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Smart technology has the ability to help both producers and consumers increase transparency. It will also likely change how consumers shop. For example, mobile technology has the potential to enhance “experience-based” shopping, where consumers seek to create consumption experiences around the products they purchase. In-store technology can be used to prolong and enhance the consumption experience associated with particular products.

Interactive labels are seen as a key feature by manufacturers but there are other new types of smart labelling such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). RFID works more efficiently than barcodes, and can monitor how safe a product is – for example food temperature and spoilage. Using an instore scanner that links to an app giving more detailed information about a product’s ingredients, environmental impact, or portion recommendations will be attractive to consumers who want to minimise hassle.

Moreover, smart technology does not necessarily mean digitally smart. There are companies such as Mimica, which created gelatine filled labels that inform consumers when the food is going off. This is a simple yet effective way to reassure consumers about food safety.

Many food and drink products are now focusing on being honest, with manufacturers becoming more explicit about how products are made and where ingredients come from. The increasing importance of issues like product safety and provenance is not only related to consumer health, but is also associated with sustainability and ultimately ethics. For example, avoiding intensively reared animals can cut down on antibiotic overuse, which is increasingly a threat to human health. It is possible for consumers to be healthier and reduce their environmental impact without having to move to vegetarianism or veganism, and while improving farm animal welfare.

The challenge here is helping consumers make the right choices without too much hassle on their part. Not only can product labelling be confusing, but consumers also lead busy lives – so even if people have good intentions, those intentions might not be met. This is why smart technology will play an increasingly important role in the fast-moving consumer goods market.  According to GlobalData’s global consumer survey from 2017 Q1, 8% of global consumers felt that interactive packaging was essential, while 23% found it exciting and 27% stated that it was nice to have.

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