As the founder of the internet venture, GourmetOrigins, one of the topics that often comes up when speaking with people in the food industry is technology and particularly, how to use technology to sell food or, and this is particularly important at a time when the consumer is facing almost limitless choices of food, how to take advantage of the web to better reach more customers and better differentiate their product.
QR-Codes are an elegant way to access loads of product information.
Food is one of the sectors of what many would call the “old economy” (although I doubt this word would really apply here, unless people no longer needed to eat or completely lost the taste for food), and the reality is that a large portion of quality food producers are still using very traditional channels to place their product in front of consumers. More often than not the nuances and unique characteristics, the stories that constitute a product’s best marketing argument, are lost along the way. The customer usually gets just a slight hint or a vague idea of the properties and story of the product (if he gets the chance to buy from a specialty shop or from an experienced retailer passionate about its job, he might get a bit more information, but still, the chances it will be able to delve further into the product context are limited)
So, what I tell producers is: look at all the new channels that technology has opened, that are all within your reach and that enable you to reach you customers and tell the story of your product in a way that adds value to it!
I will focus on three main trends that go on this direction. I am aware that currently they are not exactly mainstream, but I am convinced they will become an increasingly powerful tool in the relationship between quality food and wine producers and their customers.
A deluge of data
There is no doubt about it, we are awash with data and more is expected to flow towards us as more items and processes or our daily life become digitalized. When it comes to food and wine there are just so many factors that are important to define a product: place and time of production, processes, chemical properties, environmental and health implications.
The concept of traceability has been around for a while, but you need the technology in order to be able to fully implement it. This technology is not exactly new either, it has been in the hands of retailers and logistics companies for years, but new tools and applications are making it possible for the general public to also access this information (by means of a smart-phone, for example). I would place in this category technologies like the QR-code or the RFID tag (one of whose applications we already presented a few months ago). These would be the “windows” (sorry for the choice of word, no connection with the software giant here!) that allow people to access this data.
Processing, aggregation and open data
This takes us to the next step: what do you do with all this data? If we were limiting it to their direct use, we would be wasting much of its potential. This is why the open data movement is relevant in this context, and initiatives like Food+Tech Connect are showing how there is value in using the wealth of food-related data that is generated for multiple purposes, for example, improve public policies, or, why not, support the competitiveness of small producers, for example, creating visual maps that enable a better assesment of the situation of the food sector.
All this data needs to be interpreted, and here is where we, at platforms such as GourmetOrigins, can do our bit. The amount and format of all the data that is generated by the food sector is hardly usable by most consumers. Even when the information has already been “packaged” in a more consumer-friendly format it is often not fully understandable for the time-pressed consumer.
A good example is the Good Guide, that combines elements of accessibility (phone-based bar-code reading technology) with information analysis (healthiness ratings). Take for example, the European system of designations of origin: thousands of products that are unique in their own way, that have followed a set of very demanding rules and processes and undergone certification to prove that they are only made in specific locations that contribute to the product’s properties. You can stuff all this information on a QR-code for example, but for this information to be of any use for the consumer there needs to be some story-telling too! The information needs to be conveyed in plain words and in a practical way in order to make the most of it. We need a story-telling layer! we are at it…
Originally posted at GourmetOrigins.com
Miquel Ros is the Founder and Managing Director of GourmetOrigins.com, a map-based online social guide to discover the origins of high quality foods and wines and an online meeting point for food and wine enthusiasts to share experiences and expand their knowledge about their favorite products.