Retailers must try to engage their shoppers when trying to meet the needs of the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC).
At the weekend a new piece of legislation was introduced, The Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC), which requires retailers to clearly label food products at the shelf edge and display any ingredients that might trigger consumers’ allergies.
There are 14 main allergen ingredients that need to be identified on the product labels, including gluten and nuts.
To bring uniformity, all nutritional information on packaging must be clearly displayed in the ingredients list, with manufacturers bolding out or highlighting the 14 main allergen ingredients within this – the previous ‘shortcut’, simply stating ‘may contain milk’, will no longer be acceptable.
“Retailers must do all they can to make the new changes known to their customers”
David Hilton, Displaydata
Many businesses have already taken steps to meet the new standard by highlighting specific ingredients in bold or italics.
However, there will be a transition period whereby old and new style labelling may run side by side, most likely for products with a long shelf life such as tinned or dried food.
In this case, retailers must do all they can to make the new changes known to their customers. Of course, there is technology on hand that can assist in this, but there are also other ways in which retailers can ensure their customers remain in the know.
Digital display technology, such as electronic shelf labels (ESLs), enable retailers to roll out changes to product information in real-time across an entire store estate.
This means any changes to allergy information can be managed from a central point to keep customers up to date.
Retailers can also use dynamic ESL capabilities to rapidly update other details at the shelf edge, such as item prices or new promotional offers.
By managing product information changes centrally, retailers can save an enormous amount of time that would otherwise be spent manually changing paper labels.
As such, sales associates become empowered to focus on customer-centric tasks, such as serving shoppers or ensuring stock is readily available on the shop floor.
Reliance on such technology should also be balanced with the continued training of store staff.
While technology can certainly enhance a customer’s in store experience, it is there to support customer service personnel, who will be available for assistance when needed.
Strong product knowledge has always been important, so it is essential that this level of expertise is kept intact when a new piece of legislation comes into place.
It is unlikely that many customers will be aware of the detail behind the new allergy regulations, and will be reliant on staff to keep them informed. Therefore, ensuring that efficient training is in place ahead of such changes enables retailers to maintain a high level of service in their stores.
Customers will always place a great deal of trust in the advice and opinions of other shoppers.
While the messaging retailers put out there is important, there is nothing more effective than hearing exactly how a new product, or piece of legislation, has benefitted someone using it or who has been affected by it.
In this case, including a customer advocate within promotional material could be extremely effective in not only boosting the awareness of the new legislation, but more importantly what retail stores are doing to make it easier for customers to absorb.
Social media is now a part of society’s daily routine, and it is vital for retailers to start utilising it in their business. While many will already have their social platforms in place, using them to their full potential is a whole other story.
Customers crave interaction and social media is the perfect means for retailers to do this on a more personal level.
Accompanying a social strategy alongside the more widespread preparations for the changes will enable customers to share their concerns with retailers directly.
It also gives retail businesses a simple way to share expertise in a timely manner, on a one-to-one basis
- David Hilton is director of product management at technology provider Displaydata