Can Smart tags labels on food products packaging increase consumer trust and value chain transparency?

A new EIT food project called Smart tags has recently started where the aim is to increase consumer trust towards food products and systems by sharing information about the food product value chain during the whole life-cycle of the product. The consumers and stakeholders can create an interactive connection; consumers are e.g. able to give feedback, ask questions, co-develop the products and services, and the food industry can understand better their customers and their needs and create such products and services they are asking for.

In a highly globalised world where food value chains are often long and complicated, consumers find there is a gap between the level of information they want on food packaging to make informed purchase decision, and what is currently displayed there. They are often interested in ingredients used, product sustainability, authenticity, transportation, shelf life, and how recyclable packaging are. They also often find nutritional information hard to interpret and product are often decorated with slogans with vague phrases or words like “natural” or “healthy” – without supporting those slogans with facts and figures.

Jónas Rúnar Viðarsson
Faglegur leiðtogi

For consumers, the smart tag can be a simple barcode that can be read by mobile phone or visible colour change in indicator, allowing them to access more relevant and real-time information about different food products and to communicate with the producers or other stakeholders. Smart tags mean visible or electronic markers with environmental sensing functions like functional ink, sensors or indicators, combined with software intelligence. When some parts or areas of a 2D barcode are printed with the functional ink, the scanning result of the code changes dynamically when the state of the functional part changes. When conditions of the surrounding environment change, such as ambient temperature, lighting or humidity, parts of the barcode appear, disappear or change colour and the scanning result change accordingly.

The outcome of the project will include smart tags solutions that increase the trust and knowledge of the food value chain for consumers and provides new experiences of interactivity with the food industry. For the food industry, we can share knowledge about how to create added value for the consumers and when, where and how the consumers are willing to utilize the data available with existing technology.

The Smart tag project is coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland but the consortium consists of research partners, food industry and technology developers. The partner are University of Reading (UK), University of Warsaw (Poland), KU Leuven (Belgium), Matis (Iceland), AZTI (Spain), DouxMatok (Israel) and Maspex Group (Poland). The Smart tag project is supported by EIT Food is Europe’s, which is the leading food innovation initiative, working to make the food systems more sustainable, healthy and trusted and is. EIT Food is supported by the EIT, a body of the European Union.