The Produce Marketing Association is telling fresh produce suppliers they need to think about more than just being Produce Traceability Initiative-compliant. Retailers also are starting to require company-specific Universal Product Codes instead of the generic versions.
This transition from generic to company-specific UPCs will improve category management while also enhancing traceability and business efficiencies, according to a news release from the association.
“Basically, the industry has been striving for unique identification on items for the past few months,” said Christina D’Allacco, manager of science and technology in supply chain efficiencies for Newark, Del.-based PMA.
Generic UPC numbers begin with a generic, PMA-assigned prefix, followed by an item reference number and check digit to identify packaged produce.
D’Allacco expects retailers will begin to require a more specific UPC where the prefix is assigned by GS1 US, a global standards organization for multiple industries.
ID item and company
Similar to the DataBar that was developed to help provide more information on bulk produce, specific UPCs identify the item and the company of origin, enabling retailers to differentiate between brands of product in the same category.
Databars are added to bulk produce, while these unique UPCs are used on packaged produce items.
This will allow retailers to determine sell-through and shrink data by brand, according to a news release.
This transition began a couple years ago with Kroger taking the lead, according to D’Allacco.
“Similar to the recent Wal-Mart announcement (mandating traceability compliance), Kroger took the lead in the retailer industry to request the data bar be included on all loose produce, and recently they’ve put out a request for packaged produce to have company-specific UPCs,” she said.
Since then, there has been a trickle-down effect.
“Some people complied right away and other didn’t, but Kroger has been diligent to follow up with suppliers to make sure they are staying compliant,” D’Allacco said.
Making the transition
PMA conducted a survey late last year and determined 80% of major retailers are looking to make the switch within the next three years, so suppliers will need to start thinking about this in addition to their efforts to stay PTI-compliant.
To help with the transition from generic to specific UPCs, PMA is offering UPC Link.
The tool will enable companies to upload a data file of individual product data for all buyers to use, making data transfer much more efficient.