Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

New barcode for individual items could prevent food waste

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New barcode for individual items could prevent food waste
New ultra small barcode which enables individual fruit and vegetable items to be identified could help to prevent food waste.
In Use – Currently being trialled with an expected widespread implementation in 2014.

Product Waste Reduction

Product Categories

Relevant Materials
Not Applicable

Relevant Packaging Formats

Supply Chain Phase
Retailing, Supply Chain handling systems and store replenishment


Most consumers are familiar with seeing bar codes on a wide variety of products. However, until recently it has not been possible to produce readable bar codes small enough to be used on small individual items such as fruit and vegetable items. Following a lengthy development period a new ultra small bar code standard has been developed by GS1 to enable small items to be coded.
Bar codes include details of the product type and specifications and on food items can include details of "use by" dates and other information relevant to the product. It is expected that by coding small food items such as individual fruit and vegetables it will be possible to keep better control of such products and thereby prevent some food waste. Whilst the new codes are smaller than existing barcodes they can contain more data such as shelf life dates and this is especially important on loose fruit and vegetables which have always been hard to keep track of for retailers.
The new "GS1 Databar" codes are currently being trialled with an expected widespread implementation in 2014.
The content in this entry has been obtained from publicly available information sources only (e.g. press releases, website and trade press articles) and is subject to completion of a validation process with the technology supplier.

Potential Benefits

By allowing the tracking of smaller food items in the supply chain it is anticipated that this development will enable managment to keep tighter control of such items and facilitate the taking of timely management actions to ensure that product wastage is kept to a minimum. This will be financially beneficial to the supply chain, especially retailers, but will also deliver considerable environmental benefits as in-store and back-of-store product wastage rates for loose fresh fruit and vegetables are particularly high.

Intellectual Property

The new ultra small " GS1 Databar" bar code standard has been developed by GS1 in conjunction with a selection of retailers and manufacturers.

Consultant View

The new code represents an important step forward in being able to track small items in the supply chain.  This is especially important in the case of individual fruit and vegetable items which have always been notoriously difficult for retailers to monitor and manage. Improved monitoring and management should help to prevent food wastage in the supply chain by enabling managers to identify short shelf life products.  Following identification it is possible to implement sell through strategies such as staged mark-downs and other techniques to sell the products before they go to waste.
Researchers who are interested in this technology should consult the REID database in order to explore other technologies which tackle the issue food and drink spoilage and wastage in the supply chain.

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