Using Product Coding and Labeling to Manage a Growing Number of S
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Using Product Coding and Labeling to Manage a Growing Number of SKUs

According to PMMI’s 2017 Trends in Food Processing Operations, “Four out of five companies have more than 100 product SKUs and over half predict SKUs will continue to increase, driving the need for faster changeover.”

A number of factors contribute to the drastic rise in SKUs, like company acquisitions and portfolio merging, flavor variety, count variety and retailer-specific case sizes, to name a few. Managing an increasing number of SKUs is costly for snack food manufacturers, especially when a bulk of them only contribute a small portion to their bottom-line profit. Constant starting and stopping of production lines to changeover a new product run means more downtime in a manufacturer’s operations.

Examples of product variations brought about by consumer trends

On-the-go lifestyles, practiced commonly amongst the Millennial generation, have increased the need for convenient packaging:

  • Resealable pouches and twist-cap tetra packs to preserve freshness
  • Personal sized bags for easy consumption and disposal


A greater emphasis on healthy options has also increased the number of recipe variations, causing more SKUs to be made for tracking purposes. Consumers want to be able to recognize the ingredients in their products, known as “clean labeling”, giving rise to popular snacks like popcorn, breakfast bars, pretzels and others to have variations such as:

  • Gluten-free
  • Sugar-free
  • Added nutrients, like fiber or vitamins
  • GMO-free


The impact of online retail shopping on the snack food packaging market

In addition to having access to ranges of food products in virtually any shopping setting – retail chains, convenient stores, grocery stores and department stores – consumers are also demanding to have the ability to order their snacks and other groceries online. Different distribution channels are assigned different SKUs for manufacturers to have visibility into tracking purchasing. On the fulfillment end of the supply chain, it is of the utmost importance that cases sitting in the warehouse of online distribution centers are clearly labeled with the correct product information to ensure accurate customer order fulfillment.

Managing language barriers on production lines to reduce message programming user errors

For instances when skilled labor workers do not speak the primary language of your printer settings, these barriers can be dealt with through advanced line setting features in the user interface of marking and coding technologies. More and more, interfaces for coders and labelers are moving towards the look and feel of a smartphone – with recognizable icons instead of text.  For operations with multiple production lines to accommodate different products, the name of the product can be replaced with an image of the actual product for quick recognition. This simplified naming method for line settings reduces the user error brought about by language gaps.

Managing SKU proliferation through your automated coding and labeling equipment

There are a couple of levels in which SKU proliferation can be managed in an automated way through your coding and labeling printers:

1) Storing messages at the machine level with meaningful names to alleviate mistakes during changeover. For example, naming your message “Gluten Free Crackers” versus “Crackers”. 

2) Message retrieval from a database through barcode scanning goes a step further through verification, ensuring that the message on the secondary cases matches the primary product information. 

You can make the greatest impact on your operations, including managing SKUs, when you partner with a solutions provider to design your entire marking and coding operation around this objective. With your main requirements and unique specifications in mind from the start, it is possible to integrate a coding and labeling solution that not only works seamlessly in your production line but can add additional value by automating the SKU management process and reducing downtime. 

Interested in more forward-looking trends and topics affecting manufacturers in the snack food industry? Download our free whitepaper, 2018: Innovations in Snack Food Packaging, for a full analysis of how these changes will impact manufacturers, packagers and retailers.

  Innovations In Snack Food Packaging  


2018: Innovations in Snack Food Packaging


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