UPC Barcode Basics
UPC or Universal Product Code barcodes are a digitally readable series of bars that is translated into 12 digits allowing products to be digitally tracked and scanned.
But how do those bars translate into 12 digits? The UPC barcode is actually made up of 95 evenly spaced columns. Once scanned, the computer reads those columns as a 95-character number made up of 1s and zeros. A light column is read as 0 and dark columns are 1.
This 95-character number is then translated into 12 digits. The first six digits identify the manufacturer, the next five represent the product and the final digit is a check digit. These 12 numbers are also printed at the bottom of the barcode in a human readable form.
Barcodes provide a lot of information about a product, but they do not provide the price of an item (stores get this information by pairing the barcode with their internal database). And despite what numerous viral social media posts may say, barcodes do not provide information on the product’s country of origin.
Contact DLS for help with your customers pre-printed barcodes or supplies to print them on demand.
Chemicals are big business. In fact, 2019 global chemical shipments were worth nearly $4 trillion. With all these chemicals traveling around the world, it makes sense for there to be a standard way to label and classify hazardous materials.
GHS, or the Globally Harmonized System of the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals was developed by the UN beginning in 1992, so workers throughout the world can easily identify dangerous substances. Instead of each country having its own system for labeling hazardous materials, the symbols are standardized and easily recognizable. Additionally, GHS labels need to meet certain requirements for quality and durability.
GHS is not a global law, but recommendations that countries can incorporate into their own chemical management system and regulations. Countries can pick and choose which pieces of GHS they wish to incorporate into their own regulations to enforce within their jurisdiction. No country is obligated to adopt all or any of the GHS system. But more than 65 countries have. The U.S. officially adopted GHS in 2012, when OSHA adapted their standards to incorporate GHS.
Contact DLS for more information on or help with your customer’s GHS labels.
Tamper-Proof Prepared Food Labels
How would you feel about a delivery driver helping themselves to a few of your fries? What if all it took was a label to keep your food safe? A survey conducted by US Foods in late 2019 found that 28% of food delivery drivers admitted to occasionally sampling customers’ food. The same survey found that 85% of customers wanted restaurants to use tamper-evident packaging to help discourage the practice. Enter tamper-evident labels.
This relatively simple solution uses a label to seal bags, boxes or other food containers and helps customers feel confident that their food hasn’t been pilfered. These little labels have become especially prevalent and important with the increased use of food delivery services, as well as the increased focus on preventing the spread of germs and viruses that has come with Covid-19. In addition to helping customers feel confident in the safety of a restaurant’s food, these labels also provide additional opportunities for companies to market to their customers with branded graphics or promotional labels.
Contact DLS for tamper-evident labels for your customers.
QR Codes on Labels
QR codes, or quick respond codes were invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara from the Japanese company Denso Wave. They were designed to allow for high-speed scanning and were originally used to track vehicles during manufacturing.
QR codes are an example of a 2d or matrix code. Unlike traditional barcodes that only present information linearly, QR codes have the ability to hold information both horizontally and vertically. This allows the code to contain significantly more information. Common uses include displaying text, opening a webpage, adding a vCard, opening a Uniform Resource Identifier or connecting to a wireless network.
There are a large number of tools to create QR codes, as well as to read them. While in the past, smart phones would require a special app to read QR codes, most modern smart phones will now read a QR code simply by viewing it through the phone’s camera.
QR codes are often used in marketing, making it easy to direct customers to additional information. Other markets that utilize the versatile codes include manufacturing, consumer products and electronics, healthcare, retail and warehouse and distribution.
Contact DLS to learn how you can help your customers add QR codes to their labels.
What if your labels could just… disappear? Dissolvable labels can do just that. Dissolvable labels are made up of water-soluble stock and adhesive, that will dissolve within 30 seconds in any temperature water. They leave behind no residue and won’t clog drains. Labels are easily removed without the need for scraping either the label or adhesive—saving considerable time. Restaurant and food service businesses regularly use dissolvable labels for food rotation or storage labels—since they can simply wash off in the dishwasher.
They are also useful in healthcare or laboratory settings. In some cases, dissolvable labels can also be an eco-friendly option for companies who want to make it easier to reuse packaging. When used in this way, it is necessary to keep in mind how long the label needs to last and where and how the product would be stored to be sure that the label doesn’t dissolve before it's done its job.
Contact DLS for help with dissolvable labels for your customers.
Organic Food Labels
Organic food is worth big money. According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. organic food sales hit $50.1 billion in 2020. This means that the use of "organic" on product labels can be a valuable marketing tool. But there are actually strict federal requirements for which products can be labeled organic.
USDA Organic certification confirms that the farm or handling facility (whether within the United States or internationally) complies with USDA organic regulations related to soil quality, animal welfare, pest and weed control, and use of additives. In order to label their products organic, producers must be certified by a certification agent approved by the USDA.
There are three levels of organic labeling. Products made entirely with certified organic ingredients, methods, and processing aids can be labeled "100% organic". Products with at least 95% organic ingredients may be labeled "organic". Products containing a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, can be labeled "made with organic ingredients," but may not display the USDA Organic seal.
