It stands to reason if QR codes allow consumers pre-purchase access to Websites with product information, that would satisfy the FDA rule. However, operators would need to have QR codes on each machine, perhaps each product spiral, and then maintain a database of the product calories, updating the database each time a new product is added or the calorie counts change.
With emerging technology as a possible solution to the calorie labeling rule, NAMA has taken a bold step. The association, along with its marketing firm, Chicago-based Healy & Schulte, has developed a mobile device application called the “Vendometer.”
Available now to iPhone and iPad users, Vendometer offers consumers nutritional information and ingredient listings for more than 4,000 food and beverage products sold in vending. When a consumer downloads the free app from iTunes and taps on the icon, the home screen provides choices for searching, browsing product listings, and learning more about Vendometer. The search and browse functions connect consumers to the MIND database from VEII, which calls up a color photograph of the product along with its nutritional label and ingredients listing. However, consumers must always check the current product packaging for the most up-to-date nutritional information.
Front of pack labels?
A manufacturer funded solution, front-of-package (FOP) labeling, has been proposed by some, including the National Confectioners Association. Laura Shumow, director of technical and regulatory affairs, can envision vending operators making FOP labels a requirement of their suppliers and manufacturers. “It makes sense as a disclosure system,” she said.
While rare, there are a few manufacturers already experimenting with FOP labels. Mars Chocolate North America has put FOP icons on many of its candy products, as requests for this information has come from Europe and other countries.
Shumow said the American Beverage Association has created the “Clear On Calories” initiative, a voluntary FOP labeling program that the soda makers have begun implementing on products of up to 20-ounce servings. Other groups are also talking about FOP labels, such as the Grocery Marketers Association, which is working on a “Facts Up Front” labeling program. “Their program recommends not only calories, but saturated fat, sugars, and sodium,” said Shumow.
While Shumow hasn’t heard an exact date for the final FDA rule, she believes the industry will be given a year or two to come into compliance.
FOP labeling was also mentioned in comments to the FDA. It would be a way of keeping the disclosure inexpensive, consistent, and across multiple channels, not singling out vending products as opposed to convenience and grocery store products.
However, because the rule is not intended for manufacturers, operators will be responsible for the FOP label being placed in a readable position. Also, it would mean operators could only use product with FOP labels.
Whether it is technology or packaging changes, calorie disclosure is in vending’s future.
For more information, contact:
Food And Drug Administration, 888-463-6332, www.regulations.gov
Intui Sense Technologies, +33 (0) 442 834 117,www.intui-sense.com
National Automatic Merchandising Association, 312-346-0370, www.vending.org
National Confectioners Association, 202-534-1440, www.candyusa.com
U-Select-It, 800-247-8709, www.uselectit.com