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RFID Pilots Address Perishable Foods, Beauty Products

A restaurant chain is trialing the RFID functionality in Avery Dennison's Freshmarx solution to ensure food is delivered fresh and at appropriate temperatures, using the company's microwave-safe tags, while retailers are planning to expand existing pilots of RFID systems to include cosmetics and perfumes.
By Claire Swedberg

The Freshmarx and RFID pilot is being undertaken by a quick service restaurant chain in a phased approach. The first phase consists of tracking RFID-tagged products at a distribution center and two restaurants, and the pilot will then extend to phase two, with 100 to 150 restaurants participating.

With the RFID-enabled Freshmarx solution, a passive UHF tag from Avery Dennison is placed on each carton or pallet of goods at the point of distribution. As the products are loaded onto trucks and then received at the restaurant, their tags are read in order to identify when each item was shipped and received. The collected data is linked to Freshmarx temperature sensor data inside the truck coolers, thereby confirming the environment to which they were exposed during transit. Other data stored with the sensor information includes product ingredients and safety requirements.

Francisco Melo
The expansion of beauty-based product continued throughout the past year at Avery Dennison as well, Melo reports. Beauty retailers are following what he calls the apparel playbook for employing RFID, by tracking their product inventory levels in store stock rooms and on show floors. The beauty market is following apparel, he explains, in part because it is uniquely complex. Products are small, often with metallic and fluid presence, making them more challenging for tagging. However, the value of accurate inventory data is especially important since the products are often high in value and challenging to count manually.

Last year, Melo says, three companies conducted pilots of RFID technology from Avery Dennison for the tracking of their beauty products, and several retailers have plans to conduct their own pilots or deployments. Many of the companies already have installations of RFID infrastructure for tracking apparel or other goods at their stores, he adds, so the expansion to tracking beauty products can be a seamless one.

Until recently, companies were challenged with few options for tags designed for the form factor of small containers of makeup or perfumes. However, Melo notes, Avery Dennison offers inlays designed for that application, and these have worked well during the pilots. For instance, the AD172u7 measures 22 millimeters by 12.5 millimeters (0.9 inch by 0.5 inch), while for long, narrow items, the AD-160u7 stretches 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) in length, but is only 4 millimeters (0.2 inch) in width. Another inlay, known as the AD-180u7, measures 26 millimeters (1 inch) in diameter and is shaped for caps and lids.

Avery Dennison says it is now working to address other tag hardware challenges for the food retailer market. With the increased interest in tagging food products, the company has been focused on designing a tag that is safe when placed in a microwave. It has developed the AD-250r6-P for the item-level tagging of chilled or frozen packaged foods. The UHF label delivers standard item-level tracking capability, the firm indicates, along with a high read rate performance and microwave safety.

One reason that some companies have not yet piloted RFID on food products could be a concern regarding microwaves, Melo speculates, due to safety problems resulting from consumers putting tagged packaging in a microwave oven. A standard UHF tag, with its antenna and metal chip, should not be placed inside such an appliance. However, Avery Dennison has released a microwave-safe tag leveraging a proprietary design to avoid arcing and excessive heating. The tag comes with an Impinj R6-P chip.

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