As consumers get savvier about what they browse and buy, packaging is getting smarter, too.

In a broad sense, smart labels can be viewed as any label with an accompanying technology to extend the label or packaging beyond the first view. Smart labels can include QR codes, sensors microchips and image recognition, among other features.
These technologies and tools can be used in different ways and for various reasons. QR codes, for example, can engage consumers to learn more about products and also take part in promotional campaigns, such as sweepstakes. Packaging with built-in sensors or microchips, meanwhile, can help manufacturers ensure quality and freshness by monitoring time or temperature.

Within the food industry, including the baking and snack business, there has been a SmartLabel digital initiative launched by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (G.M.A.) and the Food Marketing Institute (F.M.I.). Through this program created with collaboration from manufacturers and retailers, consumers use QR codes, as well as brand websites and www.smartlabel.org, to get more information on particular products.

Of the tens of thousands of products that are SmartLabel-enabled, several baking brands have forayed into this type of functional packaging, including Flowers Foods, Inc., Nature’s Own and Dave’s Killer Bread, among others.

Engagement in the SmartLabel initiative continues to grow.

“SmartLabel participation has increased significantly from 4,000 products in early 2017 to nearly 28,000 food, beverage, personal care and household products today,” said Jim Flannery, senior executive vice-president for G.M.A.

Manufacturers and retailers will take part in an educational campaign over the next few months to further raise awareness, Mr. Flannery said.

“More products are using SmartLabel every week, and that’s why manufacturers and retailers are kicking off a campaign to make sure consumers know about SmartLabel and how it helps them get the additional information they want about the products they use and consume,” he said.

The educational campaign is timely, given that discerning consumers seem to want smarter packages. According to research conducted for G.M.A. and F.M.I.’s joint program, 7 out of 10 consumers want to know more about a product than the ingredients on the label. More than half — 56% — say they would use an app to learn more about the product and ingredients.