Connected Packaging and Serialized QR Codes Are Here to Stay – So, Why Aren’t You Using One?

There’s a lot of competition out there, no matter what industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling mentholated toothpicks or vegan chocolate chip cookies; someone’s always got a hustle. The internet democratized how we shop in many ways that are frankly incalculable. What were once fringe ideas of “maybe someone would dig this” evolved into full-blown empires touching areas of fashion, food, drinks, and everything in the known universe for niche products and businesses. 

One of the coolest ways companies breakthrough and link up with their consumers is through connected packaging. Connected packaging takes the brand to the next level because it connects the consumer and drives awareness thanks to jumping into our phones as we’re jumping into their branded worlds. 

You’ve got to stand out

You’ve seen QR codes, and they’re on everything. It’s like they fell from the sky overnight, and boom, they’re on our water bottles, doggie bags, and sunscreen. Thanks to Apple updating our iPhones to read the code back in 2017 by just turning on the camera to scan it, the world had one less thing to worry about during the pandemic. This small technological win was a lifesaver for restaurants when we figured out what “contactless” truly meant. 

Restaurants put a code on the table, and everyone could scan it with their smartphones. Now, QR codes are popping up everywhere and on everything. So while yes, the technology works for ordering cheese enchiladas at your neighborhood spot, it’s also effective for selling just about anything from high-end toothpaste to backpacks. 

Enter serialized QR codes

Now there’s a next generation of QR codes, called serialized QR codes. It’s like your regular QR code on the outside, with a unique serialized code in the middle. Each one is as different as a thumbprint, and they’re connected to a unique database record to help you authenticate your product, engage your customers with personalized messages, and deliver traceability information, to name a few benefits.

When a consumer scans it, they can get information about what particular batch the ingredients that made that product came from, who packaged it, what route it took, and if it’s the real deal or a fake.

Where information and fandom collide 

Say you’re selling tortilla chips and trying to compete with the power of Frito Lay and their Doritos empire. What’s cool about a serialized QR code is that by putting one on the bag, a consumer who’s enjoying the chips can scan the packaging and now can take a deep dive into whatever information you’d like to share. 

This information could be a fan-driven experience, information about the brand, how to reorder directly from the company, as a marketing tool for asking for signups, contests, or even free stuff. Whatever you want the customer to know about your chips, if they come in other flavors or if they’re coming to a town near you, you can provide this information however you like. 

Serialized QR codes promote curiosity. If someone chooses to scan the code, they intentionally want to know more about your brand, and this is the perfect way to convert them from interested into devoted followers.  

You can inform them about other products they might enjoy or if a new product lineup is coming out this fall. You’re offering information that matters. 

Change the game with connected packaging

One of the most innovative ways to use connected packaging is through sample sizes. We’ve all seen the sample energy drink powder for $0.99 or the single granola bar at the gas station – by adding a serialized QR code to the packaging, the customer can order direct from the company – cutting out the middleman on full-size products. Even if they can’t order direct, a link can be added straight to an online retailer like Walmart or Amazon.

Environmental impact explained 

Given today’s cultural climate, people want to know how your company impacts the world, and they want to know the details and connected packaging allows for that. If your company is dedicated to producing products that don’t affect the environment, a serialized QR code could provide detailed information for curious consumers. 

Packaging, but smarter

Connected packing blurs the lines between digital and physical retail experiences. Brands using serialized QR codes deliver unique experiences in different settings, and by adding a digital element to packaging, consumers can use the tech to reorder items directly from their phones.

Because buyers want to know more than ever, the serialized information on these new types of QR code offers the chance to inform because once a code is scanned, the information provided can be endless – the fight for space on the product is irrelevant. Third-party platforms charge a small subscription fee to create, track and manage the codes for your packaging. 

If you’re interested in how your company can take branding to the next level through connected packaging, we’d love to talk. 

How to Protect Your Brand and Generate Trust With Connected Packaging

Brand trust is critical for attracting, and keeping, customers. In fact, 81% of consumers will make a decision to buy from a brand purely based on the trust they have in that brand.

But that could all come tumbling down by the actions of a few bad actors. According to a 2019 study by Incorporo, 26% of US consumers have inadvertently purchased a counterfeit product, and 52% of those consumers lost trust in the brand after purchasing a fake.

Thankfully, due to today’s advances in blockchain and QR code technology, connected packaging can help you protect your brand and inspire trust with your consumers.

