March 2010: Consumer Attitudes to Traceability
Last year we added traceability to about a billion items of produce. What's driving this demand?
Here are some real quotes from consumers to the brand owner:
"I thought you'd like to know that the Trace Me sticker was the deciding factor in my choice to buy these peppers. I chose them INSTEAD of others in the bin, which did not have a sticker because I like to know where the food I give my family comes from." Safeway Shopper, VA
"How cool to be able to track my potato! I love it. Thanks for making this great product and for creating this cool Web site." Consumer, San Diego, CA
"I LOVE that I can trace my food", Consumer, San Dimas, CA
Shoppers have also used traceability to give feedback – positive and negative – directly to the grower that can be correlated with a specific harvest event. What do they want to know about? Location, food safety status and practices, and growing practices (e.g. pesticide usage).
Traceability provides not only a recall tool but a way to enhance the connection with the consumer, build brand loyalty, and improve quality.
Implementing PTI in Field-Packed Workflows
For growers who pack cases in the field, PTI presents some particular challenges. Printing labels in the field is feasible – but means putting technology into a harsh environment. Printing in advance is difficult when the SKU and volumes to be packed are unpredictable – particularly as the GTIN is usually very specific and the label must be lot-specific.
Labeling at the cooler once cases are palletized is feasible – but often presents logistical challenges. The HarvestMark team has deep experience of deploying traceability solutions in the field, and has developed solutions to meet all these packing situations – pre-printed labels, print-in-the-field, and print at the cooler. For packers who are considering printing in the field, keep in mind the following:
- Handheld computers should be rated at least IP54, preferably IP65. This is a measure of how they can handle dirt and water ingress. IP65 means the device is dust proof, and can withstand washdown with a low pressure water jet. You should also make sure it can withstand drops.
- Consider battery life and the ability to ‘hot swap' batteries (i.e. you can change the battery without the device shutting down) – running out of power during packing is not an option.
- Think carefully about the practicality of the small ‘hip mounted' printers. Hip mounted printers are only designed to print 2-3 rolls of labels per day. Going beyond this will result in premature breakdown and servicing of the printers. Depending on the dimensions of the label these printers are therefore limited to labeling a few hundred cases per day.
- Choose a computer that can also run other applications (such as labor or field data collection). Ideally the device should be full Windows XP – not Windows Mobile which is much more limited.
We understand the tradeoffs and the technology for field operations, and have deployed systems at hundreds of farms. Please contact us if you field-pack and are looking to comply with PTI.
Making Traceability Interesting
We love a challenge. We tasked our marketing team to make a two-minute animated short that made food traceability interesting, informative, entertaining, and even … fun.
It was originally designed for the watermelon industry (those in the business will get the references) – but we decided to share it with everyone. Enjoy – and please let us know what you think.
You can watch it on YouTube here or in higher resolution here.