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Hershey unwraps ingredient transparency via new QR code approach

The Hershey Company wants to update the consumer packaged goods sector's approach to on-pack mobile by piloting SmartLabel QR codes that promote ingredient transparency and provide quick access to brand representatives.

Hershey?s holiday-themed chocolate is getting a mobile overhaul this year as the brand ramps up to promote ingredient transparency with consumers. Its Hershey?s Kisses Milk Chocolate products are the first to receive the SmartLabel treatment, which will enable customers to scan the packages with their smartphones to learn of any potential allergens or artificial flavors.

?Consumers are more concerned about what goes into the food they eat and Hershey?s use of SmartLabel to allow the consumer to find out detailed ingredient and allergen information is well-aligned with how consumers are expecting their food brands to interact with them,? said Laura Marriott, CEO of NeoMedia Technologies, Boulder, CO. ?This detailed information that will often not fit on the label in a manner that allows the consumer the quick access to the facts they need so the QR code provides the perfect solution. 

?The QR code provides a simple means to allow consumers to quickly get the information they need with a quick and easy scan of the code.?

Providing relevant information
While QR codes are not an innovative feature in the mobile space, Hershey is going beyond the standard campaign by offering relevant information to its customers who may be concerned with the presence of any artificial sweeteners or allergens. It may also persuade other competitors to follow in its footsteps and provide better ways of connecting with consumers via smartphones.

The SmartLabel QR code functions as part of a Web-based solution that allows customers to receive a plethora of information about an item that is not limited by the space and size of the wrapper. Hershey sought to leverage this platform to offer individuals more access to information about its sweet treats, particularly where ingredients come from and how the products are made.

After the code is scanned, consumers will get taken to a landing page, on which several tabs are open. Users can toggle back and forth to read a glossary of ingredients, view nutrition facts or allergens and directly contact the brand with further questions.

This feature may be especially useful for a consumer with severe allergies, such as nuts. If he or she is unsure if a Hershey?s bar contains nuts, he or she may scan the QR code to immediately discover the answer.

Consumers who are shopping in-store and having difficulty deciding between several candy bars may be prompted to purchase a Hershey?s product if they leverage the SmartLabel platform and realize the lack of artificial flavor in a given item.

The Hershey?s Company is also taking to Twitter to broadcast its QR code-adorned chocolates.

If more brands jump on the QR code bandwagon, consumers may feel more comfortable communicating with representatives via mobile regarding any dietary or nutritional concerns.

Promoting increased transparency
More food and beverage brands, especially ones with wide audience appeal such as Hershey, should consider being more transparent about the ingredients and processes used to make their products. Mobile is an optimal communication channel for this.

?I'd encourage food marketers to share this information with food retailers so that they can display this information in their products and apps,? said Carolina Garcia, mobile strategist at Fuzz Productions, Brooklyn, NY. ?That way, consumers can discover products through the apps they already use to shop (supermarket apps) and learn more about the products in the same environment.?

However, QR codes have not led to a happy ending for every consumer packaged goods brand. This past summer, Heinz was forced to recover from some bad publicity over a QR code from an old campaign that accidentally linked to a porn site, underscoring how critical it is for marketers to provide ongoing support for mobile programs (see story).

The Hershey?s Company has also been placing a spotlight on mobile efforts with increasing fervor this year.

In August, its Reese's brand appealed to college football fans by partnering with popular on-air ESPN personalities to get consumers in the game through social media contests, helping it stand out during the fall marketing frenzy (see story).

?We have seen great innovation from food marketers in their use of mobile solutions,? NeoMedia?s Ms. Marriott said. ?This campaign by Hershey?s shows that it clearly understands its customers? needs and buying behavior ? and the QR code will help enable quick access to the product information for the consumer on-the-go.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Marketer, New York