By Julie Savoie
More and more, consumers want easy access to quality data about the products they are purchasing. The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry recognized this growing information need and collectively created a solution to address it: SmartLabel, which was announced publicly in December 2015.
WHAT IS SMARTLABEL? SmartLabel is a digital platform that spans food, beverage, personal care, household, and pet care products which can be accessed online from a smartphone, computer, or tablet. The intent of SmartLabel is to provide accurate and detailed product information to the consumer in a consistent fashion across thousands of items. To provide a consistent user experience, all information is organized under five product category tabs, and participating companies must follow this organizational structure as well as the design standards outlined in the SmartLabel implementation guide.
The platform provides three benefits:
- Consumers can attain instantaneous and flexible access to product information.
- More information is available to the consumer than could possibly be included on the package label.
- The system mirrors the current and future shopping needs of the consumer.
According to Deloitte’s 2015 American Pantry Study, 55% of consumers conduct product research online or through mobile applications when shopping for food, beverages, and household goods.
INFORMATION ACCESS. In the development of SmartLabel, more than 330 unduplicated attributes were identified as information the consumer is currently seeking. All these attributes were mapped to a specific tab within SmartLabel to provide uniformity across participating products.
Additionally, 240 of the attributes provide more information than that which is required to be on the package today. These attributes include information such as: ingredient definitions, ingredient source, certifications, usage and advisory statements, and many other important data points. As consumer and brand needs evolve, the information available through SmartLabel will be updated for current demands.
Each brand is responsible for the creation, maintenance, and updating of the information offered through SmartLabel. This is to ensure the integrity and timeliness of the data being provided to the consumer. All the information that the brand discloses through SmartLabel is held to the same standards as if it were printed on the package, and is covered by the FDA and USDA misbranding authority.
THE PATH TO SMARTLABELS. The goal is to offer the consumer as many paths as possible to the SmartLabel web landing page to drive adoption. However, the team has identified two primary paths: scanning a product and searching for SmartLabel on a digital device. Today, the consumer can scan a SmartLabel logoed QR code on the package that would take them directly to the SmartLabel web landing page. The consumer also can search for the SmartLabel web landing page through a search engine, brand website, or go directly to www.smartlabel.org.
In addition to these two primary paths, other channels are being developed. Retail and brand customer service teams are and will be educated on SmartLabel to answer any questions that would come across the help desk or telephone. A SmartLabel app is being finalized that will allow consumers to scan the UPC or QR code to access the web landing page. Many other third-party apps are being researched as well that could help promote SmartLabel and drive consumer awareness and adoption.
TODAY AND TOMORROW. As of December 2016, there were more than 3,500 products participating in SmartLabel; by the end of 2017, there are expected to be nearly 34,000 U.S. products in the system. These numbers reflect commitments from just 30 major companies who have announced their intent and released product forecasts. The number is expected to grow exponentially as this digital tool gains visibility in the market.
SmartLabel is being piloted in the United States, but many other countries have expressed interest and have plans to execute. Canada is already working on a customized version and the expectation is that this program will expand globally in the next few years.
National organizations will lead the efforts in each country, but the U.S. will provide best practices and key takeaways from its implementation.
THE BRAND OFFICE. The SmartLabel Brand Office, managed by GMA and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), has three primary responsibilities: to oversee the governance and evolution of the initiative, provide outreach and engagement with CPG companies, and build brand awareness with companies and consumers. Once critical mass is reached, the team will oversee a nationwide consumer awareness campaign to educate the shopper on the benefits of SmartLabel.
SmartLabel is not a static program and will evolve as the market develops and changes. Through consumer and brand feedback, the SmartLabel team is already working on future modifications and changes to the digital label. The continuous development and updates also will be overseen by the SmartLabel Brand Office. For more information, visit www.smartlabel.org, or join the SmartLabel team at the GMA Science Forum, www.GMAscienceforum.com.The author is GMA Senior Brand Manager.