After last year’s listeria outbreak linked to Colorado cantaloupes, which sickened 146 and killed 30, it’s no surprise that consumers want to know where their melons are coming from.
Grower-shippers are eager to respond to those concerns and tout their traceability systems.
YottaMark, Inc., Redwood City, Calif., recently announced SunFed will use HarvestMark’s traceability system with its new line of organic cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.
Nogales, Ariz.-based SunFed already was using HarvestMark for its conventional melon line, said HarvestMark founder and chief marketing officer Elliott Grant.
“Consumer awareness of melons and cantaloupes was heightened after the Jensen Farms incident last year,” Grant said. “This was an opportunity to get the story out to consumers that SunFed melons are traceable. Making product traceable increases consumer confidence in the brand.”
Each SunFed organic label will feature a quick-response code, allowing shoppers and retail buyers to access information with their smartphones or by entering a 16-digit code at www.HarvestMark.com.
“That’s increasingly showing up on products,” Grant said of QR codes. “It’s a powerful tool.”
Grant said that market research indicates that roughly half of U.S. shoppers own smartphones. Although not all of those consumers are using QR codes, he said the number is growing.
“We look at Japan as the bellwether with technology,” he said. “About 90% of consumers have smartphones in Japan, and about 50% are using QR codes. That’s where we’re headed. Increasingly, you’ll see that capability built into phones. It won’t be an app anymore.”
In addition to checking recall status, HarvestMark will allow SunFed customers to provide feedback to the grower-shipper.
“By featuring HarvestMark on our melons, including cantaloupe, we ... provide customers with the information they seek to give them peace of mind when buying healthy food for their families,” SunFed vice president of sales and marketing Matt Mandel said in a news release.
In the event of a recall, consumers who scan a QR code or type a code into HarvestMark’s website would be directed to an FDA notice.
Grant said one of HarvestMark’s other clients recently had a product recall, and activity on the HarvestMark website increased 600% in three days as consumers checked on the product’s status.
“It becomes part of what consumers think about when they buy,” he said. “Consumers also can check products they have at home when there is a recall.”
Grant, who declined to name the product or the client involved in the recent recall, said 15% to 20% of consumers who checked that product had it in their homes.
“The assumption is that recalled product is often out of the supply chain by the time a recall happens,” he said. “That wasn’t the case. Product was still in people’s kitchens. We were able to help consumers find out whether they had recalled product.”