Contact DLS for help with your customer’s food labels (both organic and conventional).
Augmented Reality Labels
Imagine pointing your phone at a label and watching the image on that label come to life. Maybe the image starts moving and speaking. Maybe the image completely explodes off the label into an interactive app. Or maybe the image takes you to additional content and information about the product. Augmented reality makes this possible. Augmented reality labels utilize a specially designed smartphone app that recognizes scannable images in the label. When the app user scans the label with their smart phone, the app recognizes a special visual cue that will then trigger the augmented reality content.
One of the most famous examples of this interactive label option is 19 Crimes wine. When users viewed the wine labels, which featured portraits of “criminals”, the app would bring the portraits to life, with augmented reality video of the criminals explaining their story. This early use of Augmented Reality labels was extremely successful from a marketing perspective—helping the winemaker increase their sales by 90%.
The technology for augmented reality labels isn’t yet standardized, so there isn’t a universal app that will read all augmented reality labels. As the technology catches on, there are several customizable AR apps that can be leveraged for your customer’s augmented reality labels, or mobile app developers can develop completely custom apps. It is also extremely important when developing an augmented reality label to work closely with your customer’s label designer and the label printing company to be sure that the image cues work correctly.
Consider augmented reality labels for your customers who are looking for a creative way to interact with their customers.
Food Allergen Labels
When it comes to allergies, accurate labeling is serious business. Each year in the U.S. it’s estimated that severe food reactions cause 30,000 emergency room visits, 2,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths. To help consumers easily identify products containing allergens, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2004 and took effect in 2006. This law required that manufacturers call out and list any of eight major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans).
Manufacturers can satisfy the labeling requirements either by calling out the allergen in the ingredients list with the allergen in parenthesis, such as casein(milk) or by using the word “contains” followed by the allergen, such as contains milk.
While there are considerably more ingredients that could potentially cause allergic reactions, it was estimated that these 8 allergens were responsible for 90% of severe reactions, and for the last 17 years, there were not changes to the list of major allergens. However, the recently passed Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (FASTER) adds sesame to the list of major allergens beginning Jan. 1, 2023. This law also contains provisions that make it easier for additional allergens to be identified and added to the list. So it is important that manufacturers stay abreast of potential changes to the regulations. What are other possible additions? As a major allergen in the regulations for both Canada and the EU, mustard may be one of the next candidates.
Contact DLS to help your customers with compliant allergy labeling.
Aligning OSHA & GHS
Since 2016, OSHA’s HCS has aligned with GHS (Globally Harmonized System of the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals). Prior to this, companies had to provide information and labeling related to dangerous chemicals, but the information and format could vary from company to company. It also wasn’t uncommon for a product to be relabeled several times in order to comply with conflicting US and international regulations. By adopting the GHS, OSHA aimed to provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. It was also done to help reduce trade barriers and result in productivity improvements for American businesses.
GHS is regularly revised. Since its introduction in 1992, the GHS has gone through 8 revisions. The HCS isn’t revised nearly as often. Initially, the HCS was aligned with the 3rd revision of GHS. In early 2021, OSHA announced plans to revise the HCS to line up with the 7th revision of GHS. This process of revising the HCS is ongoing, and is anticipated to be complete soon.
Contact DLS for help with your customer’s GHS or HCS labels.
In the battle for consumer attention, product marketers rely heavily on prime labels to distinguish their brand. Prime labels are those featured prominently on the front of a product and are a key component of the product’s packaging and branding. Usually, prime labels are full-color labels, printed on quality label stock, with special attention paid to the graphic design. They should help reinforce brand, appeal to customers, and ultimately… entice customers to buy.
These labels play a huge role in determining if consumers buy a product. Just how big? Here are some stats:
- Studies have shown that consumers generally make a decision on a product in just 7 seconds… not much time to make a good first impression.
- 60% of shoppers are unlikely to buy a product when the label doesn’t provide enough information.
And the big one… 33% of shoppers are inclined to reject a product if they don’t like the label.
Contact DLS to help you provide prime labels for your customers.
Bioengineered Food Labels
Starting January 1 of 2022, you may have seen new labels on some of your food. Food manufacturers, importers and retailers in the U.S. are now required to comply with a new national labeling standard for genetically modified, or bioengineered food. These foods are defined as “those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.”
The new requirements are an attempt to provide national standards for labeling bioengineered food, rather than forcing consumers to rely on a patchwork of state standards. These new standards also do away with terms like Genetically Modified, or GMO. The labeling requirements, which were approved by the USDA in 2020, gave companies until January 2022 to comply.
Companies with products that qualify as bioengineered can comply with the new standard in several ways. They can use one of two approved logos, include text on food packages that says "bioengineered food" or "contains a bioengineered food ingredient," or they can include a QR code for consumers to scan or a phone number for them to text that will provide more information about that food item.
Neither food producers or consumer groups are particularly happy with the guidelines. Consumer groups say that they provide too many loopholes, put too much responsibility on consumers, and can be confusing. Food producers are upset at the timing of the new rule given the strain companies are already under right now due to supply chain issues. Regardless of these complaints, the rules are now in effect.
Contact DLS for help providing your customers with these or other food labels.