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SmartLabel reaches critical mass in stores

GMA, FMI kick off awareness campaign for grocery shoppers

Consumers’ desire to know more about the groceries they buy has driven a sevenfold increase in products using the SmartLabel since early last year, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

In a survey of 1,002 U.S. adults who are the primary grocery shoppers for their household, more than 70% said they want more product information than what’s on traditional package labels. The study, conducted for GMA and FMI by Atomik Research, found that shoppers want to know not just the product’s ingredients but also what they do and why they’re used in the product.

Providing more detailed product information can make a difference at the shelf and in the aisle. Eighty percent of grocery shoppers polled said they’re more likely to buy an item if it’s ingredient list is easy to understand. What’s more, 75% indicated they would alter their grocery buying habits if they had more information on a product, such as its environmental impact, safety and usage.

Announced in December 2015 by the Trading Partner Alliance, a group formed by GMA and FMI, SmartLabel is now used by more than 40 major companies for almost 28,000 food, beverage, personal care, household and other products, spanning hundreds of brands in food retail stores. By the middle of this year, it’s expected that over 40,000 products will be using the SmartLabel.

“SmartLabel participation has increased significantly, from 4,000 products in early 2017 to nearly 28,000 food, beverage, personal care and household products today,” Jim Flannery, senior executive vice president at the GMA, said in a statement. “More products are using SmartLabel every week, and that’s why manufacturers and retailers are kicking off a 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.”

A digital tool, SmartLabel gives consumers ready access to product information beyond what’s printed on the package label. Shoppers get the extra information by scanning a product’s QR code using the SmartLabel app or by using their smartphone camera, going to and visiting the product’s online landing page. They also can call a product’s 800 number to get SmartLabel information over the phone.

Besides listing ingredients, SmartLabel provides information on why those ingredients are in a product, what they do, and where and how they were made, as well as allergen descriptions, usage instructions, sustainability and the treatment of animals during the development process.

The GMA-FMI survey revealed that such information is important to many consumers. Fifty-nine percent of grocery shoppers said a product should have detailed information on allergens, including if the equipment used to manufacture the product may process allergens. About the same percentage express interest in the environmental practices connected with a product’s manufacture, such as whether it was made with solar or wind power. And almost two-thirds of respondents want to know about ethical or sustainable sourcing, such as fair-trade coffee or free-range eggs.

“Consumers see retailers as a trusted source of information about the products they buy,” said Mark Baum, chief collaboration officer and senior vice president of industry relations at FMI. “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.”

The multi-pronged SmartLabel education campaign includes video, social media and press coverage on television and radio and in print.

“Companies and brands that are participating in SmartLabel are also promoting it on social media and in interviews. P&G has been active on this with a story in the Wall Street Journal on SmartLabel and transparency and on social,” GMA spokesman Roger Lowe said.

Last month, Procter & Gamble said more than 3,500 of its products — including such brands as Febreze, Herbal Essences, Olay, Pampers, Tide, Always and Tampax — were using SmartLabel.

“We expect many brands to be active in the next three months as part of this coordinated effort to make sure consumers know about SmartLabel,” Lowe added.

The cornerstone of the campaign is a video showing how Millennial mom Natalia Johnson of Orange County, Calif., uses SmartLabel when making out her grocery list and shopping for her family, who are YouTube influencers. “What’s super-cool about SmartLabel is that I can learn more information about everything in my cart while I’m shopping,” Johnson said in the video.

According to FMI spokeswoman Heather Garlich, the campaign comes as SmartLabel has boosted its presence in stores.

“We have been planning a consumer education campaign once we reached market penetration in retail with SmartLabel,” she said. “With nearly 28,000 products participating —national and private-label brands — we felt confident we could activate the consumer campaign.”

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