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    A Turning Point in CPG Transparency

    By Jim Flannery

    Today’s consumers are different than those in years past. They have an incredible thirst for knowledge, are ever-connected and eager for information. And, today’s consumers expect information at their fingertips, whether it’s breaking news, a weather forecast, or detailed nutritional and allergen information for the products they purchase every day. In fact, “Google it” has become an everyday verb. 

    The consumer products industry succeeds on its ability to meet consumer needs. Today, our industry has an opportunity, actually, a responsibility to provide consumers with information they want and need about the products they purchase, use and consume.

    An initiative called SmartLabel utilizes tools consumers use to search for information, providing instant access to hundreds of attributes about food, beverage, pet care, personal care and household products. The initiative provides more than what is on package labels because today’s consumers want to dive deeper. They want to know what an ingredient is, why it's in their product, what it does, and often, where it came from. SmartLabel answers all these questions and more.

    While SmartLabel was just launched in December, our industry’s commitment to helping consumers make fully-informed choices is not new. For example, in the early 90s, establishment of the Nutrition Facts Panel was a highly collaborative effort between industry and government.

    In 2011, GMA launched a voluntary program with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and retailers all over the U.S. Now widely seen across brands and categories, Facts Up Front prominently displays calorie content and saturated fat, sodium and sugar details per serving on the front of packages. Also highlighted are nutrients proven to help people lead healthier lives if the product contains more than 10 percent of the recommended daily value and meets the FDA requirements for a “good source” of these nutrients, such as fiber or calcium. For five years, Facts Up Front has influenced the way people shop and eat by helping consumers make better, more informed choices.

    Taking Collaboration to the Next Level

    SmartLabel takes this to the next level and puts information about hundreds of attributes at the fingertips of consumers.

    SmartLabel organizes more than 350 attributes in a consistent fashion across brands and categories. Whether you are looking at a gallon of ice cream or a gallon of detergent, information on the SmartLabel Landing Page is arranged in the same way. These attributes include nutritional information, ingredients, allergens, third-party certifications, social compliance programs, usage instructions, advisories and safe handling instructions and company/brand information. The information detail expands on the label and shares plain-language descriptions.

    SmartLabel information is available in a number of ways. Any internet connection enables the consumer to “search” and participating brand websites will carry the SmartLabel logo and take the consumer directly to the brand-owned SmartLabel Landing Page. The www.smartlabel.org website hosts a searchable data base of participating brands. And, if a consumer does not have access to the internet, a 1-800 number printed on the package can connect consumers with a customer service representative who is equipped with complete access to all SmartLabel information. SmartLabel is also accessible by using your smart phone or tablet and scanning a SmartLabel QR code on participating brand packages. That code takes the consumer right to the item’s SmartLabel Landing Page. In the very near future, SmartLabel certified apps will appear on the market and bring the consumer to the Landing Page using the UPC code.

    SmartLabel is easy, reliable and, because no personally identifiable information is ever requested, completely confidential.

    SmartLabel represents the future of information and is the next step in our industry’s commitment to transparency. It is a wherever, whenever tool for anyone – consumers, dieticians, nutritionists, pharmacists and other in-store consultants -- looking for more information about the products they use and consume. SmartLabel is the answer to the modern consumer’s growing thirst for knowledge and desire to make the best choices possible for what is important to them. 

    By Jim Flannery
    • About Jim Flannery Jim Flannery is SVP of operations and industry collaboration for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

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