Smarter Packaging With QR Codes

5 ways serialized QR codes can lift your product + how to add them to your packaging

QR codes are everywhere. Menus, milk cartons, billboards, and even Super Bowl ads have them.

In 2020, 70.6 million smartphone users in the U.S. scanned quick response codes, according to Statista, which jumped to 88.9 million by 2022 and is predicted to surpass 100 million by 2025. Covid help speed things along when restaurants ditched menus in favor of QR code placards and web-based menus.

Now, a new generation of QR codes is unlocking a world of benefits for CPG manufacturers and packagers: serialized QR codes.

In this article, we’ll dive into what serialized QR codes are, outline five ways to use them to put your business ahead and explain how to print them efficiently and cost-effectively.

What are serialized QR codes?

Serialized QR codes look like regular QR codes on the outside, but each code contains a unique serialized identifier. Each is different and connects to a unique database record, meaning manufacturers can use them on packaging for various purposes, including tracking individual products throughout the supply chain and authenticating products.

Like the original QR codes, no special software is required to scan serialized QR codes – a smartphone camera is all you need.

5 ways to use serialized QR codes to boost your bottom line

1. Trace your product through the supply chain

Because serialized QR codes can carry product serial numbers and production batch numbers, they make it easier to trace products and help ensure that products are correctly handled and shipped.

When it comes to recalls, this level of traceability is invaluable. Serialized QR codes allow affected products to be quickly identified. CPG manufacturers can precisely pinpoint batch numbers, wasting less time and money recalling safe products.

A forward-thinking Indian egg producer, OVO Farm, uses unique QR codes on every egg packet to boost the traceability of its produce. The QR code provides traceability information, including the date of processing, the source farm’s location, and the product’s entire transportation history.

2. Stop counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods are a significant threat to CPG manufacturers and consumers, especially for high-value food products including olive oil, honey, wine, cheeses and seafood. Not only can they lead to revenue losses and damage your brand reputation, but they can also put customers’ safety at risk.

By applying a unique identifier in the QR code, CPG manufacturers can help consumers identify the individual product and see whether the product is the real deal or a fake simply by scanning the code. This level of authenticity provides a safer and more trustworthy customer experience, as consumers know precisely where their product has come from.

But what if counterfeiters copy the code? That’s why a serialized code is so beneficial. Suppose a counterfeiter attempts to copy a unique serialized QR code and place it on a fake product. In that case, the genuine manufacturer will be alerted when the single unique code has been scanned hundreds of times and can take steps to warn consumers and distributors.

3. Engage customers and fuel loyalty

Customers want to know more than ever about the products they are buying. In fact, 73% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency, and 94% say they are more likely to be loyal to a transparent brand. Serialized information in QR codes allows you to provide this information engagingly without worrying about packaging space.

For example, one of the world’s largest dairy companies, Friso, puts a unique QR code on the bottom of each tin, allowing customers to trace the source of every tin they pick up. Customers can learn about where farms are located, the farming environment, the number of cows in each farm, and the date of the milking process.

Frisco QR code tracking

4. Tell your sustainability story

Research firm GfK found that about one-third (32%) of US consumers say they consider the environment all or most of the time when making purchases. Further, The Business of Sustainability study reported 78% want to buy from environmentally friendly companies but don’t know how to identify them.

This is where QR codes can propel your business ahead of the competition. With serialized QR codes, you can go granular with sustainability information, telling customers about what particular batch the ingredients that made that product came from, the environment on the farm, who packaged it, and what route it took to the shelves.

The Fision, a “100% traceable apparel company, ” uses a QR code decoration on its T-shirts to tell its sustainability story. Customers scan the code to get the full story of how their T-shirt came to be, right down to the soil the cotton was grown in – or, as the company says, “from dirt to shirt.”

5. Save space on packaging

Variable and serialized QR codes can store and communicate a wide range of data, such as product details, expiration information, product codes, and website URLs – all in a tiny space. Printing QR codes can have a width as small as 10 mm to be scannable from 10 cm away. So, information that typically requires a large amount of space to be legible can be easily marked on a product. This is a win if your product is small, like cosmetic items, and packaging space is tight.

How to print serialized QR codes

When printing serialized QR codes on your packaging, there are two parts to the process:

  • Creating a unique QR code
  • Printing the code on the packaging

You can create the QR code using third-party coding software, then use an integrated print controller like MPERIA to manage the unique codes and integrate seamlessly with your printers or labelers.

The printing process is critical. QR codes must be sharp and clear to ensure they can be scanned and decoded. That’s why inkjet printers and label printer applicators are a reliable choice.

Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers like the MPERIA L-Series are ideal for printing 2D codes and barcodes on primary packaging. The L-Series has a printing resolution of 600 dots per inch (dpi), meaning it can create clear, scannable 2D codes on almost anything.

For secondary and shelf-ready packaging, piezo inkjet (PIJ) printers such as the MPERIA T-Series are also a good option, offering fade-resistant prints on porous materials. High-resolution quality and spot color for barcodes as well as graphics produce clean, highly visible marks, even on darker substrates.

Finally, always test your codes before they leave your factory. There are famous instances of QR codes that have sent customers to the wrong website. Heinz had to apologize to European customers for using an out-of-date code on their tomato sauce bottles, which took them to a pornography website!

Validation systems using a camera and scanner integrated with MPERIA controller allow you to verify that your QR codes are perfectly scannable and the encoded information is accurate, with real-time alerts in case of a faulty code.

Although outside the scope of this post, you will also need to implement a traceability software solution that maps details about each product’s origin and materials to a customer-accessible website. Integration with the print controller is vital to ensure accuracy.

Embrace the power

Serialized QR codes are a powerful tool for CPG manufacturers seeking to elevate their products and brand engagement in an increasingly competitive market. From enhancing traceability and authenticity to driving consumer engagement, the benefits of serialized QR codes make them a smart addition to your packaging.

If you want to use a serialized QR code on your products, let’s talk. Fill out the quick form below to get started.

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