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The Future of QR Codes

The Future of QR Codes

Quick Response codes, commonly known as QR codes, have become increasingly popular as information continues to fight for space on labels. But, how exactly are they used and are they a win:win for both brands and consumers?

QR codes

The use of QR codes has further been driven into wider consumer consciousness thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen people grow accustomed to scanning codes on their mobile phones in order to ‘check-in’ to restaurants and entertainment venues.

They’re also fast-becoming the space-saving tool of choice for the food and beverage industry, where label space is at a premium and brands continue to face the challenging task of balancing mandatory legal information with their own marketing and branding objectives.

How Are QR Codes Used?  

They can be used for many purposes, all of which can add value to the product, build brand awareness, and improve the overall customer experience.

From sharing links to website pages, social media channels and providing recipe ideas, to highlighting information on recycling and environmental background on the product. Some businesses in the fishing industry, for example, are using them to provide additional product origin information, even down to the name of the boat on where the fish was caught and the name of the captain at the helm.

Colourful QR codes have also been trialled by food companies to help people with sight impairments to support them in accessing product information when out shopping. Individuals can also use their mobile phones to detect the colourful barcodes with the information contained within them ‘read out’ by the phone, making it much more accessible.

Should Brands Be Wary?

QR codes have not come without their regulatory challenges, especially in the food and beverage industry.

When using QR codes for the purpose of sharing further marketing information, such as competitions or offers relating to the product, it’s vital to remember that this information – although not on-pack – is still covered under general food law and is monitored by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Several food companies have fallen short on the law by using QR codes in the wrong way. One example saw a QR code used for an app designed and aimed at children, but which contained an advert for a food product. This advert, as concluded by ASA, was for a food product classed as High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) and therefore did not meet the advertising standards for children.

Enforcement Action

Any mandatory information in accordance with general UK and EU food laws must be included on the product packaging or on a securely attached label.

But many brands have made the error of removing mandatory labelling requirements and putting them through QR codes in order to make more room on the label for marketing purposes. This is not permitted and will likely result in action being taken from the relevant authorities – something which your food labelling company will ensure is avoided.

Hosting information on QR codes should also be carefully considered due to the possibility that some demographics may not have the technology or knowledge to use them. Moving too much of the information you want consumers to see to a QR code could be a risk, and still needs to be balanced with the mandatory requirements and core information that you wish to convey on-pack.

What’s the Outlook?

While they have many fantastic benefits and can be utilised to provide additional information on a product, they may not be accessible to everyone and so should not be the only way consumers can access useful product information.


Contact our team of experts if you have any queries.


Recent blogs: 

Cell-based Meat – Is it Viable? 

Coeliac Awareness Week – What Do Brands Need to Do?

Alcohol Labelling: How to Label Volume in the UK and EU


Caitlin Stewart, Marketing Manager

My background in Food Science and Marketing means I have a unique combination of commercial creativity and technical food manufacturing experience. My ambition is to bring clarity to the complex world of compliance through the simple and eye-catching communication of Ashbury's services.

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