Today’s consumers want more information at their fingertips. They want to know if the milk in their chocolate bar is organic or if the fruit juice they’re about to purchase contains allergens. Meanwhile, brands face much higher levels of scrutiny regarding traceability and their supply chain, knowing that any slip-ups will not go unnoticed for long in the age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle.

This is where the Internet of Packaging comes in. By digitizing packaging and thereby making products interactive, brands can track items from production to consumption, and consumers can obtain the information they demand through the same dynamic platform.

Taking this a step further, serialization technology can assign each and every product a unique identity in the form of a code that is printed on a product, the packaging or embedded within an existing carrier such as an NFC or QR code. Code generation and verification using patented encryption algorithms takes place in milliseconds via
the cloud.

Now widely implemented in the pharmaceutical sector for both anti-counterfeiting purposes and consumer engagement, mass serialization technology is increasingly being adopted within the CPG sector for brand protection, supply chain visibility and consumer insights.

Smart Partnerships

The SmartLabel QR Code was developed as a vehicle for brands to meet growing demand for greater transparency, creating a virtual window into the information consumers require, which can be accessed in real-time using a smart phone. It has already been adopted by the likes of Hersheys, Coca-Cola and Unilever.

Innovation has not stopped there. QR code providers are now working with serialization experts to pioneer a next-generation solution for the CPG industry, opening up yet more possibilities for brands.

By harnessing serialization technology, select SmartLabel QR Codes placed on a product package will not only dynamically link the consumer to the respective SmartLabel landing page via a simple scan, but when the same QR Code is scanned for a business operation, companies gain distribution visibility and insights to all stages of the product lifecycle.

This development eliminates the need for both a consumer-facing QR code and a separate code for business operations. Instead, the same code is able to reveal information about the product for supply chain traceability, recall management and distribution visibility purposes to the brand while providing consumers with the information they require. The QR code also enables retailers and consumers to authenticate their product, protecting the brand and building trust across the supply chain.

Partnering for Pre-serialization

Another key development unlocking opportunities for brands is the partnership between serialization providers and global packaging companies, making pre-serialization possible and enabling brands to access the benefits of the technology without compromising on speed or competitiveness.

Codes integrated into the product packaging and simply activated at a later stage via the cloud do not require additional time during the production phase, meaning serialization can take place without slowing down operations by even a second.

It can also serve as an exciting marketing platform for engaging consumers. For example, Cadbury Milk Tray recently used the technology to launch an innovative Valentine’s Day marketing campaign in the UK asking consumers, “What would you say with Milk Tray?” A unique code printed on the promotional packaging allowed consumers to scan the code with their smartphone and record a video message for the person they were going to gift the box of chocolates to.

Packaging 4.0 and Beyond

In 2018, the ability to quickly communicate and exchange information with all relevant parties across the supply chain is essential for a comprehensive approach to brand protection. Fortunately, the partnerships are now in place to help brands fully leverage the benefits of serialization as an integral part of a digital product ecosystem.