The results from the Icelandic marine monitoring activities in 2020 on undesirable substances in seafood have been made available in an online report. The monitoring has been an ongoing project since 2003 and Matis ohf. collects and disseminates the data.
The main aim of this project is to gather data and evaluate the status of Icelandic seafood products in terms of undesirable substances and to utilise the data to estimate the exposure of consumers to these substances from Icelandic seafood and risks related to public health.
The results show that in regard to the maximum levels set in the regulation, the edible parts of Icelandic seafood products contain negligible amounts of dioxins, dioxin like and non-dioxin-like PCBs. In fact, all samples of seafood analysed in 2020 were below EC maximum levels.
The EIT Food communication project Smart Tags came recently to an end. This was a one-year project that had the objective study and communicate the applicability of Smart Tags as means to increase consumer trust towards food products. These Smart Tags are “intelligent” labels that can provide consumers with information which regular food labelling cannot. Smart Tags can therefore contribute to sharing information about the food product value chain during the whole life-cycle of the product, enabling novel service concepts and interactivity between consumers and the food industry. Now at the end of the project it is worthwhile to review what was accomplished during the project and how the results can live on beyond the project lifetime.
The project was broken into six tasks, one on management, one on dissemination and the other four tasks were then interlinked; starting with a review of the available Smart Tag technologies and their usage in food value chains, which provided input to a task that focused on assessing consumers’ and other stakeholders’ needs and expectations towards Smart Tags. These then provided valuable input to a task that studied potential novel service concepts that rely on Smart Tag technologies; a task that resulted in identification of 19 Smart Tag enabled service concepts. The most applicable of these concepts were then pre-piloted in selected food value chains in the final task.
The task of reviewing the available Smart Tag technologies and their usage in food value chains was quite extensive. It focused on the available technologies in the domain of intelligent packaging and their enablers and barriers towards consumer acceptance and trust. Three main components of intelligent packaging technology were identified (indicator, sensor and data carrier) and synthesised their most widely found sub-components in literature which include time temperature indicator, freshness indicator, gas indicator, biosensor, gas sensor, barcode and RFID. The task concluded that despite a large number of research work being done in the domain of active and intelligent packaging, there are limited empirical studies that investigated consumer acceptance or trust towards intelligent packaging technologies. The tasks therefore also looked at the technologies proposed for supply chain traceability as it has a similar aim as intelligent packaging which is communication. The tasks also studied the main barriers for intelligent devices in food packaging, and concluded that consumers’ acceptance, legal constrains and some technical issues present a major barrier for wider uptake of Smart Tag solutions in food value chains. The results of this task will be presented in a peer-reviewed journal article that is planned to be published in 2021.
The task that focused on assessing consumers’ and other stakeholders’ needs and expectations towards Smart Tags was as well very comprehensive. It used results from the previous task as input and further analysed the needs and requirements of consumers and suppliers. This work included in-depth interviews with suppliers in nine countries, focus group sessions in five countries and a wide scale consumer surveys in eight countries. The project has in total received direct input on consumer’s and stakeholder needs and expectations from over 4 thousand people. The results of this work will be presented in a journal article that is planned to be published in 2021. The overall conclusion is that Smart Tags have the potential to meet with many of the consumer’s and supplier’s needs, and that there is a willingness amongst consumers to pay a premium for such solutions.
