Barcode giant GS1 UK is piloting a new barcode system among its members, that combines linear barcode and QR code technologies, aiming to make allergen information more accessible for shoppers.

It comes after the companys’ latest study revealed that 43% of respondents would prefer to access product information by scanning packaging with their smartphone.

More findings found that a third (33%) would be more likely to choose products with QR codes on pack, while 29% said this would increase their confidence in a product. 

To cater for this demand, the next-generation barcodes have been developed to provide more accurate and easily accessible allergen information and ”could soon be scanned in the stores and at the checkouts of leading retailers across the UK”.

GS1 UK told Convenience Store that authentic Malaysian cuisine brand Dapur Mariae is currently testing out the pilot in Co-op, while Branston Original Pickle is taking part in a range of leading supermarkets.

Shoppers can access allergen information from scanning the next-gen barcodes, but they currently do not beep at the till yet as the technology is not available. However, that it the “eventual goal”.

Speaking to Convenience Store, retailer Joshua James of Fresh & Proper in Norfolk shared his thoughts and believed that the next-generation barcodes would make good use of space on packaging. 

Joshua already uses QR codes in his store for various purposes, such as providing tasting notes for wine, which have proven very useful for his customers.

He said: “I think this would really help reduce awkwardness surround “do you know if this product has x in it” that colleagues are asked frequently. This question almost feels like liability of ingredient transparency gets handed across to our colleagues and typically due to poor print quality/text size on the packaging itself and the colleague is then expected to make a judgement call for a potentially life threatening allergy due to the customer not being able to read the font or ambiguous wording. It’s always a concern as a retailer and definitely would be a vast improvement!”

Sarah Atkins chief marketing officer and membership director of GS1 UK commented: “Undeclared ingredients and unclear labelling can have devastating consequences for people with allergies. Both brands and retailers need to ensure that consumers are kept informed and protected with product data they can trust. QR codes powered by GS1 can address this challenge, providing consumers with instant access to the information they need to stay safe and well.”

Sarah Knight chief executive at The Allergy Team said that the next-generation QR codes on food packaging could provide the transparency needed for those with allergies to make better informed decisions.

“It would allow brands to provide greater clarity on what phrases like ‘may contain nuts’ mean. For example, was the item made on a production line with nuts or was it made in a separate part of the factory which reduces the risk of contamination? Details like this could save lives – and will no doubt alleviate huge anxiety for people with food allergies and their families,” she said.