>GS1: many positive implications
December 21, 2009

Will GS1 replace the flood of food apps on mobile phones, and render them a short life as a temporary technology?

This could happen before long – and if it does, it will be a boon to what we call One-Step Shopping. What do we mean by this term? That consumers will have one-step access to extensive information about products via data-rich barcodes on product packages; all they’d have to do is scan the barcode with their cell phone.

To make this happen, a group of 60 representatives of global brands and retailers – Nestle, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Walmart and Carrefour among them – met in Paris earlier this month and agreed on their highest priority: to find a way to link standard GS1 barcodes with trusted data about products. The GS1 MobileCom group intends to develop an open format.

Once this technology is in place, consumers will have direct and immediate access to many kinds of information about products at the shelf. We expect that would include content, nutrition, sourcing, recipes, whether an item is organic or pesticide-free, and more. The multiple steps involved in using mobile phone food apps would no longer be necessary.

The GS1 experts involved in developing this technology call it Extended Packaging. A GS1 statement claims that participants are piloting and implementing Extended Packaging today. Among them: Carrefour in January 2010 will give consumers access to more information about selected products via their cells. Franprix gave consumers information to help them choose wines during the most recent September Wine Festival season. Nokia has run pilots involving wine, jeans and DVDs.

“Extended Packaging is a reality for consumers. It’s our job to make sure the services we offer reach the widest audience. That’s only possible with the right standards in place,” says Vanderlei Roque dos Santos of Nestle, co-chair of the GS1 MobileCom group.

In our view at SupermarketGuru.com, this could become a revolutionary tool for shoppers that illuminates true product quality, and gives every brand a fairer chance of earning a following. Shoppers willing to take the time to learn would be able to make fact-based decisions about the quality-price balance. They could know if ingredients conflict with a health condition, or support a personal dietary motive. And lots more.

This could really shake up purchase decisionmaking at the category shelf. This could become the open disclosure that compels brands to improve their products, or risk share loss and consumer wrath. Under a transparent, unbiased (which we hope it turns out to be) GS1 standard, the race in many categories could be on to see which manufacturers make their products better faster. And that would be a tremendous win for the public.