The Digimarc Blog

A Quick Guide to SmartLabel®

Product transparency, the concept of giving shoppers more information about the products they consume, is increasingly an important brand attribute in the eyes of consumers. Label Insights, which provides insight on food label data to government and brands, published a Transparency ROI Study that found 85% of consumers are willing to try a brand’s entire portfolio of products if it offers transparency. In short, product transparency impacts the bottom line.

Today, it is increasingly difficult for brands to list detailed nutrition, allergy or company/brand information on their product packaging. There simply isn’t enough packaging real estate to accommodate all that information, and so brands must use web pages for such information. But how do you make it easy for a consumer to get the info they want in an instant?

Joint GMA & FMI Initiative

One industry-supported answer to this challenge is SmartLabel. Right now there is a surging interest in the initiative. As of April, there were 44 companies, 705 brands and over 25,000 products enrolled in the program, including brands like The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever and The Kraft Heinz Company. The initiative began in 2015 and was created by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), trade organizations for food makers and the retailers that sell their products. Brands and retailers (with private-brand products) participate by enrolling directly with SmartLabel.

Consumers can access product information for enrolled brands by going to the SmartLabel product search page, calling the 1-800 number on packaging or by visiting a brand’s website. A more convenient option is to place a SmartLabel logo (see image below) on packaging with copy that says some version of “Scan Package for Product Info.” Consumers can use the new SmartLabel mobile app (available on iOS and Android and developed by Scanbuy) to access the product information. They scan where the call-to-action copy indicates, and they are taken to a SmartLabel landing page.

Getting Started

Jim Flannery of GMA recommends that organizations start with a brand or two to identify what info to highlight and also to use it as a “learning lab” to develop internal processes. “Most brands are starting with the voluntary attributes most important to their target consumers,” he said. “Over time, brands are building out the attributes that are important to their consumers and that the brand can accurately capture and maintain.” In other words, consumers of tuna fish may have an interest in sourcing practices, while this may be of less interest to someone buying a chocolate bar. Katie LeGrand on the Label Insight blog points out that brands can also “consider a pilot with a smaller brand portfolio, or they prioritize a brand that has a story they are proud to tell.”

LeGrand adds that product transparency initiatives often involve cross-functional expertise, requiring brands to bring together internal teams from marketing, legal, regulatory and customer service. It’s important for brands to align internally on what product information will be featured on SmartLabel pages and to establish who will manage the pages internally.

It’s important to note that SmartLabel is not the only mechanism for delivering product transparency to consumers. Brands can provide transparency by adding Digimarc Barcode or other codes to product packaging, and then link to brand-generated content on their corporate web pages.

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