Confused about the expiry dates on the food products you buy? Tying yourselves up in knots agonizing over your purchase? Welcome to the club! Figuring out whether to buy looking at the "best by" or "use by" can confound even the smartest of shoppers!! World over consumers are defining an integral part of the retail industry-optimum shelf life management."Use by, best by and sell by" dates are supposed to help consumers make good decisions about what to buy, especially when it comes to food, what to consume and what to throw away. But consumers find these codes more confusing than helpful causing them to discard food products which may still be fit for consumption.
There are three types of dates which are meant to guide the customer on the freshness of the food product:
- Use by date: The last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is best to use the product by this date.
- Sell by date: Shows how long the product should be displayed on the store shelves. The product should be bought before the expiration date.
- Best used by (or before) date: This indicates the quality of freshness/ flavor of the product.
According to a new collaborative study by the Grocery Manufacturer's Association (GMA), Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Wipro, 76% of US consumers are "by-the-date-tossers" who actively pursue the theory of throwing away any food that is past the expiration date as per the label on the package! 61% believe that the "sell by" date is the absolute last date for consuming the product."Best used by" is not a warning of impending health catastrophe. Many nonperishable foods are safe to eat for weeks after the expiration date, contrary to what consumers believe, though peak flavor and amount of nutrients may be affected.
The "sell by" is the most preferred date for retailers and wholesalers to stock their products as they look at products with the longest shelf life while consumers concentrate on the "best used by" dates resulting in quite a confusing scenario (for the customer!). To ease consumer confusion and to give customers orientation, retailers have introduced product labels and product date codes to make it easy to determine the freshness of a product. "Smart labels" can be stuck to the package for a clear, visual monitoring of elapsed time from minute to over a year on any product after opening the food product, at room temperature or frozen, for the remaining product shelf life.
The emergence of smart labels and intelligent bar codes has empowered consumers to make more careful purchasing choices. As a more discerning class of consumers evolves, these mechanisms will need to evolve accordingly. Are retailers equipped to cater to the informed customer