SmartLabel: True Transparency for Consumer Products

Hershey’s 2015 CSR Report was released on June 9, and I encourage everyone interested in Hershey and our sustainability work to download and read it. The progress we have made as a company and the positive impact we are having on the world is truly inspiring.

One featured story was that of our company’s industry leadership helping to develop and being first to launch the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s new SmartLabel(TM) program. If you can imagine getting more than 90 CPG manufacturers, grocery retailers and industry partners to agree on the total design for a consumer-facing tool for product transparency in just over nine months, then you have some sense of the magnitude of this achievement! This is a really big deal – for shoppers and consumers, and for the trust they have in our brands and companies.

Recent research from the Center for Food Integrity confirms that Americans have a “big is bad” mindset when it comes to food companies and farms. A significant percentage of the public (in some cases a majority) feel smaller companies and farms are more likely to share their values. There is a growing public perception that “Big Food” puts profits ahead of public interest. The good news is that the research also validates that transparency is KEY to building and maintaining consumer trust in brands and large food companies. Being transparent – about all aspects of both products and business practices, the good and the not-so-good – is now table stakes for winning hearts and being rewarded with purchases. And one thing is clear: the physical package is a poor platform to deliver this level of detailed product information. Package size and available space is limited.

Hershey has now been joined by more than 36 other companies who are now starting to execute SmartLabel(TM) in their portfolios. Companies such as General Mills, Unilever and Campbell Soup already have live landing pages and many more are following. GMA estimates that 34,000 items in the store will be included in the program by the end of 2017. We will be adding 600 items to SmartLabel(TM) this year on top of the 200 items from 2015. We will complete our portfolio in 2017.

In summary, consumers are demanding to know more about what is in their food, where ingredients come from and how products are made. SmartLabel(TM) is scalable and flexible, able to accommodate consumers’ changing needs for information, and is a true game-changer in the CPG industry.