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UNFI Offers Retailers Smart Shelf Tags

ELi QR Codes give in-store grocery shoppers instant product information and digital content
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
UNFI Smart Shelf Tags
Innovative Smart Shelf Tags can better engage consumers, improve product transparency and help drive purchase decisions.

To better engage and educate consumers while they’re shopping in-store, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has revealed a new agreement with Cornerstone for Natural that brings its Smart Shelf Tag program to UNFI’s suppliers and retailers. Smart Shelf Tags contain ELi QR Codes, an enhanced, more secure version of QR codes that can be scanned to provide shoppers with additional product information and rich digital content on their mobile phones without requiring an app.

As consumer demand for product information and insights grows, UNFI is working to increase access to additional information and provide product transparency on the shelf. Because most in-store shoppers consult their mobile phones about products, the Smart Shelf Tags are designed to engage shoppers with targeted content direct from suppliers while they’re physically shopping in the grocery aisle. According to UNFI, the tags also create a touchpoint between suppliers and shoppers and can help grocery retailers build consumer loyalty and trust.

[Read more: “Why Grocers Can't Afford to Ignore Shelf-Edge Technology”]

“UNFI is excited to enable better transparency and communication between our suppliers, retailers and shoppers,” said John Raiche, EVP of supplier services and merchandising at UNFI. “Consumers have shown that they care about the values and beliefs of the brands they purchase, and with Smart Shelf Tags, suppliers can communicate directly with shoppers about their products and tell the stories behind their brands.”

While the ELi QR Codes used on Smart Shelf Tags look like familiar QR codes, they are said to be more secure. They not only provide a scannable code, they also incorporate the back-end content to which users are directed. The content for an ELi QR Code is sourced from the supplier, automatically populates for each individual UPC, and may include promotional offers, nutrition and allergen information, testimonials, traceability information, brand stories, videos, and images. Retailers never have to source, manage or update content, and the codes are automatically printed on the tags.

“Retail is changing, and we need to change with it,” said David Williams, EVP of business development at Tampa, Fla.-based Cornerstone. “Retailers and brands need to work together to engage and educate their shoppers, and our Smart Shelf Tags provide this unique opportunity, helping with decision-making at a key point of purchase in the store.”

Cornerstone for Natural has built more than 120,000 ELi QR Codes, with thousands from prominent CPG brands and emerging brands alike.

Certain product categories are a natural fit for Smart Shelf Tags, especially those that consumers seek more information on before deciding to purchase: vitamins and supplements, wine and spirits, gourmet cheese, natural and organic products, functional foods, local items, and those from new and emerging CPGs  all categories that UNFI specializes in. 

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to more than 30,000 customer locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice customers. The largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America, the company is No. 49 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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