At least one major US food corporation is taking part in trials this summer to evaluate the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for monitoring product promotions.
The six-month trial, which involves 10 manufacturers and 10 stores in the US, has been developed by Oat Systems, ADT and Intel, and will help retailers track promotions and provide feedback to suppliers.
Milan Turk, customer and consumer leader for Procter & Gamble, one of the suppliers taking part, said: "Improving promotional execution is a cornerstone of our electronic product code advantaged strategy that we initiated earlier this year, based on pilots with retail partners." The pilots showed that RFID enabled participants to improve the efficiency and timeliness of product arriving on the shopfloor, he added.
In the trials, promotional items will be tracked at every point in the supply chain. Data will then be fed back to suppliers, helping them to identify when products are not getting on to the shopfloor and to plan production to meet demand on a real-time basis.
Any study that attempted to demonstrate a business case for RFID in food was welcome, according to one food industry insider. "Marks & Spencer (M&S) has demonstrated that there is a business case for RFID on returnable assets such as produce crates and there are various asset-tracking projects going on such, as the Robert Wiseman Dairy trial." (Food Manufacture, June 2006, p24). But there was no clear case for disposable tags on cases or pallets, he added.
Almost a quarter of respondents to Food Manufacture's 2006 editorial survey claimed that they were planning RFID trials in the next two years. However, most were M&S suppliers which will have to use RFID for food products delivered in returnable crates.
- See feature p30