Supplement manufacturer Doctor’s Best learned some surprising things through the first six months of its front-of-label QR code education initiative. While it was aimed at consumers, it’s the retailers who seem to use it the most.
“The initial feed back we’ve received has been more from store managers and sales associates,” Scott Steinford, president and CEO of Doctor’s Best told NutraIngredients-USA.
“That has been something of a surprise. It has been used more (by them) on an in-store basis. We have seen the metrics on the use of QR codes and in general the population has not adopted it wholeheartedly yet. It’s just one more tool we are providing to the consumer and retailer.”
Full implementation by end of 2013
The company began putting QR codes on the front of the label late last year, Steinford said, and only announced the program openly at the end of July. To date about 40% of the company’s 200 or so supplement products have the new labels, and full implementation is expected by the end of 2013.
One of the ideas for the program came from FDA, Steinford said. If the agency was considering a company’s website to be an extension of the label for regulatory compliance purposes, rather than chafing under that regime, why not turn it around?
“If they are going to consider it defacto part of the label, then let’s just use it,” Steinford said. “Doctor’s Best is based on science based nutrition, and the advantage is that this provides an extra degree of transparency. You can get far more information with your smart phone or tablet.”
Linked to product fact sheet
Scanning the QR code with a mobile device takes the user first to a fact sheet on the particular product, providing a great deal more information than can fit on the label, Steinford said. From there a customer can navigate to other parts of the website. Steinford said the whole website was sanitized for regulatory purposes. Some companies host information on their websites that veers dangerously close to the disease claim yellow line and then try to work around that with a gatekeeping function that purports to restrict this type of information to health practitioners only. Doctor's Best doesn't do this, Steinford said.
"We’ve had third party FDA regulatory consultants review this website and make sure there is nothing that is going to be an issue," Steinford said.
Mobile device anxiety
The program also serves to ameliorate some of the mobile device anxiety that some retailers have. It hasn’t always a positive experience when a customer pulls out their smart phone or tablet, as retailers believe that often they are comparing prices with other stores or online outlets. Supplement retailers have long complained that they feel they are educating customers for competitors when those customers walk across the street to seek a better deal. Now the customers don’t even have to leave the store.
“Using a smart phone hasn’t been something that benefited the retailer in the past,” Steinford said. “When a customer pulls out a smart phone and starts using it, it brings a negative reaction from the retailer. There’s a kind of fear factor there.”
Doing things right
Steinford said it was too early to tell whether the new program was boosting sales of the San Clemente, CA-based manufacturer's supplements, but that wasn’t the only reason for doing it.
“It’s hard to say if it has helped sales. Doctor’s Best is on a tremendous growth curve on sales volume—40% year over year the last two years. The overall commitment to transparency and education is what’s driving it. The QR code is just one more component of that,” Steinford said.
“We are known for being innovative in our products but we are also known for innovation in our processes. We are committed to doing things right and we are going to demonstrate that. We are going to be a market leader in both integrity and products,” he said.