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Seafood Expo 2015: Industry traceability initiative must address retailer concerns

Seafood Expo 2015: Industry traceability initiative must address retailer concerns

Panelists gave an overview of the Consumer Information Transparency Initiative and what it might mean for retailers for tracking seafood and beyond in the panel “Tracking Traceability Elements in Retail and Food Service.”

Launched by FMI and GMA, CITI seeks to create a standardized way for manufacturers and retailers to share information with consumers about what's in the products they buy and how they were made and sourced, via a scan-able code and website landing page. That information could include attributes like ingredients, sustainability, allergen flags, country of origin and more.

The first step will be to agree on the attributes that must be shared, of which there are hundreds to consider. The work group in charge of that aspect, which includes Ahold, will likely present its proposed list this summer.

Wakefern is part of the work group that will decide the requirements for the consumer-facing components, while Kroger is participating in the data management group that will determine how the information will be collected, stored and shared.

Rick Stein, VP of fresh foods, FMI
Rick Stein, VP of fresh foods, FMI

The accuracy of the information is the most important thing to retailers, said Rick Stein, VP of fresh foods at FMI.

“What's paramount to the retailers is that they have the trust of their consumers,” said Stein. “And any time they break that trust they really lose a fundamental proposition of their consumers. So in their ability to create that trust, they look at this initiative as an opportunity but they also see some potential pitfalls in it.”

One way CITI might help retailers is reducing the time it takes to explain to a consumer all the information associated with a particular product. Right now, Stein said a retail dietitian might take 30 minutes going through all the attributes with a customer. Having all the information available in an easy-to-digest website would greatly reduce the time it would take.

While a lot of information is transmitted via a product's UPC, Stein said CITI would use QR codes or another type of barcode because many times manufacturers will change something about a product while maintaining the same UPC.

“Ultimately, consumers want to know what they eat. They want to know what they're putting into their bodies. And retailers are as interested in making sure they can provide that information and provide it in the most cost effective, efficient, and I would say highly accurate way that they can,” said Stein.

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