Why change to QR codes?
Changing the way retailers process products is no small deal. But there are now several reasons why QR codes are beginning to look better than barcodes.
For one, new packaging laws in the European Union (EU) require specific labelling information that a QR code can address. France and Italy have already responded to this in January 2023 by requiring all brands sold in their countries to share sustainability and recycling information on packaging.
This is just the start. From December 2023, the EU will also make it a requirement for wine merchants to include allergens, ingredients and nutritional information on all labels of wine sold in the EU. The US is likely to replicate this in their own regulations.
These rules aren’t aimed at the UK per se, but they do require everyone selling to the EU to only sell products that meet these criteria.
An added benefit of QR codes is the space freed up on labels. If manufacturers don’t need to print certain information when the QR code provides it digitally, it can reduce the amount of packaging, i.e. labels and user guides can be smaller and simpler. Cutting packaging makes companies more sustainable, with fewer materials needed and less wasted.
It does require customers to rely on their phones to look up information, though, which not everyone can do easily. Furthermore, the EU still requires certain information on labels, but more can be added with a QR code.
In general, retailers and brands benefit from the flexibility of QR code pages. They can add promotions, up-to-date company details, social media links and anything to keep customers loyal, informed and confident with their purchase.
To compare, a paper label with a barcode can’t update itself when contact details, recycling information and competitions change. Barcodes certainly do nothing to change the language of written information to the local country’s.
In response, GS1-US is leading the way in transitioning from barcodes to a QR code labelling format. This initiative is named Sunrise 2027, since year 2027 is the deadline for implementing the changes.
GS1-US says that “at a minimum, price lookup systems need to be able to use the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) encoded in 2D barcodes” by that time. The organisation acknowledges that moving the industry forward to 2D codes only is a multi-step process involving many parties such as brands, manufacturers, retailers, POS software and hardware providers, and warehouses.
GS1-UK will adjust to the changes, but does not lead the initiative and hasn’t advertised it in the same way to UK merchants.