What is Connected Packaging?

In our article, Connected Packaging: The Value of Two Way Communication Between Brand & Consumer, we defined connected packaging as “…a technology available through the power of digital printing where each pouch is assigned a unique digital identity by way of a variable data QR code.”

You can communicate personalized information to consumers when they scan the code with their phone. That can include marketing messages, product recall updates and even brand protection and supply chain management & tracking data.

Each QR code is unique, like a fingerprint. Subsequently, it’s next to impossible for criminals to pass off any copies of your packaging as their own.

How Can Connected Packaging Protect Your Brand?

Connected packaging, powered by variable data – or serialized – QR codes (think ‘unique fingerprint’) can help in three important ways.

1. Product Authentication and Validation

‘The real McCoy’ is a popular term in the English language. There are debates about the origin of the term. One of those stories comes from a true historical account. Elijah McCoy, a Canadian-born African-American whose parents were former slaves, invented an oil drip cup in 1872 to automate lubication of trains.

McCoy patented the device, and orders for this new invention flooded in. Other engineers tried to make their own versions, but these copies were not well received by railroad companies who wanted the ‘real McCoy.’

Today, we use ‘the real McCoy’ to refer to a product that is authentic. The real thing, as Coke says. 

Consumers still want the real McCoy, but copycats and counterfeiters have gotten more sophisticated. In fact, counterfeiters cost the U.S. economy $600 billion every year.

With connected packaging, you can deliver product authentication information to consumers to  generate trust and protect your brand. 

How does it do that? 

Serialized QR code unique to each package: We mentioned that each serialized QR code printed on your flexible packaging is unique, like a fingerprint or your irises. This uniqueness enables you to prove to your consumers that the product contained inside the package is the true product.

Anomaly detection: If your packaging is somehow copied, and 10,000 copies are made, the uniqueness of the QR code will catch the counterfeit. The supply chain technology infrastructure behind the code will detect hundreds, if not thousands of scans, setting off alarm bells. This is what is known as anomaly detection.

Delivery of real-time information: Because of the aforementioned technology infrastructure, each unique package can deliver up-to-date information to any consumer who scans the code on your product’s pouch with their phone. The authentic information you deliver can assure consumers they’ve acquired the right product.

2. Supply Chain Tracking

Another way to inspire brand trust and protect your reputation is to deliver information to consumers about your product’s origin and supply chain journey.

Consumer-facing supply chain data: Today, most consumers want to know “…from where their food comes from, production methods or nutritional value,” according to Nichole Busdieker-Jesse, assistant professor with Missouri State University’s William H. Darr College of Agriculture.

By scanning the unique QR code on your product’s package, your consumer can get the whole story about: 

  • Where your product was grown
  • Details about ingredients
  • The path is took, from farm, to processing plant, to warehouse, to retail location

And more.

Upstream supply chain data: Additionally, connected packaging can work with upstream supply chain data, which comes in handy if something goes wrong. 

For example, an inspector may have detected salmonella in a product you packaged and shipped. That information can be delivered to the 2,864 bags containing the contaminated product, instructing the consumer on how to return the product and get a refund or special offer to make up for the averted tragedy.

3. Regulatory Compliance Information

Finally, you can fulfill regulatory requirements by delivering information, such as a Certificate of Authenticity. 

For example, if you sell a natural product, you might grow various strains in various greenhouses, at various seasons of the year.

Regulations require you to communicate that a particular package contains strain 2, grown in greenhouse 3 during the fall harvest.

Delivering all that data on a single package becomes expensive, and it can be onerous to fit all that information on your back. Through a serialized QR code, you can dynamically assign a jpg of the original Certificate of Analysis to each bag as it’s being packaged.

The result? Increased consumer trust while your brand stays in the governing body’s good graces.


Brand trust is essential to the viability of your company. Your customers must be assured they’re purchasing the true, authentic product. They also need to know you have their best interests at heart: that your product is made ethically, with the best ingredients. Finally, they desire that peace of mind that you’re compliant. 

But one small breach of trust could kill your business.

Thankfully, with connected packaging you can generate that trust. With the power of serialized QR codes as the cornerstone of your brand trust strategy, you can prove they’ve bought the product they intended to buy, and assure them your product is safe.

Connected Packaging: The Value of Two Way Communication Between Brand & Consumer

Today, thanks to connected packaging, consumer packaged goods companies have the power to initiate a two-way dialog with their customers. 

