Washington, D.C. – One trend that we’ve been tracking lately is The Return of Food — how fear of the “Big Food” boogeyman has led to dramatic shifts in eating habits. Awareness voices are abundant, people are reading ingredient labels, and local sourcing is increasingly important. Believe it or not, the calorie consumption of the average American adult is actually in the first sustained decline since people started tracking the stat over forty years ago.

Amidst this changing consumer behavior, Big Food brands are struggling to keep up. Iconic brands like Kraft macaroni and Cheese and Lucky Charms cereal have rid themselves of  artificial preservatives and synthetic colors. Pizza Hut and Taco Bell have made efforts to do the same. Panera even published a “No No List”—150 ingredients that customers will not see in their restaurants.

Now, Big Food is taking another step forward in an attempt to empower consumers in their decision making. More than 30 consumer packaged goods companies (Hershey, Hormel Foods, Kelloggs, Smucker, Nestle, and Tyson Foods to name a few) have agreed to participate in a new transparency initiative by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association called SmartLabel™.

The SmartLabel™ platform will have consistently designed “landing pages” for each product that is committed to the program. These easy-to-navigate pages will include nutritional info, ingredients, allergens, certifications, GMO information (if the manufacturer chooses to disclose) and links to the product web site. The pages can be accessed in a variety of ways—QR code scanning on the package, search engine results, and links on the product or manufacturer’s website. There is also an app planned, and some participating retailers are even training their customer service departments to assist shoppers without smartphones. The goal is a flexible system that has value both at the point of purchase and elsewhere.

The platform will stretch beyond food to include household products, such as detergents, personal care items, and pet products. These pages will also be designed in the same consistent manner, showcasing ingredients, usage instructions, advisories and handling information.

We can expect to start seeing products that useSmartLabels™ late this year and early in 2016, and initial estimates project that within 5 years, over 80% of the consumer packaged goods that we shop for will be leveraging the SmartLabel™ platform.

For more information on The Return of Food, and the other consumer trends that we’re tracking, stay tuned for our 2016 Consumer Trends report, which will be released later this month.

About the Author:

Jeffrey Giermek