Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Co-op use VR to test new environmental labelling

Leading UK grocers Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Co-op are using virtual reality (VR) to trial environmental labels in order to help the grocery sector move towards a harmonised scheme.

The new label formats will be trialled over the duration of the summer, with customers from each retailer invited to shop in a virtual store before sharing their responses.

The technology will be used to assess consumer awareness and how easy the environmental label is to understand. They will also look at how information is communicated at the point of sale.

Grocery analyst IGD is leading the trial, which is hoping to mobilise the grocery sector to support a single scheme, instead of pulling in different directions.

“Environmental labelling is a very complex area, so the fact we are taking a coordinated approach to drive consensus across the whole sector, with support from leading food companies, is an incredibly important step forward,” IGD chief executive Susan Barratt said.

“To be successful, any solution needs to be pragmatic, possible for the industry to adopt at scale and able to be used by businesses both large and small. We want to deliver positive, lasting change and look forward to assessing the results of these trials as they progress.”

Stage one of the research took place in January, under supervision of Walnut Unlimited. This was to test and inform the labelling of the framework, such as which environmental measures should be included.

Consumer research into how the labels should be designed is now underway, while the designs produced will be tested in this summer’s VR trials.

“We recognise there is a growing appetite from all parts of the food system to measure and communicate the environmental impact of individual products, to drive positive change in consumption habits,” Barratt added.

“We also know there is a real desire for collaboration, to champion a science-based approach to environmental labelling supported by robust consumer insights.

“We have been working in close partnership with senior industry representatives, NGOs and technical experts over the last few months to develop an environmental labelling framework; seeing this workstream now move into the trial phase is an exciting next step.”

According to research from IGD, eight in 10 UK shoppers recognise on-pack colours as a way to compare products or make healthier choices, while the same proportion can interpret nutrition labels on the front of packs.

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