But what exactly is connected packaging, and how does it enable two-way communication? Read on to get the full scoop.

Connected Packaging 101

Connected packaging is a technology available through the power of digital printing where each pouch is assigned a unique digital identity by way of a variable data QR code. It allows your brand to communicate personalized, real-time information to any consumer who scans the code with their phone.

The advantages to a brand can vary and grow over time from fundamental consumer engagement, to brand protection and even supply chain management & tracking.

Companies such as Courage Worldwide use connected packaging to communicate information about their products and the causes they support. They can also collect data on their customers, like location, demographics and purchase frequency.

But there is more to the story than that. Connected packaging truly is a way to create the continuous feedback loop that up till now has only been the domain of technology companies like Facebook and Amazon.

The Continuous Feedback Loop 

In the software world there exists a concept called Continuous Deployment. Software is updated and released to customers on an ongoing basis. 

Facebook has made this a part of their growth strategy. They create a new feature – for example, they’ll add a new reaction icon, like the ‘care’ icon – and release it to a limited subset of users.

Then, the software engineering team will monitor acceptance of the feature. If it seems like the feature is well received, they’ll release the feature to a wider audience, until eventually it becomes a standard part of Facebook.

The model has been adopted by most software-as-a-service companies, like Gmail or Mailchimp. Now, instead of releasing software updates on a quarterly basis, software evolves and morphs in real-time.

This only works because of the availability of real-time feedback from clients. If users don’t use the feature, the software engineering teams know immediately, and they kill it.

Additionally, there are in-software functions, like chatbots and messaging apps, that allow users to request features. If a request reaches critical mass, the product managers will instruct the software development team to create the new feature.

Another way for software development teams to know whether to improve a feature or release an update is through customer support tickets. If the support team sees a pattern in the types of complaints they receive, that can turn it into a new feature request that will get released three weeks later.

Continuous Feedback for CPG Companies

But how can CPG companies act like software companies? By leveraging connected packaging, CPG companies can facilitate a type of ongoing feedback that enables them to continuously improve their products. 

This is achieved through two-way communication enabled by serialized QR codes. Just like the Facebook example above, the consumer experience can change as you learn about their evolving needs. Your packaging lives on.

4 Ways to Leverage Connected Packaging to Enable Two-Way Communication

We’ve identified four additional ways you can leverage two-way communication between your brand and consumers with connected packaging.

1. Market Research

The first and most immediate function is to locate where your customers are geographically. By providing some sort of incentive for your customers to scan the serialized QR code on your package, (such as validating that your product is authentic, or by delivering some valuable content), you can gain valuable geographical information that can inform your marketing efforts.

But that’s just the beginning. You can deliver a survey soliciting anything from product feedback to detailed demographic information. You can also request suggestions for product improvements. 

The sky’s the limit.

2. Encouraging Repeat Purchases

There’s an old saying in sales and marketing: it’s cheaper to retain old customers than it is to obtain new ones. This is especially true for growing CPG companies. You’ve fought long and hard to obtain your initial customers. Now you need to do everything in your power to retain them.

How do you do that with connected packaging? By soliciting feedback from customers. 

In addition to obtaining valuable customer data, you let customers know their voice counts. There is nothing more powerful than being heard.

Additionally, customers like to hear from you as well. You can deliver exclusive weekly or even daily content updates they can only get by purchasing your product and scanning your package. 

By communicating to them on a regular basis, consumers will start to develop an affinity for your brand. Educational content is ideal for this scenario. For example, you could deliver YouTube videos with product use ideas. 

By sharing educational content, your customers will become invested in your brand.

3. Building Community

More brands these days build communities around a purpose or mission. For example, you might manufacture a special supplement for long-distance runners. Or maybe you bake finger-licking baked vegan goods. Long-distance runners and vegans have very tight-knit, mission-based communities.

Your brand can become the de facto spokesperson or galvanizing force for these types of purpose-based communities. 

For example, you could provide a link to join your Facebook group. Or you could share dates for a multi-city roadshow your brand might organize. Imagine a vegan cook-off or a runner’s fair coming to a town near you.

4. Enable Customer-to-Customer Marketing

Another way to leverage the power of two-way communications through connected packaging is by recruiting brand ambassadors. When a customer scans your QR code, provide them with a sign-up form so they can apply to be a brand ambassador.

