhone and went to the grocery store. I used my regular shopping list and checked the products I normally buy. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that almost all the products I buy were available, however most of the information was a repeat of what was already printed on the label.  One side  benefit I found is the ability to enlarge text using the iPhone that was normally too small to read on the label. However, scanning the products was a time consuming task and I could not imagine taking my any children on this shopping trip…
Will Food Label Become Obsolete? Absolutely not!

Food labels are here to stay. I expect to see companies adding QR codes to their own labels to control the source of additional information. I am also convinced that as we are using more pictographs to communicate quick ideas – those too will become permanent feature on our food labels. A heart – for good for your heart foods, Green for organic  and so on.

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