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Two hands holding a smartphone with the image of a 2D (QR Code style) barcode on the phone. In the background is a pill bottle with the same 2D QR code style barcode on it and a few coloured pill capsules spread out on the table to the side of it.

Are you ready for 2D Barcodes – the future of retail labels and packaging?

31st October 2023 Mark Prior 0 Comments

The next generation of barcodes is here, and they will revolutionise retail as we know it.


There has always been a desire to provide customers and end users with more and more product information, in addition to the regulatory information required by government and regulatory bodies, but with consumer pressure to minimise the amount of packaging & in-pack literature to protect the environment and minimise the need for recycling, these two pressures have been going in opposite directions.


But now, with the ever increasing move towards universal smartphone access and the desire for information to be more accessible to everyone, a global initiative has been agreed to transition from the traditional linear EAN barcodes to web-enabled, QR code based, 2D barcode or ‘Smart labels’. The initiative is known as Sunrise 2027, as the intention is to phase out traditional ‘linear’ barcodes by 2027.


The switch to 2D barcode labels will enable retailers to encode up to 8,000 characters of information within the QR code, which can also include links to further information which will only be available online.


So, in addition to regulatory information which could (depending upon the product) include the likes of:

  • Product name
  • Weight / pack size
  • Ingredients
  • Allergy advice
  • Country of Origin
  • How and where it was made
  • ‘Best Before’ or ‘Use by’ dates
  • Storage instructions
  • Safety messages
  • And more…


The manufacturer or retailer can now also incorporate or provide access to a host of other opportunities to inform, engage and delight their customers such as:

  • Detailed user guides
  • Social media links
  • Company values
  • Marketing information
  • Sustainability and recycling advice
  • Loyalty points, games and coupon interaction
  • Recipe or menu ideas


Whilst also benefitting from:

  • Improvements in inventory control
  • Reduction in packaging / in-pack literature costs
  • Greater traceability, allowing for simpler product recalls and faulty product information.
  • Real time expiry dates, allowing retailers to make ‘on-demand’ decisions about discounting.
  • Retailers can also run loyalty points, coupons or interactive promotions within a product range – using unique 2D barcodes on each individual product to increase consumer engagement and interaction.


The beauty of changing to 2D barcode labels is that the change can be made from linear to 2D barcodes very simply, whenever you need a reprint of your labels, as the amount of space each type of barcode takes up on the label can be the same.


As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of pre-printed linear and 2D barcode labels, Mercian Labels already produce hundreds of millions of variable data and barcode labels every year, and with our high speed, in-line ability to verify each label as they are printed, you can be sure of 100% accuracy and 100% fulfilment of your order.


So the future of retail labels and packaging is already here and the ability to better inform, engage and delight your customers is (usually) within reach.


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