You can also encourage photo sharing by holding a competition for the best photo of your customer with your product. Have them scan your package to get a special photo upload link. Have them scan the package the following week to see who the winners are


If you’ve ever wondered how you can create the continuous feedback loop that software companies enjoy, that technology is now available for your consumer brand.

Through connected packaging, and the diverse capabilities enabled by the serialized QR code, you can achieve the type of two-way communication that allows you to perform real-time market research, encourage repeat purchases, build an engaged community, and inspire customer-to-customer marketing.

To learn more about how you can leverage the power of connected packaging, visit our web page for more information.

Connected Packaging vs Smart Packaging: Is there a difference?

There’s a lot of talk about smart packaging, connected packaging, intelligent packaging and more. It can get a little confusing. In this guide we tackle the differences, and explain the benefits of each.

The Paradox of Choice

Consumers today suffer more and more from analysis paralysis. Or as psychologists refer to it: the paradox of choice. 

In a recent Ted Talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz lays bare the myth that freedom of choice helps us make better decisions. Schwartz says that choices can actually cause “paralysis, rather than liberation.”

Image source: Sketchplanations

Supermarket shelves are an obvious case-in-point: search for ‘chips’ on the website of Central Texas’ most popular retailer, HEB, and you get 477 results across 8 pages. Is it any wonder consumers sometimes find themselves frozen in a state of indecision?

However, CPG companies have a shortcut at their disposal to help consumers make a buying decision. That shortcut is your product’s packaging. As Inc. said in an article on product packaging: “…[t]hink of Tiffany & Co. For most people, the iconic robin’s-egg blue box is more recognizable than the jewelry itself.”

But despite the creativity many brands are infusing into their packaging, with artful designs and clever copy, even that is not enough.

Enter the next generation: smart packaging and connected packaging.

Despite today’s information overload, which leads to analysis paralysis, connected and smart packaging can deliver even more information to consumers, but in a distinct way. And this distinction can help consumer brands make themselves stand out on grocery store (or virtual) shelves.

Smart packaging vs connecting packaging: what are the differences?

But the purpose of this article is to help you understand the difference between smart packaging and connected packaging, as there appears to be some confusion.

Image source: Scantrust

What is smart packaging?

Smart packaging is an umbrella term that covers several technology innovations that make a package smart.

Smart packaging, in a nutshell, provides some sort of real-time information or action, depending on the circumstances. For example, it might contain a chemical that can make the package cold if exposed to a hot environment. Or it could leverage a small digital display to communicate a pending expiration date.

Smart packaging can be divided into three categories: 

  1. Connected packaging: (see explanation below).
  2. Active packaging: Active packaging is packaging that interacts with the product to improve shelf life and maintain quality during storage. For example it can use moisture-regulating or light filtering materials.
  3. Intelligent packaging: Intelligent packaging uses embedded sensors in the packaging to monitor product temperature or humidity levels.

What is connected packaging?

Connected packaging, on the other hand, is packaging that has become an internet-connected device. Through serialized QR codes, RFID chips or other mechanisms, the package provides information directly from the cloud, with real-time content such as:

  • Product origins, batch information, distance traveled
  • Authentication data
  • Geo-located marketing and engagement information
  • Recall updates

How can connected packaging help you stand out on the shelf?

There are at least five ways connected packaging can help you stand out on the supermarket shelf or on ecommerce sites:

1. Personalized engagement with consumers

By getting consumers to scan the serialized QR codes on a connected package you can send them to your website to offer additional information. From your site you can share recipes, videos, promotions, or coupons. You can even share product details like instructions, sourcing, and allergen information, or get them to sign up for your newsletter.

2. Full product transparency

Deliver ingredient information, including allergy details, as well as anything consumers might want to know about the brand, such as sustainability goals, sourcing information, philanthropic efforts, and company beliefs. You can also provide track and trace capabilities so consumers can learn about the product’s journey from farm, or plant, to store. 

3. Product authentication

With product counterfeiting becoming a growing problem, connected packaging can validate for your consumers that the product they’re buying is the real thing. Because each serialized QR code is completely unique for each package, you can communicate which batch, plant, and even which plant worker created a particular product.

4. Collect data

With connected packaging you can collect detailed demographic data about your consumers, such as age, gender, geographic concentration and product preferences.

5. Deliver real time information

If for some reason you need to implement a product recall, with serialized QR codes you can identify specifically which product batch was affected, isolate the recall information to the individualized QR codes corresponding to that batch, and communicate directly to consumers that their particular package might be compromised.

