QR Codes - Can Food Labeling Save theM- (1)Recently, President Obama signed bill S. 764 that puts into place a federal standard for foods that have been made with genetically modified organisms, ABC News reports.

But that’s not what I want to write about.  For now, I don’t want to get into whether or not we should be labeling foods that contain GMO or not.  We should, but that’s not the point here.

What I wanted to discuss for a moment is the rebirth of the QR code.  That square little symbol that you see sometimes and aren’t quite sure what to do with it. The basic premise is that anyone with a QR reader can “snap” the QR image and be directed to a website or mobile page.  On that mobile page or website could be a website or product information, a movie trailer or even food labeling.  QR codes have been popular in Japan for some time but they never quite took off in the United States.  At one time, it seemed as though Apple was going to make a QR reader native to the iPhone. However, that never happened and anyone that wants to snap a QR code will have to download a QR reader first.

I’ve written about QR codes before… comparing the benefits of SMS to QR Codes or discussing beneficial applications for them.  I have always kept an eye on how they are being used as well as ignored.

I do think that QR codes offer a number of benefits, the main being that it’s a universal language that can be read by any QR reader.  Another chief benefit and the reason why they are being used on food labels is that they can be easily updated and it doesn’t require printing any new labels or packaging.  Because the code links to a digital asset, the content can be updated as easily as a web page.  So for a company like Del Monte or General Mills that has a large inventory of SKUs in the grocery aisle, making a change to their labeling would be an extremely costly endeavor and could possibly lead to perfectly good food being thrown away if they had to toss what’s on the shelves due to mislabeling.  Now, if the label needs to be updated, it can be made directly to the digital asset and even food on delivery trucks or on shelves can have their labels instantly updated.

Here are a few other articles that detail the use of QR codes in food labeling:


Some of the criticism over the new law is that by putting information on a QR code, it masks the information and makes it more difficult for shoppers to obtain.  While this may be true, due to the penetration of QR readers in shoppers’ hands, optimistically I hope it has a different effect.  That it gets more people to download a QR reader and start scanning QR codes again.

I for one am not ready to delete my QR reader from my iPhone.  I’m ready for QR codes to live to fight another day.  What do you think? Are QR codes ready to be buried along with beta max tapes?



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