Since the advent of smart labels in the early 2010s, labels have become far more intelligent and provide a lot more information than a shipping destination. A label can now tell you where a product originated, where it is in transit, its carbon footprint, and whether it is still viable. The supply chain and logistics industry now expects an end-to-end closed loop ecosystem of tracking and tracing of products through labels. A new FDA rule will usher in a new era of traceability to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks. France’s Carrefour recently began using blockchain technology for its organic products. Mojix, which provides solutions for operations and supply chain management, provides a platform where every step of a food product’s journey can be tracked. The global smart label market is expected to generate over $21 billion in revenue by 2028, and large brands plan to invest in real-time analysis of product data harvested through smart labels. Labeling can also serve as a source of authentication and certification. HB Antwerp, a large diamond buyers and retailer, has developed the HB capsule to track its diamonds’ lineage and journey from the mine to the retail store. The Carbon Trust created the Product Carbon Footprint Label, which can measure if a product’s carbon footprint is lower than its competitors, or if it is carbon neutral. Genetic labeling, with genetic barcodes that can be verified on blockchain through project S3FOOD, can detect fraudulent products, like falsely labeled olive oil. The NABIT, the Nucleic Acid Barcode Identification Tool, is a hand-held device that tests the DNA of a product in the field to see if it came from a protected source or was illegally trafficked. Genetic veracity is not a label per se, but it does vouch for a product’s veracity similar to how a smart label informs the consumer of its history. IdentiGEN, an Ireland-based company, has employed its DNA TraceBack product to safeguard the integrity of the supply chain for food products throughout the world. Studies of the use of quantum-dot dye have been under way for several years, but during the pandemic this tracking method was considered a way to verify vaccine status with an under-the-skin scannable pattern that could serve as a digital certificate. This is controversial: it marks humans, not goods. Consumer trust has become linked to traceability and transparency. With smart labels now the norm, the expectation of verifying the data along each step of the supply chain will require investments in platforms and cloud-based technologies. Just a few years ago, the debate was RFID versus dynamic QR codes, and now the choice is between genetic labeling versus carbon labeling, or some combination of the two. Using DNA labeling is seen by some as invasive but is a more authentic form. Labels are becoming an embedded, smart technology that can verify information for the life cycle of a product’s value chain. Much of this is for consumer reassurance, but is now falling under government regulation as well. As goods are produced and transported faster, labels will be key to companies’ success and a way to retain customer loyalty. The adoption of genetic codes will indicate the market has shifted even further. With the detection of trafficked goods now part of the labeling market, these codes now act as a guarantor of consumer health and safety.
Digitized health and protective labeling
Digitize me and my health