The Bottom Line

We are living in very interesting times. Technology is transforming our lives, through our mobile devices, VR glasses, and even through our packaging. 

But lest you get distracted by shiny object syndrome, as CPG providers you need to focus on the task at hand: standing out in the midst of the overwhelming flow of choices that keep consumers from making purchase decisions.

Packaging can do a great job helping consumers make decisions. By appealing to their emotions with beautiful designs, clever copy and sincere mission statements, you are making the right moves. But a growing number of CPG companies today are starting to catch on, and the playing field is beginning to level out, again.

The next frontier is smart packaging and connected packaging. We recommend you get smart (pun intended), educate yourself on the terms, and decide how you’re going to leverage these trends to help you stand out from the crowd!

ePac and ESKO Combine to Scale Connected Packaging

ePac and ESKO Combine to Scale Connected Packaging

Esko has announced it has delivered a world-first in connected packaging production, “supercharging” secure Variable Data Print (VDP) capabilities in terms of both speed and scale for a new collaboration with Scantrust and packaging company ePac Flexible Packaging. Esko Automation Engine is at the heart of the operation, with its VDP technology enabling the printing of serialized and secure QR codes on flexible packaging on a mass scale, unleashing the power of VDP for the new connected packaging and connected goods service, ePacConnect™.

“Variable Data Printing has the ability to take the role of packaging to a whole new level,” says Esko product manager, Paul Land. “With opportunities for localization, serialization, personalization and traceability, the advances in automation mean it is now possible to further harness the technology to transform the prepress environment. With cloud deployment for 24/7 global access to data and new scalability capabilities, Automation Engine is enabling ePac to realize the power of VDP for an organization without the downsides.

Click here to read the whole article…

5 Ways to Leverage QR Code Packaging to Boost Customer Engagement

Most consumers today have experienced using QR codes, especially in today’s post-pandemic world, where contactless check-ins, data entry, and even virtual restaurant menus have become the norm. 

When it comes to leveraging these codes on packaged goods like food, beverage, and household products, there are many opportunities to boost customer engagement and share information. 

What Is a QR Code?

A QR code is a 2D barcode that can be scanned with a smartphone camera.  There are several types of data that can be stored in a QR Code and that your phone will interpret automatically.  The most popular use is a URL like  You can also store phone numbers, complete business card details (vCard), Wifi passwords and more.

All of this serves to prove that the QR Code is a pretty flexible little symbology that has grown way beyond it’s automotive manufacturing roots.  But what if, instead of just one static QR code on all your products, you could customize and serialize the codes, making each uniquely identifiable and dynamic? We’ll get into that in more detail below.

Following are the 5 ways QR code packaging can boost customer engagement with your brand.

1. Personalize Your Engagement with Consumers: 

Let’s face it: establishing a direct relationship with your buyers is hard. Consumer products are at the mercy of distributors, retailers and other intermediaries. 

Sure you can post on social media and launch an awareness advertising campaign, but there are so many distractions along the way that it’s a miracle you can establish that one-on-one relationship with shoppers the internet promised us in the first place.

With QR codes you can forge a direct engagement with end-users without fighting your competitors for the top spot on Google, or relying on Facebook’s fickle algorithm to show your posts to more than 2% of your followers.

Use QR codes to send consumers to your website to offer additional information. On your site, consumers can view a recipe, video, promotion, download a coupon or even play a game. Plus, you can share product details like instructions, sourcing, and allergen information.

You can even get them to sign up for your newsletter directly from the package so you can continue the dialog later.

2. Product Transparency:

According to a report from Label Insight, 94% of consumers say it’s important that the brands they buy from are transparent about what’s in their food and how it’s made. 

Using a QR code, consumers can learn ingredient information, including allergy details, as well as anything they may want to know about the brand like its sustainability goals, sourcing information, philanthropic efforts, and company beliefs. 

Consumers may also use track and trace by scanning the given code and learning about the product’s journey from farm, or plant, to store. 

3. Product Validation:

Today consumer product counterfeiting has become a huge market. A recent study revealed that 69% of UK consumers have inadvertently bought counterfeit products online, thinking they were genuine, while 21% have bought between four and six counterfeit products.

Product counterfeiting is a real problem, and it’s not going away.

With new developments in QR code technology, you can validate for your consumers that the product they’re buying is the real thing.

