China has evolved into one of the leading barcode technology deploying nations from Asia-Pacific over the past 2-3 years. That being said, however, vendors have consistently struggled to get their products to the Chinese mass market. This is due to a combination of factors including users’ preference for local suppliers and extreme price competition. The economic boom that the country has seen over the past two decades has propelled it to global superpower status, one that it evidently wants to protect.
China’s beleaguered food and dairy industries continue to be inundated with scandals. Where it was tainted milk powder five years ago, there is rat meat being sold as lamb today. The Chinese middle class, along with the large population of expatriates in the country, is sourcing their food internationally. The government seems to have finally taken notice. They recently announced a voluntary, barcode and RFID-based program that would help ensure the quality, authenticity and safety of fresh produce and meat moving from source to consumption. While this is a good beginning, an enforceable mandate would provide a true jump start.
There is an immediate need to “clean up” the supply chain to build back trust in domestic brands; and AutoID technologies can help them achieve this end. From the barcode vendor perspective, this potentially means a sizeable, near-term opportunity to help users maintain adherence to safety and quality standards regulations with the right solution investments. For local organizations, it should probably not stop here. For example, China is the largest smartphone market in the world. As a result, placing QR codes on meat, fresh produce and dairy packaging would only help home-grown food industry participants generate confidence in their consumer base and elevate brands’ interaction levels with them.
We talked about the European horsemeat scandal a few months ago on our blog. This Chinese debacle is, in our minds, not very different. The importance of traceability for the foods that we consume cannot be stressed enough. An emphasis on digitizing the product identification and authentication process can only serve to enhance supply chain visibility and help consumers make an intelligent purchasing decision. Here’s hoping.