CPG search tool SmartLabel expands into Canada

Label Insight's technology looks to make it easier for brands and grocers to connect shoppers with increasingly specific needs.

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SmartLabel, an information management system for product ingredients, is coming to Canada to let brands and retailers offer more “beyond the label” product information to customers.

Chicago-based Label Insights has a database that tracks hundreds of thousands of nutrients and ingredients, and millions of product claims – and its SmartLabel tech pulls from that to make online shopping platforms more easily searchable through landing pages where consumers can find better organized information pertaining to things like allergens, benefits and ingredient sourcing practices. Label Insights says there are over 70,000 live SmartLabel pages currently in market.

The technology, according to Dagan Xavier, Label Insight’s co-founder and SVP of data and nutrition sciences, “is key to stocking the digital shelf” and reflects how consumers are searching more for highly granular product attributes, than simply brand names coupled with basic search terms like “vegan.”

SmartLabel data is based on approximately 300 different product attributes (like “salted,” “soy protein” and “dark chocolate”), and covering claims regulated by federal bodies, such as “low fat.” According to Xavier, SmartLabel also includes additional voluntary attributes such as ingredient descriptions, their function or purpose and social responsibility statements, like how they are sourced.

Label Insight works with over 350 U.S. retailers, both directly and indirectly through online shopper platforms, such as Instacart, group purchasing organizations like Topco, 5,000-plus CPG brands, and now it sees opportunity in Canada.

Xavier tells strategy that consumers are demanding greater transparency from CPGs, and those demands are more complex than ingredients being gluten or sugar-free. He says that 70% of online shoppers are looking for specific attributes important to them when choosing a brand: over 80% of searches on Amazon alone are for product attributes, not specific brands, which current search models do not represent.

Also, Xavier says, nearly half of consumers adhere to a diet or eating program, while 44% of consumers say food allergies, intolerances or food sensitivities affect the way they shop. He cites the Ketogenic Diet as an example – “probably not the attribute that most would have noted, but it’s the fifth most searched for attribute across all grocery categories.” This means, for example, that a customer searching for say, “Ketogenic Pasta Sauce” would have a poor online shopping experience, as not a lot of brands would pop up. That’s backed up by its down data Xavier says, citing Label Insight research that shows that 98% of products that qualify as ketogenic, fail to actually make that claim through search attributes. In fact, he says over half of food products fail to claim their single most searched for attribute in their respective category.

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Another example, he says, is “Atkins,” the 4th most searched attribute in Snack Bars, with over 90,000 searches on Amazon. However, he says, only 1.2% of products in that category actually make the claim on package. In addition, there are 2,312 products (34% of the category) that qualify to make an Atkins claim but do not make one, which is a lost opportunity. “The consequence here is that consumers are experiencing empty digital shelves. This is not favorable for the consumer or the retailer,” Xavier says. “The new POS the industry must pay more attention to is the Point of Search.”

Behaviors towards e-commerce were already changing prior to COVID-19, he says, and will ultimately keep changing after the pandemic has passed. Consumers have adopted new purchasing behaviors (see grocery app downloads), and “I don’t believe those behaviors will dramatically change or recede at the end of this.”

When it comes to expanding into Canada, he says many of the CPG brands who already leverage Label Insight’s SmartLabel solution in the U.S. also sell in Canada, which made this a natural expansion opportunity.

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