GS1 Australia’s work on 2D barcode technology was put in the spotlight at the 2022 AUSPACK packaging expo in Melbourne last month after taking out the top prize for innovation in the packaging sector.
While still an emerging technology with many more benefits yet to be uncovered, 2D barcoding has already become a major talking point in the industry, as its future potential continues to grow with continued research.
GS1 Australia retail account director, Michael Davis, sat down with Food & Beverage Industry News after the awards night to speak more about what 2D barcoding technology can, and will, mean for the future of the industry.
“Firstly, we need to acknowledge our industry partners who we supported at AUSPACK,” said Davis.
“The reality is, as a standards organisation, we can’t do any of this without our industry partners. For global standards to work, they need to be adopted by industry. So, without engagement nothing we do will achieve the purpose that it is intended for.”
Davis said the company was hopeful of making the finals of the awards, while winning was a huge positive for GS1 Australia as it continues to drive 2D technology into the industry.
“The team were really happy with the outcome and the recognition,” said Davis.
Davis said the traceability challenges that are being solved by 2DBarcode technology is an important aspect of the new barcoding that will strengthen, position and support brand owners and help mitigate traceability issues that lead to a host of supply chain and production risks.
“Supply chain is one area, but 2DBarcodes go right through to the point of sale, and beyond, which means brand owners are getting the full benefit.” he continued.
“We have Woolworths on board and other retailers are in the discovery phase of what’s required to adopt 2D barcoding.
“Australia, as a market, has the opportunity to become a world leader and you can’t do that without brand owners, manufacturers and retailers working and collaborating together.
The slow realisation around the benefits provided by 2DBarcodes is now reaching a point where companies are increasingly interested in learning more about the technology as it is adopted more widely across the food and beverage manufacturing industry.
“It really is a journey. We’ve had a linear barcode for 50 years and everyone accepted that as the solution but now we have 2D as an emerging option which shows the value of what can be achieved,” said Davis.
GS1 globally has a 2027 ‘sunrise’ date for the wider adoption of the technology, which will also give the organisation a chance to further study the full capabilities of 2D barcoding, which has already proven its worth as the APPMA award demonstrates.
“The sunrise date is creeping up very quickly though, so we need to start working with and educating industry now,” said Davis.
As mentioned before, the importance of industry partners such as Woolworths taking up and piloting the adoption of 2D technology is an invaluable part of the process.
“That is part of a benefit of partnering with industry companies because their business partners are aligned with us,” said Davis.
“Our role is to support industry and utilising fit for purpose standards for adoption.”
The journey is a long one, in part because of the multi-step process of adoption and integration, being both a hardware and software solution.
“You work through the requirements, but the critical piece is the productivity,” said Davis.
“What we are seeing with retail partners is understanding those productivity gains or impacts because this is a game of inches. That’s a critical piece.
“Once they have adopted and worked out the solution it’s about how we get those gains through production lines and supply chains.”
“The future benefit is understanding the whole journey of the supply chain, having everything aligned so people know what stock or farm was involved, the ingredients, everything through the journey. And moving forward, it will also assist in processes such as forecasting,” said Davis.
As consumers become more educated around the use of 2DBarcodes, coupled with the changing trends in consumer diets and brand loyalties, companies who ignore the shift towards using 2DBarcodes run the risk of missing out on the benefits.
“I think the risk is if you don’t move towards 2D, because today’s engaged consumers have a thirst which is being driven by technology and the simplicity of things, the risk is in not adopting, versus the benefit to adopt,” said Davis.
“The health conscious, the nutritional elements, all the allergens. Consumers are far more informed now and instead of wanting to think about codes on packaging, they can now start to truly understand if each product is right for their needs.”
Davis said the use of QR codes during the COVID-19 pandemic had in some ways helped reinforce the advantages of 2DBarcode technology.
“Consumers are driving the demand for 2D barcoding and they are speaking with their feet and making decisions on brand and product selection based on information provided,” he said.
“Therefore sellers, whether online or in store, are responding to that and the flow-down is the brands and manufacturers need to be able to represent that shift in trend.”
One of the most obvious, yet impactful, benefits at the manufacturing level is being able to create greater security for stock that has left the site for transport to a supply partner.
2D technology allows for much greater traceability so that producers can track the product along every step of the supply chain through batches, production dates and days.
“It protects the brand and consumers in a simpler way,” said Davis.
Davis has also witnessed first-hand that the most common ‘barrier to entry’ into 2D barcoding is mostly the understanding of the technology.
“A common barrier has been understanding the need and the why, but once people understand that they start to look into it and contact GS1,” he added.
“Even with our retail partners they might know it is a good idea, but it’s when they dig a little deeper and see the potential benefits, it creates a light bulb moment, no matter where you are in the supply chain.
“If we can keep moving the message and the dial forward to the 2027 date and enhance the adoption through the entire supply chain process it will become the norm, there is no doubt about that.”
Davis and GS1 Australia are encouraging food and beverage manufacturers and producers who are thinking about looking into 2D barcoding to do so quickly, to ensure the best possible outcome in the future.
“It’s very much a ‘now’ discussion because it isn’t something you can turn on overnight night, there are things like system integration, understanding manufacturing and printer capability and alignment with retail partners,” said Davis.
“It’s a time piece, and if you fall behind you will stay behind, until such time as you are ready and capable of adopting the 2DB technology.”
Small and middle-sized enterprises (SME) are also being encouraged to adopt 2DBarcodes because of the added loyalty those food producers can receive from consumers.
“SME’s are mostly built on loyalty and trust in their brand and this will enhance their value proposition, especially with consumers becoming more aware of the technology,” said Davis.
“For a lot of the smaller companies, their products aren’t just liked, they are loved, so if they can tap into emotive pieces and then get the benefits through 2DBarcodes then it’s a good thing for their future.”
For more information visit www.gs1au.org/2d-barcodes.