Woolworths to trial new 2D barcodes to cut food waste

Woolworths will become the first Australian supermarket to trial data-embedded (or 2D) barcodes from August.

The supermarket says the new barcodes could reduce the millions of tonnes of food waste in Australia each year and eliminate the risk of customers buying expired products. They could also be useful in the event of a product recall.

In collaboration with Woolworths, Hilton Foods and Ingham’s will start putting 2D barcodes on fresh meat and poultry products sold in the supermarket.

Another dimension

For the past 45 years, retailers have used 1D barcodes that merely identify the object. But 2D barcodes contain information about the product’s batch, supplier, used-by date and serial numbers at the point of sale. The new barcodes store data in two dimensions and look like checkerboards.

In the event of a product recall, 2D barcodes allow retailers to pinpoint the specific batch affected. They can then trace it back through the production line and identify the source of contamination. This means unaffected products won’t end up in landfill.

The new barcodes will also stop customers buying out-of-date products, which, again, could cut down on food waste. When scanned, the barcodes will alert the customer that the product is out of date and block the purchase.

With a trace

Ingham’s has welcomed the barcodes for their ability to improve the traceability of products on their “farm-to-fork” journey.

“Food safety and traceability are paramount to our business,” Ingham’s Head of Sales – Woolworths Ed Alexander said.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with Woolworths in the initial rollout of this technology. We look forward to seeing the real-time and long-term benefits it will bring.”

Woolworths General Manager of Business Enablement, Richard Plunkett, said: “We’re proud to be the first Australian supermarket to invest in this technology. And we hope it can help us further reduce food waste.

“2D barcodes have immense potential. We’re excited to see how they will improve food safety, traceability and stock management.”

Woolworths says successful 2D-barcode trials in Germany, the UK and Thailand have shown “material benefits” for both customers and suppliers.

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