The task that studied potential novel service concepts that rely on Smart Tag technologies analysed in-depth the potentials, as well as Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Treats associated with the different Smart Tag solutions. The task identified and analysed in total 19 novel Smart Tag enabled service concepts. The results of this work will be presented in a journal article that is planned to be published in 2021. Building on the results of the previous tasks, the most applicable and promising solutions were pre-piloted in the final task. The Smart Tag solutions were selected based on different criteria, depending on the needs in the different value chains and the maturity of the available technologies. The smart Tag technologies pre-piloted were a Nitrogen Smart Tag indicator which was piloted by MATIS (Iceland), AZTI (Spain) and KU Leuven (Belgium) to indicate freshness of different food items. The technology showed particular potentials in seafood value chains, which will be further explored beyond the project. An NFC Smart Tag Temperature logger was also pre-piloted by VTT (FI) and MATIS (IS) but this technology allows consumers and suppliers to monitor temperature of food during logistics and transport. Many fresh and frozen food items are delegate towards temperature, which makes this technology very relevant. The NFC logger pre-piloted in this project was though believed to be more relevant for professionals in the value chains (business-to-business) than for regular consumers, as the temperature readings require expert knowledge to interpreted into quality parameters and shelf-life. The project did also pre-pilot Oxygen Smart Tag indicators which for example can inform consumers and other stakeholders if packaging is leaking. The oxygen indicators were pre-piloted by AZTI (Spain) and LU Leuven (Belgium). The final Smart Tag that was pre-piloted was a ‘Wine Cap’ Tag which provides a unique electronic identity for bottles and other containers. By scanning the label with a smart phone, the consumer can see when and where the wine was grown and bottled as well as get information such as tasting notes and food pairings. The label also includes a temperature indicator which lets the user know when the wine is the ideal temperature to drink.
The Smart Tags project was classified as a communication project, which means that one of its kay objectives was to communicate to consumers and stakeholders in food value chains what Smart Tags are, how they can be used, what tags are already available and what tags are in development, how they can add value etc. The project met this objective by interacting directly with over four thousand consumers and suppliers, reaching close to seven thousand people as ’media audience’ and over 40 thousand through ’online media impressions’.
The project is now officially finished, but the project’s legacy will still live on through further research & innovation, as well as through scientific peer-reviewed papers as at least four papers are planned to be published in 2021, based on work done in the Smart Tags project.
Fifty students with various study backgrounds from all around Europe participated in the Venture Creation School that took place between October 23 and November 14.
A total of 8 teams were formed around 5 main topics reflecting the innovation focus areas of EIT FOOD: Alternative protein, Sustainable agriculture, sustainable aquaculture, Targeted nutrition and Circular food system.
The teams went through the different stages of innovation and entrepreneurial mindset throughout the 3 weeks from the framing of the challenge, ideation and brainstorming, solution selection, business canvas introduction and finally pitching the idea.
The ideas where reviewed by a jury composed of Kristjana Björk Bjarðdal, Antoine Harfouche and Lauri Reuter.
We also had the chance to have local speaker from Iceland sharing their entrepreneurial journey with our students, like Þór Sigfússon from the Ocean cluster in Reykjavík and Renata Bade young entrepreneur and CEO of GreenBytes.
The winning team of this small competition has one member located in Reykjavík, James McDaniels, and they are very eager to have their idea seeing the light of the day: Wabi-sabi!
The Smart Tags EIT food project is a one-year communication project that is about to finish in few days. The project was set to increase consumer trust towards food products by sharing information about the food product value chain during the whole life-cycle of the product, enabling novel service concepts and interactivity between consumers and the food industry. Now at the end of the project the coordinator, Kaisa Vehmas from VTT in Finland, looks in the rear-view mirror to give a constructive overview of the project’s progress and its successes, as well as challenges.
What a year!… When we started the SmartTags project on Feb 2020, we did not know what kind of year was head of us. We kicked-off online, started to know each other step-by-step, even if it was very different compared to face-to-face meeting.
The Smart Tags communication project was set to increase consumer trust towards food products by sharing information about the food product value chain during the whole life cycle of the product, enabling novel service concepts and interactivity between consumers and the food industry. Our aim was to screen and evaluate the suitability of different technologies available in the market and understand the needs and expectations of consumers towards how and where interactivity is valued.
The SmartTags consortium included partners from seven different countries: Finland, Belgium, Iceland, Israel, Poland, Spain, and UK.
We planned to meet different people from the food value chain. But, most of the year we have worked remotely, from home. However, we have done a lot. Due to the communication type of project, we were not aiming to develop any novel technologies but we gathered our knowledge and implemented a literature review to find if there are other solutions that we are not experienced yet.
We define smart tags as items that will dynamically change their status in response to a variety of factors and will be seamlessly tracked during their lifecycle. We have divided them in three groups: sensors, indicators, data carriers.
Indicators are devices that convey information associated with the presence or absence of a substance, the amount of the substance, or the degree of interaction between two or more substances (Chowdhury and Morey 2019).
