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The Grocery Manufacturers Associations's SmartLabel initiative will be a game-changer, giving consumers easy access to vital information. But a supporting entity of SmartLabel, St. Louis-based Label Insight, has the potential to drive greater transformation to the CPG and grocery retail industries.
Co-founding brothers Anton and Dagan Xavier, who hail from Australia, know first-hand the frustrations many people experience in gaining needed information about the products they consume. Due to health issues, the Xavier’s father was on a restricted diet, and he struggled to find foods that supported his diet.
As a nutritionist, Dagan Xavier knew the information he needed to capture to create a database that consumers would need to make informed food purchase decisions. From this experience, Food Essentials – a precursor to Label Insight – was born. The mission of the company was to help consumers understand what’s in the products they eat.
The Xavier brothers teamed with Dheeraj Patri, a developer with Deloitte, to create the actual platform. The team moved to the United States to further develop the startup, won a St. Louis Arch Grant, and later received seed funding.
The trio built a platform that helps retailers and manufacturers capture, manage and analyze their product data, and then share with consumers. The result is a cloud-based, big data platform for inputting, tracking, and understanding consumer product ingredient, health and marketing claims.
Label Insight worked with the FDA to create a tool for its website so users could understand what was in commonly sold food products. The result was the industry’s first scientifically accurate database of food ingredients, attributes and health claims.
In 2014, The Mercury Fund made its initial investment in Label Insight by leading a Series A round of financing. Mercury was drawn to Label Insight because it recognized that a platform that married the company’s taxonomy expertise and database could transform the retail and CPG industries. “The ability for sales, marketing, merchandising and R&D teams to research and compare product offerings by ingredient, formulation and marketing claim, could never be done before Label Insight,” a September 2014 post on Mercury’s website reported. “Existing legacy data businesses, who batch process their ingredient and attribute data periodically, never took the time to build the algorithms needed to perform complex queries and searches.”
Label Insight’s expertise in product attribution, and the regulation and properties of nutrients, ingredients, and claims enables adept analysis of products for each of the SmartLabel attributes. But beyond SmartLabel, Anton Xavier demonstrated Label Insights disruptive potential in a December 2015 post. “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.”
There is tremendous potential for companies to analyze not only their own products for untapped claims and attributes, but also to develop products for categories that over index in usage, but under index in claims or popular attributes. In addition, Label Insight tracks retailer criteria for products. Label Insight could drive more efficient and targeted new product development processes. And wouldn’t that be a game-changer?
*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)