Decoding the rules for fresh produce in Australia (Part 2): 5 codes you need to know

codes Australian fresh produce

Choosing the right code is a basic way of ensuring your product gets to the right place, at the right time – especially for fresh produce, which has a shorter life-span than other food products.

In Part 1, we looked at Australian labelling rules for fresh produce, including what is and isn’t mandatory, and what retailers want.

This time we’ll look five codes Australian fresh produce suppliers need to know.

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Date Codes

What is it?A use-by or best-before date gives consumers a guide to the shelf-life of that food item. Looking at the date, consumers know how long they can keep an item before it begins to deteriorate in quality or become potentially unsafe to consume. At the same time, retailers use date marking on secondary packaging to ensure better stock turnaround and reduce food wastage.

Interested to see how the world is tackling food waste?

Need to know

  • It’s the responsibility of Australian manufacturers or food suppliers to determine food products’ shelf life, with the regulations set out clearly in the Food Standards Code. The Code states that all packaged foods with a shelf life of less than two years must have a date mark.
  • Think about which date code you need (if any): foods marked with a use-by date must be consumed before that date, while best-before indicates the date from which the quality of the food starts to deteriorate from its peak. Learn more about the difference between use-by and best-before dates in this article.
  • Retail date codes must be easy to read, visible to the end consumer and indelible.
  • Some of the most popular technologies include Small Character Continuous Inkjet (CIJ), Drop-On-Demand Inkjet Printers (DOD), Thermal Transfer Overprinter (TTO), and laser.

Next steps: Work out whether you need date codes, then speak to our experts for advice. Flavorite, a premier Australian grower and marketer of vine-ripened produce, uses Linx coders from Matthews, which sit on the packing line to print vendor codes and best before dates on fresh produce punnets – read more in this case study.

 

PLU Codes

What is it?“Price Look Up” (PLU) codes are four or five-digit numbers used by retailers to identify loose fresh produce, and related items, such as nuts and herbs. The number identifies items based upon various attributes, such as commodity, variety, growing methodology (e.g.organic), and size. Codes usually appear on a small sticker on an individual piece of fresh produce.

Organics is a food trend to watch; check it out here.

Need to know

  • There are many reasons we use PLUs: they allow for the correct price to be charged at checkout, they significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of inventory control and the collection of sales data, and they provide visibility into where and how the produce was grown (g.a five-digit code starting with 9 means it’s organic).
  • Since 1990, the fresh produce industry has used the voluntary PLU system for pricing, inventory management and sales data. In Australia, the voluntary PLU system is managed and allocated by GS1 Australia. (Matthews works closely with GS1 to help Australian businesses; you can read more here.)
  • There are two types of PLU codes:
    • Global PLU codes are assigned to items that are traded on an international level (click to see the global PLU list here).
    • Retailer-assigned codes are for national use only. “Australian grown” PLU codes should be used by national suppliers who sell to retailers within Australia (not to be applied to fresh produce that is exported).

Next steps:Check out the user-friendly app launched by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) to help users source PLUs. (InAustralia, the app is supported by PMA, Australia-New Zealand Limited)

 

GS1 DataBar

What is it? GS1 DataBar was created to support the identification of small and hard-to-mark items, such as loose fresh produce. (See here under “Barcode Related”.) These small barcodes became a global standard in 2014.

Need to know

  • GS1 DataBar can be used on small or hard-to-mark consumer items that could not previously hold barcodes, such as fruit. This means products can be quickly and accurately scanned at point-of-sale.
  • GS1 DataBar also allows for automated markdowns, improving stock rotation and eliminating stock wastage.
  • A growing number of Australian retailers are now able to scan and process GS1 DataBar. Woolworths is now scanning GS1 DataBar across 100% of its stores, while industry groups, such as Citrus Australia, are liaising with these retailers to harmonise introducing GS1 DataBar across the industry.

Next steps:Contact your industry association or visit the GS1 Australia website for the latest on GS1 DataBar.

 

National GTIN

What is it?The national Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is strictly used by loose fruit and vegetable suppliers to identify cartons, cases and crates (known as non-retail trade items).

 Need to know

  • Recommended for use alongside the GS1 logistics label, allowing trading partners to scan the label and trace the product through the supply chain.
  • For any pre-packed produce, the standard rules of GTINs apply (read more about them in Matthews FAQs).

Next steps: GTINs are managed and assigned by GS1 Australia. If you find that a National GTIN does not exist for your product, GS1 Australia will allocate one (you need to become a GS1 member first). Once you have a GTIN, you can create a barcode for your product.

 

Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC)

What is it?A Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) is used to identify, manage and track the logistics unit throughout its lifetime in the warehousing, distribution and transport process.

Need to know

  • Typically represented in a GS1-128 barcode.
  • Should be assigned to pallets or logistics units of fresh produce. This code provides each logistics unit with a unique reference that can be used to trace products from manufacturing through to delivery.
  • Like the GTIN, you need to become a member of GS1 Australia to obtain an SSCC for your logistics unit.

Next steps: Find out more about Matthews’ solutions for SSCCs and pallet labelling.

 

Want to learn more about labelling and coding for fresh produce? In Part 1, we talked about the rules, especially focusing on the new Country of Origin legislation.

 

How to get the right code labels

Matthews can help you with your product labelcarton label and compliant pallet label for fresh produce. Combining the latest label applicator and printer technologies with expertise, Matthews ensures your fresh produce always has the right information in the right place to comply with your trading partners and the legislation.

Talk to us about the codes Australian fresh produce suppliers need.

Having trouble with SSCC pallet labels? Getting them right means your customers can smoothly & easily receive shipments of your product. Download this free whitepaper to get a simple handle on the problems and how to resolve them. Download Now

 

Looking for highly informative case studies, whitepapers and infographics for manufacturing? Or videos showing solutions in action and lots of detailed brochures? Find all that and more in Matthews’ large resource library. It also has presentations we’ve done to industry bodies and articles from our thought leaders. Plus, it’s all free to download!

Image credit: iStock/ DarthArt

Mark Dingley
Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 24+ years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile
Mark Dingley

by Mark Dingley

Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 24+ years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile

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