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Intelligent and active labels could revolutionise food communication – University of Reading

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Intelligent and active labels could revolutionise food communication

Release Date 18 December 2020

Smart phone reading a tag on a bottle of wine

Consumers could have a direct line to food producers through the use of ‘smart labelling’ which would increase trust, according to new research.

The EIT Food-funded Smart Tags project is working with consumers, producers and retailers to develop smart labelling similar to QR codes. These active and intelligent labels will allow shoppers to get rapid and better information about food and drinks they consume.

Smart tags will enable consumers and other stakeholders of these innovative supply chains to exchange and collect information at pre-purchase and post-purchase levels on different aspects of food and drink products such as whether the product in the package is spoiled, its freshness, temperature in the package, appropriateness for personal diet, sustainability, origin, potential allergens, recipes, and storage instructions.

The labelling system being developed could also enable producers and retailers to cut down on the amount of waste produced in packaging, and could also include detailed information on the origin of ingredients and shelf life.

Dr Giuseppe Nocella, Associate Professor in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading says:

“Consumers want to know more about the food they are eating not only before buying products, but also after having purchased them. They want to be assured in a friendly way not only about the quality, safety and sustainability of the food and drinks that they consume but also how to recycle and dispose these products. The Smart Tags project is looking at innovative packaging that could be adopted along different food and supply chains.

“These new systems of communication, providing a much easier way for consumers to rapidly and directly check the quality and safety of their products, can be seen as a key factor to enhance trust from farm to fork making food supply chains more transparent .”

Ongoing surveys with consumers and stakeholders of the food industry in different European countries will provide a clear map of consumers’ and stakeholders’ acceptance of different smart tags conveying information in real time for different products. These results will be disseminated in 2021 via EIT channels, other institutional channels and scientific publications. 

The Smart Tag project is coordinated by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, but the consortium consists of research partners, food industry and technology developers from all over Europe. The partners are the 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 is supported by EIT Food, a body of the European Union.

The novel solutions and service concepts utilising Smart Tag technologies will be co-created together with consumers and other stakeholders in all participating countries. The Smart Tag project will run throughout 2021 and can be followed on the project’s webpage and Twitter account. 

 EIT Food

European Union flag

This activity has received funding from EIT Food, the innovation community on Food of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the EU, under the Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.



EIT Food is Europe’s leading agri-food innovation initiative, with the aim to create a sustainable and future-proof food sector. The initiative is made up of a consortium of key industry players, start-ups, research centres and universities from across Europe. EIT Food aims to collaborate closely with consumers to develop new knowledge and technology-based products and services that will ultimately deliver a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle for all European citizens.



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