EIT Food News

Smart Tags and consumer needs

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.

Stakeholder Interviews

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?5019
Have they seen/are they introducing any new technologies (in general) within their company relating to STs and traceability?358
Are there/have they seen any examples of STs in their market?7412
Are there/have they seen any examples of STs in their company?5216
Do the they have methods in place to trace their product? (STs or not)3117
Do they think consumer communication adds value?0811
Do they think there will be an increase in demand for STs from consumers?3216
Has there been any demand for STs directly?1162

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?

Consumer Workshops

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.

Next Steps

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.

For further information, please contact Erin Wallace