New technology, such as serialized QR codes, enable you to create a completely unique code for each package, just like a fingerprint. Each individualized code communicates which batch, plant, and even which plant worker created their particular product. Your buyers can have the peace of mind that the product they bought is true and authentic.

4. Data Collection:

How useful would it be if you knew detailed demographic data about your consumers? Data such as age, gender, geographic concentration and product preferences?

Serialized QR codes are trackable, and with your tracking management software you can gather detailed information about shoppers that can help you optimize your marketing campaigns, improve your product positioning, and even offer new products with a higher probability of success than before you had access to that data.

5. Deliver Critical Last Minute Information:

Product recalls are no fun at all, In fact, according to a 2011 report by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (as reported in the SmartSense blog), more than 80% of survey respondents claimed that the financial risk from recalls was significant to catastrophic. 

God forbid your brand would need to implement a product recall, but in the unlikely case this happens, with serialized QR codes you can identify specifically which product batch suffered a problem, isolate the recall information to the individualized QR codes corresponding to that batch, and communicate directly to consumers that their particular package might be compromised.

The benefit? You reduce the financial damage by avoiding a mass recall, while at the same time boosting consumer confidence through transparent communication directly to shoppers.

Partner with ePac

Want to learn more about QR codes for smart packaging? It is key to find the right flexible packaging partner that knows a thing or two about QR codes on product packaging. At ePac, our custom product packaging program ePacConnect allows brand owners to gain a deeper understanding of their customers so they can create a more tailored marketing strategy. Give us a call and we can help you leverage packaging QR codes for a boost in consumer engagement.  

ePac Inks Global Agreement with Scantrust

ePac Flexible Packaging Inks Global Agreement With Scantrust

ePac Flexible Packaging today announced they have entered into a global agreement with Scantrust to bring smart, connected packaging solutions to brands of all sizes, including small and medium-sized businesses. Through ePacConnect, which was announced in October of 2020, ePac and Scantrust together offer secure, serialized QR codes on all of its packaging and provide access to a suite of Scantrust applications for consumer engagement, brand protection, and track and trace. 

With ePacConnect, all packaging can be born digital, each with a unique digital identity. When scanned by a simple smartphone camera, every package becomes a gateway to 2-way communication between brands and consumers. The companies expect billions of pouches to be produced with ePacConnect over the coming years. 

Leveraging the innovative digital printing capabilities of ePac and cutting edge solutions from Scantrust, ePacConnect democratizes access to smart packaging by offering an entry-level no-cost solution for all brands, while also making it easy and flexible to add-on a comprehensive suite of readily available applications. Scantrust powers these underlying capabilities with a secure platform that provides scalable tools to brands who want to actively protect from counterfeits, easily share product provenance, and offer tailored consumer experiences.

According to Carl Joachim, ePac’s CMO, “We’ve been working with Scantrust for some time now to develop and market a connected packaging solution that is scalable from small brands to large CPGs. What’s great about working with Scantrust is that they too operate globally, and share our commitment to helping small and medium sized businesses compete and grow. We already have a number of customers in the US and Europe using the solution”. 

Click here to read the full press release.

What is Smart Packaging?

If you are looking to leverage your packaging as a way to boost consumer engagement, track and trace products, or even help to create efficiencies in your supply chain, selecting a packaging manufacturer that offers digital printing technology is a great option.

Smart packaging, also known as connected packaging, is packaging that utilizes unique QR codes, barcodes, or other digital identities to engage with consumers, verify authenticity, and trace a product’s journey. This unparalleled technology transforms what was once a simple package into a digital tool, while delivering valuable insights and information to brand owners and consumers alike.

The global smart packaging industry is growing as more brands turn to this cutting-edge technology. In fact, a recent report by Data Bridge states that the global connected packaging market is expected to grow at a rate of 7.4% from 2020 to 2027, to USD 31.94 billion by 2027. 

How Smart Packaging Works

Using digital, variable data printing, a unique code is printed on each individual package. Each code connects to a digital experience that the brand owner controls and can update at any time, even after the product is in circulation.

These serialized codes give each and every pouch a unique digital identity. This can be helpful in guarding against counterfeiters and grey market diversion. Since each package has a unique code, you are able to trace each pouch or bag throughout the entire supply chain and provide customized digital experiences to individual consumers through a mobile interface. 

Additionally, since each product has its own special code, brands can associate specific data to a specific package. In the case of a recall, this can help brand owners easily remove only the affected product. Serialized QR codes also allow brand owners to obtain metrics on market and supply chain activities. 

