UK supermarkets to trial virtual reality labels

(Image: Malgosia Janicka, Shutterstock)

FOUR of the UK’s biggest retailers are to trial new environmental labels in a virtual reality setting this summer.

Morrisons, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco will trial the technology as part of the latest phase of work kicked off by the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD).

IGD will work alongside DEFRA and WRAP on the project, with the initial focus being on developing a strategic framework for an environmental labelling scheme that will provide ‘consistent and transparent’ information for consumers – enabling them to make more informed choices at point of sale based on credible data and consistent methods for environmental footprinting.

The supermarkets will test prototype labels in a virtual reality environment to see how customers respond, before then looking to implement the labels in-store. Recent customers from each retailer will be invited to shop in a virtual store, recreated using specialist software, through an online survey.

IGD said that the virtual trials will be used to evaluate consumer awareness and understanding of the environmental label. They will also evaluate the impact of point-of-sale  communications and how to optimise them.

The workstream is underpinned by ‘rigorous’ consumer research, conducted by Walnut Unlimited, the first phase of which started in January 2022 to test and inform the labelling framework. Phase two of the consumer research is currently underway, to test and inform the label design. The third phase will take place this summer through the trials themselves.

Susan Barratt, IGD CEO, said, “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. 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.

“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. 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.”