Sensors are used to detect a wider range of chemicals inside food packages with greater functionalities. Sensors provide continuous output of signals.
Data carriers are used as a medium to support traceability of products.
Time temperature indicators Freshness indicators Gas indicators Nitrogen indicator
Biosensors Gas sensors
We interacted with stakeholders, by interviewing totally 24 company representatives from all the different participating countries. These interviews were conducted to find out the opinions and experiences of experts regarding Smart Tags and issues related to them; new technologies, consumer communication and consumer trust. According to stakeholders, the biggest motivator for using smart tags is cost, with the benefits of traceability and proof of freshness. In addition, the smart tags should create additional value for consumers.
Consumer felt that the smart tags would add value to the food products by increasing trust and confidence. They liked the possibility to get more information about the food products, increased traceability and helping to decide what to buy. They saw the smart tags also valuable to people with allergies who need or want more information on processing or ingredients.
In the SmartTags project, we developed and evaluated different concepts that would benefit from using smart tags. Some of these concepts were for different food product categories, like fish, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, beverages, and dairy products. These examples were mainly related to product traceability, and food parameters monitoring. However, there are also some other possibilities for smart tags. In addition, we defined concepts for warehouse management, and logistics, and they could help the stakeholders to create an interactive communication channel with consumers.
During the SmartTags project, we were able to pilot some smart tags solutions in the lab scale. We prepared the nitrogen and oxygen indicators at VTT. These are based on 2D bar codes that have colour-changing areas. Because these types of smart tags are sensitive to environmental conditions, they are dynamic, but they also enable context aware services, as each of them can be unique. Spoiling fish creates nitrogen that can be detected from the package headspace with indicators reacting to changes in environmental conditions (e.g. presence of nitrogen) with visual colour change. The blue bar at the bottom of the code appears when in contact with nitrogen. The reading software can detect colour change in the indicator area. The oxygen indicator is based on the same technical principle as the nitrogen indicator. The third pre-pilot was the temperature logger to monitor temperature history of package. This type of logger can be used to track the temperature of the packaged item to boost sustainable and safe transport as well as storage of temperature sensitive products. This solution is based on an extremely thin NFC temperature monitoring IC for logging and communication, and indicator LEDs for indication of logging and threshold temperature. Temperature data can be accessed via Android application as a user interface.
The results from all these topics are described more in detail in other press releases and reports that can be found from the project web site. Next, we would like to be able to test and evaluate the smart tags solutions in large scale, with real use cases. EIT Food SmartTags has been an exceptional project. During the whole project, we have not been able to meet each other face-to-face. Still, we have received a lot. Looking forward to continue this work in coming projects. Successful and happy New Year!
The SmartTags project has placed considerable efforts into exploring consumer needs and expectations when it comes to implementing Smart Tags solutions in food value chains. The project has been getting better understanding of what consumers consider added value enabled by Smart Tags. To be able to do this, we must put ourselves in scenarios that might be familiar with the consumer.
You are shopping in your local store and you intend to have fish for dinner. In the fish section there are variety of species on offer and you start browsing for what seems to be most fresh, but you struggle to valuate that. All the fish in the store is prepacked fillets and there is little information regarding how old or fresh the fish actually is, when it was caught or processed. The prepacked fish is only labelled by “use by” dates, as the regulation demands. You try to estimate the colour of the fillet through the packaging, but you can’t smell it and you can hardly feel the texture through the packaging. Moreover, since it is filleted, you can’t use the good freshness indicators of eyes nor colour of the gills.
Many of us are familiar with this scenario where the consumer has little or no indicators to estimate how fresh the prepacked fish really is, but there might be a solution around the corner. Methylamine compounds, particularly trimethylamine oxide (TMA-O), occur in tissues of marine organisms. With storage, that gets oxidised with help of microorganism to trimethylamine (TMA) which has been related to giving the typical fishy smell and to spoilage of the product.
