Zego packaging boldly recasts allergen-level QR code

By Rick Lingle in Food Safety on January 20, 2015

The energy bar’s redesigned packaging integrates an allergen-level prompting Quick Response code front and center as a branding asset and adds an NFC shelf talker at retail.

 

Go big rather than stay home is the food safety proposition taken by Zego, San Francisco, related to a change to the messaging and delivery of the allergen content of the ingredients used in its organic energy bars.  

“The Zego QR code allows consumers to have better control over their food safety,” says co-founder Colleen Kavanagh. “For example, knowing a ‘gluten-free’ product’s testing measured less than 5 parts-per-million gluten compared to FDA’s allowable 20ppm enables very sensitive people to make safer choices. This is even more important for those with peanut or dairy allergies, which can cause fatal anaphylactic shock.”

The QR scan leads to a specific website page showing users the measurable amounts of specific levels for 9 (was 6 before) major food allergens down to the product batch level—approximately 22,000 bars—for peanuts, almonds, eggs, soy, dairy, pistachio, walnut, hazelnut and gluten. The products are also genetically-modified-organism (GMO)-free.

It wasn’t enough that the company launched the next generation of organic energy bars last spring (see Food safety bar set higher with allergen-reporting QR code published in April 2014), it now offers a next-generation Quick Response (QR) code—The Z-Code—that’s front and center on the packaging. And it’s gained additional brand equity by integrating the QR code within a cue to the bar’s key ingredient, sunflower seeds.

“People are so intrigued and engaged with our technology empowered packaging that we've redesigned it so the technology is up front and integrated into the design of the wrapper and box,” says Kavanagh. “It's not just a cute QR code, but a fully integrated system to create conversational packaging and marketing materials. 

“We redesigned the package completely to focus on making it as easy and obvious as possible for our customers to access our allergen test results for each bar's batch,” says Kavanagh. “That made sense for a number of reasons.  First, as our friends at Hub Strategies advised us, if you are going to put your stake in the ground as the only company that allergen tests each batch of your product and posts the results through the technology on your packaging, do it big—maximize your QR's visibility and add higher and lower tech options as well so people across the tech spectrum can use the technology they like best.”

 

Higher and lower tech options, challenges

 

The lower tech option is the addition of a text code for people without smart devices or a QR scanner on their smartphones that’s located on the back of the wrapper.

“What felt more like a distraction was adding the text option for people who don't have smartphones or don't have a QR scanner or one that works well. Everyone has a favorite technology they use. Interestingly, the data shows that women tend to text more while men tend to scan, so we wanted to have that option, though but it took a lot of space and a lot of words on our small package. 

 “Also, we wanted to maximize the code's scannability so customers would have an easy time scanning.  That meant being more than a square inch in size with no perforations or crimping [in that area of the wrapper].  Using the circle in the sunflower was a great design idea, but it was a technical challenge as circular QRs have had a troubled past.  My technical team at BrandXMobile came up with a great circular code that scans beautifully.  I love the Z-Code design—it's an asset, not a distraction.”

 

Considered NFC technology on the packaging

 

Kavanagh acknowledges that they first considered near-field communication (NFC) technology. “We ran into two problems,” she explains. “It was too expensive to put on the wrappers. If we put it on the boxes, it was more cost effective, but people would have to know to remove it off before they recycled the box. Unfortunately, most people wouldn't realize it was there either to use it or pull it off.”

Zego ended up using NFC technology in another way: It placed its first "shelf talker" for stores that is embedded with an NFC chip on the back.  Android users can tap the display and be taken immediately to the website location where allergen test results are available and to get more information on ingredients.

“It's great fun for people with Android devices to tap their phones to it and have the allergen info pop up on their phones,” explains Kavanagh. “It will work with IPhones eventually, but right now the iPhone 6 is only NFC-enabled for payment.”

 

A change in suppliers—and a flax check

The company switched to a new contract packager. “We wanted to switch to all-organic ingredients. Living Ecology sources and works with a lot of organic ingredients,” Kavanagh says. “They also had additional allergen control procedures in their facility that we liked.  Other bonuses are that their facility is solar powered and they sprout their own flax.  “

Zego also changed wrapper suppliers because of a difficulty with color consistency and the need for a better seal for the snacks, which are problematic because they are made from seeds that contain a lot of oil. 

“The copacker we switched to can source the wrappers for us and they worked a great deal with their supplier in China to develop a great seal for our type of bar,” Kavanagh says, though admitting that she would prefer a U.S. supplier.

Kavanagh says the basic design elements were fun and exciting to work on. She credits Alexis Fernandez Penny, reachable at Alexis227@comcast.net, for the package design. As far as challenges go, Kavanagh points to the required FCC text.

“It was tricky to communicate this new level of transparency with as few words as possible,” she says. “We not only had to explain the text and QR, we also had to include a very long FCC statement that warns consumers about data rates.  The text code is important for maximizing the allergen data accessibility to the consumer. However, on a snack bar, the real estate is very valuable, so it was painful to give up space to a long statement that seemed to offer such little value to the consumer especially because we can tell them the same info once they've used the text code but the FCC requires in on the package.” That’s located on the back of the wrapper.

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