Analysis: how to use the mainstreaming of QR codes to your advantage

Qr codes have been around since 1994, but for most of that time, they didn’t see much use outside of the Asian markets.

For a while, at every single food or packaging trade show, there used to be a lonely QR company on the floor, with an empty booth, trying to sell their tech to people who just didn’t care.

That’s because consumer takeup was minuscule. The main reasons were:

  1. You needed to download an app for it all to work (a huge friction point)
  2. Mobile internet was very slow and expensive
  3. Mobile video was in its infancy – see reason above

Then, three things happened:

One: Both Google and Apple (finally) build QR recognition into their camera apps with no more app downloads required. Open the camera, point it at the code and boom – you’re connected.

Two: We had a global pandemic and the easiest way to get information to people without having to touch anything was via QR codes! Suddenly, they were everywhere, from restaurants to doctor’s surgeries. Use skyrocketed and there’s no slow down in sight.

Three: In most population centres, mobile internet is now fast and widely available.

Above: google trends data for Canada, searches for “QR code”

Why QR codes on your packaging are a good idea

The average time people spend looking at packaging on a retail shelf is between 1.5 and 2.4 seconds before they make a yes/no decision. That’s not much time to get your message across. Additionally, most packaging doesn’t have the space needed to tell the entire story behind your product and brand.

But food labels are growing up and getting smarter and featuring QR codes will allow consumers to better interact with your product.

A QR code sends a signal to the consumer: “There’s more here if you’re curious”.

It is now extremely rare that we create any packaging that doesn’t contain a QR code, so people can scan and learn more about the product. Often, the landing pages we create contain a short video accompanied by core talking points.

As consumers are demanding more information about what’s in their food and where it comes from, this is more useful than ever.

Ideally, QR codes are dynamic. This means that the actual destination or landing page can be changed without having to reprint the packaging, future-proofing it.

The way this works is by directing the QR code to a forwarding page that bounces the visitor to the final destination. This destination page can be changed whenever needed.

We measure the number of scans we get for my own brand, Boreal Botanical, and have observed a steady increase in scans, so much so that with our latest packaging update we’re giving our QR code far more visibility than before.

Landing page best practices

It’s almost always a good idea to keep things short and sweet. Remember, people may scan your code standing in an aisle at the supermarket. Give them snackable information, not 500 words articles.

Do you need to pay anybody for all this to work?

No, you don’t. There are still paid QR services out there, but all most of them offer is a landing page solution, with analytics thrown in. If your business has a website, your web developer can set an equivalent solution, that you control and for which you don’t have to pay monthly fees, in 30 minutes or less.

QR codes themselves can be written by a multitude of free online services, here’s one I use all the time.

Test it out

If you’re reading this on anything but your phone, you can scan this code from your screen:

It takes you to my Linkedin profile. If we haven’t connected yet there, I’d love to.

To wrap it all up

  • QR codes are widely used today
  • They are free, or almost free, to implement
  • They can help you to create deeper consumer connections
  • Prediction: Consumers will start expecting them

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