Types of Smart Packaging 

There are three main types of smart packaging:

1. Consumer Engagement

There are endless opportunities for consumer engagement with connected packaging; be it educational, fun, or used as part of a loyalty program. All consumers can take advantage of this engagement by simply using their cell phone camera (no app required) to scan the code. Using the code, consumers are instantly directed to a specific experience, like a webpage. There, they can view a recipe, video, promotion, join a loyalty program, sign up for a newsletter, play a game, or even download a coupon. 

One example of this is with meal starter products like sauces and seasonings. Utilizing a QR code on these types of products allows consumers to scan the code and read a suggested recipe, or even watch a cooking tutorial using the product. And, if you want to swap out recipe videos weekly, you don’t need new packaging. It’s a win-win!

2. Product Authentication and Brand Protection 

These functions can serve both consumers and brand owners. For brands looking to highlight a product’s authenticity or sourcing story, connected packaging can be used on the package to deliver detailed information unique to that individual item. 

QR code product authentication examples could be a product verification page to confirm the authenticity of the product, or a page highlighting where and when it was produced, as well as batch number, manufacturing location, date, and time. 

For brand owners, secure QR codes have an added layer of security so that with every scan, the authenticity is evaluated and verified. The technology can detect when a code is copied and counterfeited, and brands are then alerted to the issue. The digital code also allows brand owners to follow the product as it makes stops throughout distribution. For high-end products that may be vulnerable to counterfeiting (think premium herbals, cosmetics, or supplements), this allows the brand owner to see where the product has been scanned along its journey to its customers and allows them to detect foul play along the way. 

3. Track and Trace

Track and trace is following a package’s (and product’s) journey from the beginning to the end. Consumers can use track and trace by scanning the code and learning about a product’s sourcing ingredients, as well as the product’s journey from farm to table (or store). Brand owners can use it to obtain critical information about the supply chain that will help to strengthen logistics.

For example, with coffee, track and trace capability allows consumers to follow the package from where the coffee beans are harvested, roasted and packaged through its journey to their local grocery store. Brand owners can track the coffee package’s journey to the point of purchase and beyond, all the way through to disposal or recycling. 


ePac’s smart packaging solution, ePacConnect, allows brand owners to personalize how they engage with their consumers, verify authenticity, and trace their product’s journey, all through their own digitally enabled, flexible packaging. It also allows brand owners to collect information all the way down to the individual product level to enhance business intelligence like never before. Our technology is based on variable data composition only possible through the digital printing process at ePac. 

Whether your goal is to improve sales through consumer interaction or uphold brand integrity, with connected or smart flexible packaging the opportunities are endless. Contact us today to learn more about ePacConnect and how we can help you leverage smart packaging.

ePac Announces Launch of ePacConnect Smart Packaging

ePac is excited to announce the launch of ePacConnect — a digitally enabled packaging solution that will enable brands of all sizes to leverage smart packaging in order to verify authenticity, trace packaging and engage with consumers like never before.

According to Jack Knott, ePac CEO, “By harnessing the power of digital printing brands of all sizes can now leverage the power of connected packaging and enhance the marketing value of every packaged product they sell. ePacConnect will also play a role in our sustainability efforts to educate consumers and provide transparency into the recycling process.”

Click here to read the full press release. 

Variable Data Printing: 6 Ways It Can Enhance Your Brand

Your packaging is one of your brands’ most powerful tools. Packaging builds brand awareness, communicates your brand’s message, attracts new customers, and more.

But how can your packaging build your brand? As we get closer to the fall and winter holidays, how can it make your holiday products stand out? What can you do to make all of your special edition products fly off the shelves? And how can you build brand loyalty and consumer interest, with just the design of your packaging?

The answer to all these questions and more is variable data printing (VDP). 

Whether you’re looking for a way to differentiate yourself on the shelf, boost consumer engagement, utilize track-and-trace for security and/or authentication reasons, or even improve your supply chain, digital print technology can help take your brand to the next level. With the help of variable data printing, brands of all sizes can easily take advantage of a variety of different technologies.

In this post, we’re going to dive into:

  • What is variable data printing and how does it work?
  • The different types of variable data printing solutions: both design-based solutions and track-and-trace/consumer engagement based solutions.
  • How brands can utilize each of the solutions.

So how does variable data printing work?

