Woolworths is set to become the first Australian supermarket to trial data embedded (or 2D) barcodes in stores from August.
The trial has the potential to help reduce the millions of tonnes of food waste generated in Australia each year, and will eliminate the risk of customers purchasing expired products.
In collaboration with Woolworths, Hilton Foods and Ingham’s will start placing 2D barcodes on fresh meat and poultry products sold via Woolworths supermarkets nationally.
Woolworths General Manager of Business Enablement, Richard Plunkett said: “We’re proud to be the first Australian supermarket to invest in this technology, and hope it can help us further reduce food waste.
“2D barcodes have immense potential and we’re excited to see how they will improve food safety, traceability and stock management.”
For the past 45 years retailers have used 1D barcodes that identify the object. Unlike traditional barcodes, 2D barcodes contain information about the product’s batch, supplier, used by date, and serial numbers at the point of sale. The barcodes store data in two dimensions, rather than in just a series of black and white bars and look like checkerboards or a series of traditional barcodes stacked atop one another
Currently, the product recall process requires all recalled products to be removed from supermarket shelves and disposed of. The information supplied by 2D barcodes will allow retailers to pinpoint the specific batch affected and trace it back through the production line, making it easier to identify the source of contamination and avoid sending unaffected products to landfill.
The ability to add expiry and best before dates to a product’s barcode will also help eliminate any risk of retailers selling out of date products to customers by removing the need for team members to manually label products. When scanned at the point of sale, customers will be alerted that the product is past its expiry date and the system won’t allow the purchase.
Beyond food safety and food waste, data embedded barcodes have the potential to improve the traceability of the farm-to-fork journey in the future. Ingham’s has partnered with Woolworths to investigate the potential of the new barcodes on their products.
Ingham’s head of sales – Woolworths, Ed Alexander, said: “Ingham’s is proud to be a pioneer in the 2D barcode initiative with Woolworths.
“Food safety and traceability are paramount to our business. Delivering quality products that incorporate cutting edge technology to enhance these elements and provide a range of benefits to consumers is a step we gladly embrace.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with Woolworths in the initial roll out of this technology and look forward to seeing the real-time and long-term benefits it will bring.”
GS1, which develops and maintains global standards for business communication, has been assisting Woolworths with its trial.
CEO and executive director of GS1 Australia, Maria Palazzol, said: “Four decades on from inception, barcode scanning technology in Australia continues to evolve.
“The fresh food sector relies on accurate and complete data to track a product’s journey all the way from the farm to the supermarket shelves. It’s great to see Woolworths leading the way in bringing 2D barcodes to shoppers at point-of-sale.”
Successful trials in Germany, the UK and Thailand have shown material benefits for both customers and suppliers.
A number of other suppliers across health and beauty, freezer and long-life categories have introduced 2D barcodes in anticipation of future barcode adoption.
Woolworths will work with industry bodies and suppliers to develop a phased roll out plan to help ensure more suppliers can adopt the new printing technologies.