QR Codes on Food: How QR Code Food Uses Engage Customers

September 1, 2020
Scott Schulfer
Table of Contents
Digital QR code menu

Sales of electric cars grew an average of 59% per year over the past five years. In that same time period, Google searches for “climate change” more than doubled.

Consumer behavior is a reaction to economic and societal concerns.

What does this mean for QR codes on food? Well, QR codes—with their very promising QR code statistics—are poised to help food and beverage companies engage constructively and usefully with these consumer concerns. And succeed because of it.

Here’s how.

Food QR Codes and Consumer Values

In their 2020 consumer behavior report, Deloitte identified that current and future consumers will likely make purchasing decisions based on a newly-understood reality: there is a limited amount of stuff.

Reality Consumer Reaction
There is a limited amount of things you can and should consume Nutritional awareness
There is a limited amount of natural resources Sustainability
There is a limited amount of help for people at the other end of the supply chain Social responsibility

Businesses that understand and embrace this, and the consumer reaction to it, will come out ahead. Those that take an active role in conversations around these topics position themselves for success.

And one way to do that in the food and beverage industry is QR codes. Look into what QR codes are and how QR codes work and one thing becomes clear. The accessibility, flexibility, speed, and convenience of QR codes makes them a great way to engage consumers about their ever-more-concerning realities. The primary ways are sustainable QR code food packaging, QR code food labels, QR code food menus, and QR code food ordering.

Sustainable QR Code Food Packaging

There are two ways food QR codes help leverage consumer sustainability values. The first assumes your company engages in some sustainability initiatives already.

Firstly, QR code food packaging helps communicate your sustainability practices. The information in QR codes isn't beholden to the space constraints typical of food packaging. You can place a small QR code on a product package (or QR code template) while still communicating lots of information. Just keep in mind QR code minimum size. That information, then, should spell out exactly what your sustainability initiatives are. 

The second way QR code food packaging helps is by decreasing waste. Dynamic QR codes can be updated without having to be changed and reprinted. They can also be used for QR code tracking. Both of these are huge. QR code food packaging doesn’t have to change when nutritional information or ingredients change. This flexibility of dynamic QR codes is also what makes them particularly suited to QR code marketing.

QR Code Food Labels

There are three QR code uses of QR code food labels that deliver on consumer expectations and drive engaging conversations. They are QR code nutritional information, GMO labeling with food QR codes, and QR code food traceability.

QR Code Nutritional Information

36.6% of adults in America eat fast food on any given day, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Yet a different study found that 63% of the population want to eat healthy most or all of the time. Why the disconnect?

Well, the University of Minnesota found that only about 1/3rd of people check nutritional labels.

Because QR code nutritional information isn’t restricted by the available space on product packaging, it can be much easier to engage with. Instead of squinting at a little label, you're scrolling through it—zooming if need be—on your phone.

Providing QR code nutritional information also gives manufacturers the chance to add supplemental information. Like allergy information, social responsibility initiatives, instructions, sustainability certifications, and more. This is the key. Nestlé does this with some of their candy bar packaging in the U.K. They have QR codes below text that states “Scan to learn more about the nutritional, environmental, and social aspects of this product.” SmartLabel food QR codes also provide far more information than simple nutritional labels.

GMO Labeling QR Code

In 2016, a bill unofficially known as the “GMO labelling bill” was signed into federal law. It states that a food product with any detectable modified genetic material be clearly labeled as such.

The GMO labeling bill allows for the usage of QR codes in GMO labeling. Critics of the inclusion of QR codes in the labeling bill point to the fact that it’s a convenient way for companies to hide or obscure GMO information. While supporters of QR codes’ inclusion in the bill note that GMOs aren’t inherently unhealthy, and products shouldn’t be stigmatized for having them. Therefore, they continue, GMO labeling QR codes are a great way to provide GMO information without needlessly fear mongering.

Either way, being aware of GMOs in what we consume is obviously important. And food GMO labeling QR codes will play a major role in it.

QR Code Food Traceability

Another way QR codes serve consumer values is through traceability. Any food information can be tracked with a QR code. That includes a product’s source history: a running account of where it originated, was manufactured, and was distributed. That, along with relevant information about those production, manufacturing, and distribution facilities.

QR code traceability can also take into account the present status of products. This can be product recalls, updates about origin farms or production facilities, and any other information that speaks to the product’s present supply chain and status.

QR Code Food Menu

QR code food menus are one of the most obvious and impactful uses of food QR codes. A QR code menu takes a published HTML or PDF menu, goes from URL to QR code, and makes it accessible through a simple QR code scan.

The National Restaurant Association suggests discarding paper menus after each use. That makes custom QR code menus worlds more affordable than the ever-growing printing costs of single use menus. And that’s to say nothing of the reason the NRA suggests it. Which is because it’s far more hygienic than paper menus, which are, hands down, the single dirtiest thing on a restaurant table. The increase in hygiene from a paper menu to a QR code on table tents, for example, is monumental.

Just be cognizant of the PDF accessibility of your QR code PDF menu. Making sure everyone can access your PDF QR code food menu isn’t as simple as putting it online and associating it with a QR code.

QR Code Food Ordering: Scan QR Code to Order Food

QR code food ordering is typically functionality added on top of QR code food menus. By scanning a QR code to order food, guests are given the ability to place mobile orders without having to download an app. Here’s how it works.

When guests scan a QR code food menu, they’re brought to a website with an interactive menu. Guests can choose items from the digital menu and add them to a cart. Submitting the order then creates a custom QR code for a server or cashier to scan. When they scan it, the order is finalized at the point of sale and sent to the kitchen. It’s essentially a way to electronically and contactlessly communicate menu selections to a server. And another monumentally useful way to increase the hygiene of bars and restaurants.

QR code menu

How to Create Food QR Codes

Have a look at our post about picking the best QR code generator. That should give you a nice survey of exactly what to consider when creating your own QR code. Just beware of the QR code security risks, though, when using free online QR code generators.

Creating a food QR code is no different from learning how to make a QR code for other purposes, with one exception. If your QR code fails for any reason, the implications are much larger. You’ll have printed them on physical products. Any issue with reliability, security, and editability has huge consequences. That’s why using free online QR code generators is so risky for QR codes on food.

QR Codes On Food: A Win-Win

QR codes on food can be used to lean into all sorts of important, impactful consumer values. And the main reason for that is that they’re more accessible than any food labeling or food packaging has ever been. If you want to consistently engage customers about the things they care about, meet them where they are: their smartphones.

Every smartphone has a built-in QR code scanner. That means that every story you tell about your nutrition, sustainability, and social responsibility initiatives is immediately accessible to every smartphone user.

You’ll not only be embracing a convenient, cost-effective technology. You’ll be embracing the deep concerns your customers have about their world. It may seem a bit grandiose for a food packaging conversation, but these little things matter. As every consumer is starting to realize.

Eliminate the hassle, cost, and risk of single-use paper menus. Schedule a demo now:
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