But how can this be important to the consumer in the store? Well, in the SmartTag project we are looking into TMA indicators, that reacts to certain levels of TMA in the packaging and change colour. Not only change colour but direct the consumer to another homepage from the one that he gets directed to if the fish is fresh when the label is scanned by a consumer with a smartphone. Smart tags like this could support the consumer in making an informed decision when buying prepacked fish products.
The University of Reading has recently finished two feeding trials, one with dairy cows and another with beef cattle. Currently Matís personnel is in full force preparing and analysing the chemical and nutrient content of the meat and milk.
Additionally, the products will undergo sensory and texture analysis to investigate whether seaweed in the feed can affect these attributes. The University of Reading has already carried out sensory analysis of the dairy products where first results indicate that astute consumers might be able to taste the difference if these products were to enter the market. The remaining question is – will the trained sensory panel at Matís taste a difference of the meat?
With the project coming to an end soon the SeaCH4NGE research team is looking forward to compiling and scrutinising all the results from the project.
Below are some pictures from the research process.
The Smart Tags project has placed considerable efforts into exploring consumer needs and expectations when it comes to implementing Smart Tags solutions in food value chains. The project has facilitated focus groups, interviews and surveys to get better understanding of what consumers consider added value enabled by Smart Tags.
As a continuation of the literature review conducted as part of the Smart Tag 2020 EIT Food project we sought to better understand consumer and stakeholder perceptions relating to Smart Tag technologies. The aim of this fieldwork was to discover consumer and other stakeholders’ needs and expectations of relating to Smart Tags and their assessment of these existing innovative Smart Tag technologies. This was done in order to inform the development of new solutions which was the next pivotal stage in the project.
Available technologies were presented to consumers of varying ages and countries and stakeholders of different professions and organisations. The methods used to gather data were one to one interviews, co-creative focus groups and surveys. All of these methods were of course conducted online due to COVID 19.
Following is a brief overview of the efforts made to cover the one-to-one stakeholder interviews and the consumer centred co-creative focus groups.
The Smart Tags consortium conducted stakeholder interviews from the four key areas of interest for the project i.e. focusing on; beverages, sugar reduction, fish and smart tag production itself. These interviews were conducted to find out the opinions and experiences of experts regarding Smart Tags and issues related to them, focusing mostly on new technologies, consumer communication and consumer trust. In total, 22 interviews were conducted in Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Israel, Poland, Spain and UK.
An example of some findings from these interviews are shown in the table below.
Table 1: Key questions asked during stakeholder interviews with responses
Have they seen/are they introducing any new technologies (in general) within their company?
Have they seen/are they introducing any new technologies (in general) within their company relating to STs and traceability?
Are there/have they seen any examples of STs in their market?
Are there/have they seen any examples of STs in their company?
Do the they have methods in place to trace their product? (STs or not)
Do they think consumer communication adds value?
Do they think there will be an increase in demand for STs from consumers?
Has there been any demand for STs directly?
The results of these interviews helped inform the process of the next stage in the fieldwork, the consumer co-creative focus groups. The main points of interest that these interviews raised were:
Are consumers aware of Smart Tags?
Do they know the values they give?
Do they see any value in smart tags?
Informed by the outputs of expert stakeholder interviews we designed and conducted the consumer centred workshops.
The aim of this segment of fieldwork was to understand consumer needs and expectations relating to existing Smart Tags and their opinions on the solution acceptability of these technologies. To do this, co-creative workshops were held with several age ranges across five countries. In total 85 consumers across six countries from age 20 to 71 took part.
These workshops were developed on the basis of creating a shared understanding of not only Smart Tags but the context surrounding them (i.e. the food value chain and why Smart Tags are implemented). Immersing participants in an issue and gradual introduction of intensity of methods aids in participant creativity and problem solving (Sanders and Stappers, 2008).
Detailed descriptions of Smart Tags were given to participants to enable them to make an informed decision as to which technologies they believed added value. This was done between Activity two and three by showing a presentation describing the full range of current Smart Tags and some of their applications.
In the final part of these workshops’ participants were asked to design their own product that included one or more Smart Tags of their choice. This produced 20 distinct co-created products for us to compare and contrast across age ranges and between countries. Figure 1 shows the template used (all templates being the same across countries for consistency) and how participants expressed their decisions and justifications.
