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GS1 Germany finds first FMCG partner for Digital Link

GS1 Germany, together with the Frankfurt-based start-up Jake’s Beverages, wants to demonstrate the many benefits of the new QR code system Digital Link, reports Lebensmittel Zeitung. Printed on the product packaging, the 2D code can link a variety of information. These offer retailers and manufacturers broad opportunities to share supply chain data and provide consumers with product information as well as marketing messages. Mid-term, the two-dimensional graphic code is expected to replace the EAN barcode worldwide. 

Lifestyle lemonade producer Jake’s is the first consumer goods manufacturer in Germany to play out the opportunities of the Digital Link. The company already printed a QR code according to the GS1 standard on each bottle. In a first step, the producer is using this code to communicate with consumers and to monitor and control its returnable bottle system. 

Internationally, the GS1 network had already carried out temporary pilot projects. In the USA, Walmart and Procter&Gamble tested the new standard, in China FrieslandCampina. Textile chain C&A already labels all articles with the QR code according to the GS1 standard. 

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Communicating digitally with the shopper 

Customers can scan the QR code on the product packaging with their smartphone. They will then be directed to a selection of landing pages, the so-called Resolver Service. Depending on their interests, they can access a wide range of product information. They can see the list of ingredients, for example, and allergic are informed about possible intolerances. Other links can provide information on storage options or offer suitable recipe suggestions. The Digital Link also provides information on the manufacturer or a list of retailers where consumers can buy the product. 

In addition, the new standard opens opportunities for efficient marketing activities. For example, the link can lead the customer to a competition or to the manufacturer’s social media channel. At Jake’s, customers will soon be able to reach a company-owned chat system via Digital Link, depending on their preference using WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram. Today, access to the Jake’s Beverages consumer website via smartphone scan is already active. 

The QR code offers manufacturers almost unlimited opportunities to convey information and messages to consumers without cluttering the design of product packaging. But most of all, supply chain participants will benefit from the new GS1 Standard. 

Worldwide implementation by 2027 

With the standardised 2D code and digital link, significantly more information can be transmitted compared to the established barcode. Manufacturers can thus store the best-before date or the production batch. If desired, the producer can already label each individual item at the farm or factory with a unique number based on the GTIN. In addition to the 2D code, an RFID tag can also store the information. This means that virtually every single product can be tracked and traced along the supply chain.  

Through the GS1 network, the industry has agreed that all cash registers and retail systems globally will be able to read the new 2D code in addition to the traditional barcode by 2027. FMCG companies would then be able to label their product packaging exclusively with the QR code. GS1 has launched a corresponding campaign in the USA called ‘Sunrise Date 2027’. In Germany, retailers and the consumer goods industry are discussing the expansion of the EAN barcode system in GS1 Germany’s 2D migration expert group. Among others, Henkel, Nestlé, Mars and the dairy group DMK are participating here. 

This year’s ECR Day on 28 and 29 September in Düsseldorf will deal with the topic of Digital Link in detail. On the first day of the event, Volkan Kavşak, FMCG industry manager at GS1 Germany and Jake’s Beverages managing director Vincent Kästle will present the joint project. On 29.9, Kästle will once again enter the stage. 

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Joachim Pinhammer

Joachim Pinhammer supports retail and technology companies with consulting and marketing expertise. He was Senior Analyst and Research Director Retail Technology at the London-based analyst group Planet Retail. Prior to that, he was the global marketing director for the retail division of Wincor Nixdorf (now Diebold Nixdorf). Joachim Pinhammer is a regular speaker at events organised by Messe Düsseldorf (EuroShop and EuroCIS), the EHI and further industry conferences. His reports are regularly published by trade magazines and online retail industry media.

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