VDP is a form of digital printing that uses information from a database or external file. With VDP, elements such as text, graphics, and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process. There are no printing plates, so it’s just as simple to print one SKU, or design, in a print run as it is to print 10,000 unique designs. 

Variable data printing helps consumer brands take an innovative and unique approach to their packaging, both with design and consumer engagement. There are many ways to utilize VDP and we’re discussing just a few of those options below:

Variable Data Printing: Design Options

It’s no secret that today’s consumers love personalization and customization. Consumers respond to variety in their products, be it flavors, colors, designs or package sizes. With digital printing and VDP, you can easily create a variety of package options all in the same run — whether it be personalized packaging or seasonal packaging with unique design features that shift and change from package to package. 

Product Differentiation

VDP can help brands create product differentiation across the whole package line-up. Think of the popular Coca-Cola campaign with the different bottle labels printed with various names on each. This is created using variable data printing. Each label features a different design, and the process is not slowed as each unique label is printed.

Source: Coca Cola


Randomized Designs

There are other design solutions that create randomized designs on each package for a unique experience. At ePac, we leverage HP’s two different technologies to create highly customized designs: mosaic and collage.

With mosaic, there is one seed pattern (or file) that is automatically randomized to print a unique design on each package printed. It works by rotating, zooming, and transposing the colors of that file to create individual designs. Skratch Labs, a Boulder-based nutritional supplement brand, teamed up with ePac to use the HP Mosaic technology to create 10,000 unique pouches for the EF Education First Cycling Team in celebration of the teams’ involvement in The Tour. Click here to read the full story.

Collage automatically randomizes too but differs in that you can control various elements, so that there is some consistency on each package. Both deliver highly visual, entirely unique packaging for each SKU in the run.

Image Source: HP

Variable Data Printing: Interactive Options

The next four solutions are interactive solutions that use unique digital identities, such as a visible QR code or hidden watermark. These marks allow brands to securely track individual products throughout the entire supply chain, and provide customized digital experiences to individual consumers through a mobile interface. These track-and-trace solutions give each product its own special number so brands can associate specific data to a specific package.

Consumer Engagement

Want to increase consumer engagement with the help of your packaging? Using VDP, you’ll be able to print a unique QR code on each package that will take consumers to a specific location, like a webpage or video. There, they can view a recipe, video message, promotion, product instructions, or play a game… the options here are endless.


Brand Authentication

For brands looking to highlight a product’s authentication or sourcing information, a QR code can be used on the package to deliver detailed information unique to that individual item. Things like a product verification page, to confirm the authenticity of the product, or a page highlighting where and when it was produced, as well as batch number, manufacturing location and date/time. This also allows consumers to trace a specific product’s journey, from ingredient sourcing to retail.


Interactive Recycling Instructions

With interactive recycling instructions, you’re helping consumers learn how and where to recycle your product. The consumer would scan the QR code on the package and go to a webpage or video highlighting information on how to recycle the product. You can also include a rewards program to incentivize consumers to participate. 

Supply Chain Analytics

While the other four solutions are consumer-facing solutions, the fifth one is brand facing, meaning the code is meant for you, the brand owner, not the consumer. With supply chain analytics, you’ll have real-time supply chain data, business intelligence, and anti-counterfeit/diversion intelligence. With this solution, you can capture data at the point of purchase, as well as information from when it was scanned at the warehouse to distribution, all the way to retail. This will enable you to see where the package is and whether it went to the appropriate places. This is all captured and conveyed in an analytics dashboard. Plus, you have the ability to capture consumer data to build a consumer profile, to better understand their purchase habits.

Variable data printing allows you to track the lifecycle of each package that you produce, from where it moves within the warehouse and distribution chain, to how consumers engage with it, and even where it ends up in the recycling stream. You’ll also enjoy endless personalization and differentiation options to create packaging that is as unique as each of your consumers. Plus, you’ll create an engaging experience from a mobile interface, all in your consumers’ hands. 

Partnering with a Digital Printer for Your VDP Project 

Variable data imaging and printing are only available with digital printing. With digital printing at ePac, consumers enjoy all of the solutions VDP has to offer, plus low minimum orders and fast turnaround time. This allows you to be more reactive to market trends, and create personalized or unique packaging for different regions, consumer demographics, or seasons and holidays. At ePac, we can help you with variable data printing services so you can have the right package functionality that your brand needs. Contact us today for a free quote.