We are currently in the process of analysing the data from our focus groups, with a focus on difference in needs and expectations across age and location. These findings are being passed on to our partners leading the work in the next phase which is the co-creation of novel Smart Tag technologies. We are also conducting a large-scale quantitative survey relating to the most promising concepts that emerged from the focus groups. This will be covered in another upcoming press release.
Sanders, E. and Stappers, P. (2008). Co-creation and the new landscapes of design. CoDesign, 4(1), pp.5-18.
DouxMatok, a partner in the Smart Tags project, has developed a new sugar reduction solution, Incredo™. Incredo sugar, extracted from cane and beet sugar, is intended to replace regular sugar within different products such as cookies, cakes, chocolates, and spreads, allowing 30%-50% in sugar reduction without compromising the taste. DouxMatok hope to debut Incredo with a new chocolate-based product. However, consumers’ perception towards Incredo is currently unknown. Will they be willing to buy a new product that promotes Incredo? Are they willing to pay higher for a product developed with Incredo on the basis that it contains less sugar? What information do they check when purchasing a new food product (e.g., traceability, sustainability, quality indicators, etc.)?
Through a survey led by KU Leuven, DouxMatok, VTT and AZTI, the project aims to answer these questions, among several European countries, including communication strategies for Incredo and new products developed using Incredo. The role of intelligent packaging technologies in this regard will also be explored. This large-scale survey will target 250-300 consumers from each of the following European countries: Belgium, Finland, UK, Germany, Spain, and Italy.
The survey focuses on 3 main aspects: consumer shopping behaviour and purchase decisions, product-specific questions towards Incredo and the hazelnut spread, and finally attitude towards claims and messages on packaging. The results of the survey will be available before end of the year and will be made public at the Smart Tags webpage.
Many research articles have identified a great number of commercially available intelligent packaging technologies that are inexpensive. In our previous article, we discussed the state-of-the-art technologies in intelligent packaging. But we have not seen these technologies being adopted widely even today. What could possibly be the reasons for not adopting these great technologies? Some researchers have pointed out that end-user acceptance and trust towards a given technology have a strong influence on their adoption of the technology (Suh and Han 2002; Wu et al. 2011). In this article, we gather research studies to find out possible barriers and enablers towards the adoption of intelligent packaging technologies nowadays.
Our results show that in terms of intelligent packaging technologies, particularly for time temperature indicators, the availability of easily interpretable labels and irreversible colour changes has been the main enabler for many consumers (Pennanen et al. 2015). On the other hand, consumers are highly concerned with potentially increased waste and price coupled with the indicator. In addition, they are concerned with the possibility that indicators could leak substances onto food while at the same time being subject to becoming unreliable once they are not in contact with food and/or manipulated by retailers.
The next technology that has become increasingly popular for communication in the supply chain is QR code. One particular information most valued by consumers with this technology was the ability to easily access the history of food product (Matzembacher et al. 2018). These include information about disease/pest and inputs (e.g., fertilizer and sprays for plans and food for animals). However, having an independent government body was seen by consumers as an important factor for this technology. Such an independent government body would be responsible for food safety and hygiene to provide consumers with accurate information about food and drink. On the other hand, even though QR code is a relatively easy technology to implement, regular consumers’ lack of knowledge and interest in food traceability (Matzembacher et al. 2018; Tsai et al. 2014) and health consciousness (Buaprommee and Polyorat 2016) seem to be one of the biggest barriers today.
An interesting finding of (O’ Callaghan and Kerry 2016) suggests that acceptance of new food packaging technologies may depend on the age of end-users. For instance, consumers’ willingness to accept decreased with increasing age, and the preference for no technological interference with food was higher for individuals over the age of 35.
Next, both (Aday and Yener 2015) and (O’ Callaghan and Kerry 2016) found that from the consumer point of view, the chance of being misled with innovative packaging claims is too high. However, they were willing to accept the technology through educational commercials (Aday and Yener 2015). Food producers showed similar concerns as consumers indicating that there is a risk of misconduct and a lack of proven added value and robustness which could lead to liability issues in the event of deviations. Thus, manufactures should aim not only to be transparent and informative about the given technology but also to certify and test for robustness of the technology.
