May 7, 2020

VTT coordinates project to increase value chain transparency of food products

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VTT is helping to mitigate the erosion of consumer trust caused by complicated food value chains.
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Led by Finland’s VTT, the Smart Tags project unites a European consortium of research partners and food industry and technology developers with the goal of increasing consumer trust towards food products and systems.

The project focuses on the provision of interactive and up-to-date information about products’ value chains which can be accessed via smart labelling, the ‘smart tags’ of its title. These codes could be a barcode that can be read by smartphone, for example, giving users access to more relevant and real-time information about the product at hand. The tags’ smart capabilities could include environmental sensing functions such as functional ink, sensors or indicators, combined with software intelligence.

Users can also give feedback, ask questions, and help to co-create and develop products and services. This feedback will also enable the food industry to better understand their customers’ needs and therefore allow them to develop the products and services they are asking for.

Linking the food chain

The project was spurred by a growing need among consumers for information related to the entire life-cycle of food products. Research has found dissatisfaction with the clarity of nutritional information currently on offer, with words such as “sustainable”, “natural” or “healthy” used on labelling without the necessary facts and figures to back them up.

“Information consumers are interested in are for example what ingredients are used, origin of the ingredients, the product’s sustainability, fair trade, authenticity, transportation methods, shelf life, and how recyclable the packaging is,” VTT wrote.

The eventual goal is to increase consumer trust towards food products and systems by sharing information about the value chains, during the entire life-cycle of the products.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has been tasked with coordinating the Smart Tag project, which is supported by EIT food, a body of the European Union. Partners include University of Reading (UK), University of Warsaw (Poland), KU Leuven (Belgium), Matis (Iceland), AZTI (Spain), DouxMatok (Israel) and Maspex Group (Poland).

The Smart Tag project will run throughout 2021.

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