Yesterday, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the voice of leading food, beverage and consumer product companies, announced the launch of SmartLabel, a first-of-its-kind transparency initiative that will give consumers easy, instant access to detailed information about the products they use and consume.
This is a huge moment for our industry. For years, consumers have been asking more questions and seeking more information about the products they buy -- from the milk they serve their kids to the detergent they use to wash their clothes. But there hasn’t been a standardized way for retailers and manufacturers to capture and share this information with consumers. SmartLabel addresses this challenge.
Brands participating in SmartLabel will have a landing page for each product that features 52 required attributes, such as nutrients, allergens, and third-party certifications. Brands also have the opportunity to provide up to 197 voluntary attributes, including “no artificial preservatives”, “non GMO”, and “no added MSG”. This is notable since equally important as what’s in food, is what’s not in food. All SmartLabel landing pages will be presented in a standardized format, making it easier for consumers to find information and compare products.
The demand for transparency
There’s a lot of research to support the fact that consumers are demanding more transparency, in fact, studies show 83% of Americans have a strong desire to better understand what’s in their food products.
But I also know from personal experience. Years ago, my father’s doctor prescribed a restricted diet to help manage a health condition. My father struggled to find foods that fit the guidelines of his diet. The grocery store wasn’t much help -- they didn’t have this kind of information about the products they stocked readily available. Not because they didn’t care about it; rather, because they didn’t have an easy way to capture and manage this information. After that experience, my brother and I wanted to make sure families looking to access this sort of information in the future had an easier way to go about it.
And with that, Label Insight was born. Our mission from the beginning was to help consumers understand what’s in the products they eat. We did this by building a platform that helps retailers and manufacturers capture, manage and analyze their product data. Once retailers and manufacturers have a clearer view of their product attributes, they can pass that information along to consumers so they can make more informed purchasing decisions.
SmartLabel: Going beyond the label
At Label Insight, we’re thrilled about the SmartLabel news. This is a win-win -- consumers gain transparency, and brands and retailers gain consumer trust. But there’s another exciting benefit that early-adopter brands are realizing: SmartLabel picks up where product packaging and labels end. Going beyond the label with an electronic version of the product information makes sharing additional product information with consumers more attainable and sustainable for brands and retailers. The result is more information, and, consequently, more transparency.
I jumped into the Label Insight platform to pull an example that helps clarify why these voluntary attributes can help improve transparency. Of the 170,000+ products in our database, 6,569 make a Low Fat marketing claim*. Using our attribution analysis tool, I found that 58,205 of the products in the database actually qualify as Low Fat based on FDA guidelines**. This means there are a lot of low-fat products on shelves that don’t include this claim on their packaging. With SmartLabel, brands can realize the opportunity to make this claim, keeping consumers more informed.
As the GMA reported, more than 30 brands, such as Kellogg, Hershey and Procter & Gamble, have already committed to using SmartLabel to provide detailed product information to consumers. At Label Insight we’re working with brands to make it easy for them to prepare their products for SmartLabel, empowering a new generation of transparency and innovation. We commend these early adopters, and we are excited for what’s to come.
*Based on a current (less than 36 months old) database of 171,167 products
**Does not reflect products that are Fat Free (contain <0.5g total fat)