Another push back for food producers is that new technologies may be incompatible with existing packaging machinery. This requires a higher investment and introduces technical complexity. In the studies of (O’ Callaghan and Kerry 2016) and (Paunonen et al. 2018), both consumers and food producers reported that high cost resulting from the new technology is a barrier towards adopting it.
One prominent example is the blockchain technology which has recently become quite popular due to its robustness against label counterfeit. Unlike traditional centralised approach where supply chain traceability information is stored in a database centrally managed by a supply chain entity, a blockchain traceability framework follows the decentralised approach and uses a smart contract protocol. This allows only trusted supply chain entities with write access to create transactions in the ledger. These transactions are trackable and irreversible. Customers can then retrieve these transactions by scanning RFID, barcode or similar data carriers. But blockchain traceability technology is new to most supply chain entities. Specific barriers to this technology include a lack of demand (possibly due to consumers’ lack of knowledge of the technology (Yeh et al. 2019)), financial burden of the systems and difficulty in tracing the source of all ingredients for all food products (Sander, Semeijn, and Mahr 2018). In a recent interview with four different companies in food supply chain, (Behnke and Janssen 2020) found that the main barriers are 1) technological incompatibility of retailers (requiring still a lot of manual actions), 2) lack of standardised internal and external traceability processes (requiring organisation changes) and 3) lack of standardised master data between the supply chain actors.
In a literature review by (Galvez, Mejuto, and Simal-Gandara 2018), it was suggested that the dependence on traditional data carriers such as RFID or barcodes to scan food tracking data could itself be a barrier to blockchain. For instance, although the data is immutable, one can tamper with a sensor and the blockchain will not be able to detect it. In other words, the blockchain does not have a verification mechanism to prove whether the raw data were correct. In addition, the overall cost of implementing blockchain technology is unpredictable, particularly when the existing, highly mature supply chain system has been used for so long. Finally, manufactures are generally concerned about what data should be shared across the supply chain. Without a clear policy on what data to reveal, they may stand on the wrong side of the trends line (Galvez et al. 2018).
Our research found limited empirical studies that have investigated consumer acceptance or trust in the context of intelligent packaging technologies. Studies have so far focused on only a few of the technologies such as time-temperature indicators, barcodes and labels. There is an opportunity for future research to study the barriers of the remaining technologies that make up the domain of intelligent packaging as each might present end-users with a different barrier.
EIT Food Smart Tags communication project has progressed into pre-piloting phase with three technical pilots. VTT is in charge of preparing physical smart tags, and all the partners will participate in smart tag evaluation – specifically project’s industrial partners. The three pre-piloting cases focus on monitoring environmental conditions combined with mobile phone based reading.
Temperature logging pre-pilot is based on an ultra-thin smart data logger label demonstrator called T-Tag that VTT has developed and demonstrated earlier (Figure 1). This type of logger can be used to track the temperature of the packaged item to boost sustainable and safe transport as well as storage of temperature sensitive products. T-tag is based on an extremely thin NFC temperature monitoring IC for logging and communication, and indicator LEDs for indication of logging and threshold temperature. Temperature data can be accessed via Android application as an user interface. (See: https://youtu.be/CbMFWoooLcQ)
The other pre-pilots are based on 2D bar codes that have colour changing areas. Because these types of smart tags are sensitive to environmental conditions, they are dynamic, but they also enable context aware services as each of them can be unique. This enables the achieved information and its meta-information content to change due to the changing environmental conditions when scanning the codes by mobile phone.
Spoiling fish creates nitrogen that can be detected from the package headspace with indicators reacting to changes in environmental conditions (e.g. presence of nitrogen) with visual colour change. VTT has integrated printed nitrogen indicator with 2D bar code in order to implement mobile phone readable smart tags. The reading software can detect colour change in the indicator area and thus direct the user to varying digital content (Figure 2). Integrity of modified atmosphere package (MAP) has been detected in the third pre-pilot with oxygen indicators based on the same technical principle as the nitrogen indicator.
For more information on pre-pilots and underlying technologies, contact Senior Scientist Liisa Hakola (email@example.com) at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.