Roses are red, violets are blue, I love chocolate but I’m allergic to glu (ten)

‘Tis the season. You romantics might know it as Valentine’s Day, but for us chocolate lovers, its chocolate month. It’s everywhere you look. Giant and small, in heart-shaped and square boxes, accompanied by various t-shirt wearing stuffed animals, and in weird and wonderful shapes (I’m looking at you chocolate heart-shaped key). For a chocolate lover like me, this has always been the most wonderful time of the year…until this year. When I found out that I have an intolerance to gluten, I was afraid it was going to put a bit of a damper on my ability to indulge in the libations of the season. Lucky for me, the U.S. FDA has a law requiring gluten-free products to be labeled, so I know exactly which chocolate heart-shaped keys I can happily enjoy, and those that I can’t. This got me thinking about my beloved chocolate, and labels, and what ingredients are in the products I know and love.

I started to do research on some of my favorite consumables and found that thousands of consumers were looking for the same information I was. People were asking questions about product composition on message boards, social media, comment sections of recipe sites, and there was even an entire Reddit thread dedicated to speculating what ingredients make up a popular food product. These questions weren’t just around traditional dietary and allergen ingredients; people want to know all kinds of information about the products they consume, and if the brand isn’t providing it, they’re getting their information from username sergeantfancypants007. In other words, they’re getting it elsewhere.

The way consumers share and receive information is shifting rapidly and the industry is starting to respond with initiatives to catch up. Just recently the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association announced the SmartLabel initiative. A response to the consumer demand of transparency, a SmartLabel will sit on the product packaging in addition to the standard label, to provide consumers with supplementary product information in a standardized and accessible digital format. Leading brands, including a popular chocolate maker, are spearheading the initiative and committing to adopt SmartLabel to provide consumers with product information transparency.

Transparency is becoming a critical factor for buyers, particularly millennials who are paying more attention to product attributes than any other age group. It’s a key differentiator for businesses who want to stay relevant and competitive in a market where transparency of product information is soon to be the reigning king. So what can brands do? Most importantly, brands must ensure that they have a product content distribution strategy that enables sharing trusted, accurate product information across omni-channels, including supply chain, e-commerce, m-commerce, social media, third party app developers, and regulatory compliance. Without this, brands are at risk of sergeantfancypants007 becoming their unelected brand ambassador (for better or worse) and losing consumer trust.

As connected consumers continue to engage with brands through multiple touchpoints, brands must ensure they’re distributing trusted accurate product information through all of their channels. Initiatives like SmartLabel are bringing the information consumers are searching for right into the palm of their hands by providing assurance and confidence in purchasing decisions. In the meantime, I’m armed with my gluten-free supply of chocolate heart-shaped keys and wishing you all a happy chocolate season!

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