The global trend towards more information on pack labels of fresh and perishable items, has not been reflected in Australia – yet. The major issue here, according to retailers, remains accurate pallet labelling.
Globally, there is a push to include more information on fresh produce — particularly meat — but also other perishable items.
Richard Jones, General Manager – industry engagement for GS1 Australia, says overseas this is being seen in information encoded about the manufacturer or supplier, plus dynamic data such as lot or batch number, best-before date, package weight and price — all captured at point of sale through Databar.
Databar will be out as an open standard in 2014.
An ‘open standard’ means that retailers will have to be able to scan it but they may not actually request it. Once Databar becomes an open standard, it means a supplier can use that symbology in the confidence that their trading partners will be able to read it.
However, while there is some activity on that front in other parts of the world, we’re not really seeing that in Australia. One of the reasons it’s being used in other countries is their stricter traceability requirements. Australia certainly has traceability requirements to pack level, but the data is not automatically captured when it is sold to consumers — we don’t go right down to the end point. Databar, however, does allow you to do that, and that’s what is being seen elsewhere.
Research done in November last year [note 2011] for GS1 in Ireland showed some really positive results for retailers. A separate research paper by IBM, entitled ‘Tracking Food Through The Supply Chain’, found 25 per cent of the world’s food supply was wasted. That is a very high cost to retailers, and is why technologies such as Databar offer great advantages to fresh produce retailers in particular.
Databar, for instance, has the potential to alert retailers and consumers at the checkout that the fresh produce they are buying is about to reach its best-before date. Retailers have the ability to generate automatic price reductions to clear stock before it needs to be thrown away. It can also show that something may have already reached its best-before date, so the consumer is alerted to go and get an alternative item.
Clearly the benefits are there for the consumer, so they’re not buying out-of-date produce; but the advantages are equally there for the retailer, who doesn’t need staff physically checking every item in the meat, chicken and fish cabinets and putting reduced stickers on if needed.
Building in Capability
Richard Jones says retailers are currently upgrading scanning devices.
As they upgrade their storefronts and general point-of-sale systems, they are building in capability to read Databar. It’s just a matter of whether they will push to make that a requirement, as momentum builds overseas.
There will be one or two suppliers who see it as a proactive move, and who may see a competitive advantage; it’s also being used right now by some Australian suppliers who are exporting.
Generally though, in Australia, we haven’t seen much change regarding meat, fish or poultry packaging, hence labelling requirements.
GS1 Databar: Great interest overseas for meat, chicken and fish
A pilot in Dorothy Lane Markets, a three-store US supermarket, showed the value of Databar’s increased data for the retailer.
They found the increased product information captured in variable-measure products — with particular examples in meat and seafood — allowed them to more accurately manage inventory.
Dorothy Lane’s view was that the Databar information would play an important role in food safety for meat, poultry, seafood and delicatessen items. With increased concern about consumer safety and product traceability in North America, that supermarket chain saw Databar bringing ‘new identification power’.
For them, the existing symbologies didn’t have enough space for the data they wanted, whereas the extra they want to include will give them full traceability back to the individual supply source. They see that as ‘closing the information gap’, and aiding greater consumer safety. Additionally, they believe the improved category management means they expect to reduce spoilage, which is just profits down the drain.
To find out more about the GS1 Databar, visit the GS1 Australia website.