Industry efforts to get in front of the labeling debate with the SmartLabel initiative is both meeting consumer demand for transparency and boosting sales, prompting initiative leaders Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) to launch a campaign in a bid to raise consumer awareness.
SmartLabel allows consumers to gain detailed information about a product, including what allergens it includes, where its ingredients come from and why these ingredients were used. Participation has increased significantly from 4,000 products in early 2017 to nearly 28,000 food, beverage, personal care and household products.
The idea behind the transparency initiative was the industry uniting to say, "Hey, before the federal government tells us what to do about digital labeling, let's all get together and decide what we want to do and do it proactively," said Patrick Moorhead, CMO of Label Insight, which just struck major deals with Topco and Albertsons to apply SmartLabel to private label lines across the companies' offerings.
"That was the genesis of SmartLabel. It was a proactive transparency and a regulatory measure for brands to adopt so that they could have more control than if it was mandated," Moorhead told WGB, adding that brands that enable themselves with SmartLabel are in aggregate growing at about 10% across the store.
Additionally, a national survey found more than 7 in 10 shoppers want to find out more about the grocery products they buy than they are currently able to get with traditional on-package labels, according to GMA.
With SmartLabel so widely available, manufacturers and retailers are launching an education campaign over the next several months to help consumers understand that detailed product information is right at their fingertips—and how to find it.
Jim Flannery, SVP of GMA, said the rapid expansion of SmartLabel-enabled products is the reason manufacturers and retailers are kicking off this campaign "to make sure consumers know about SmartLabel and how it helps them get the additional information they want about the products they use and consume.”
Mark Baum, chief collaboration officer and SVP for industry relations for FMI, added, "Consumers see retailers as a trusted source of information about the products they buy, and this education campaign aims to show consumers how they can use QR codes and other digital disclosure methods to seek a closer connection to the foods they eat and the products they apply."