How to secure chilled and frozen meat products


In food retail, stealingmeat is a serious issue. Each year millions of pounds disappear from theshelves leading to significant losses. As standard solutions do not providesufficient protection, the challenge of securing meat really puts a retailer’sloss prevention strategy to the test. This article explains the options of(source) tagging chilled and frozen meat products with dedicated electronicarticle surveillance (EAS) labels. Topics include the label selection criteria,consumer safety aspects and label design options.


Label selection criteria


We will take a look at fourdifferent phases in the product journey, because the label is typicallyattached to the packaging at an early stage and is not removed until the meatis prepared at the consumer’s home. Therefore, to ensure the best performance,the label has to fit all stages of the product journey as summarized below.



Label selection criteria

Label application

• Proximity to the product

• Type of packaging

• Temperature / humidity

• Location


• Shelf life / expiration date

• Storage temperature

Point of sale

Deactivation speed


• Tests & certifications

• Label design & warning messages

Labelselection criteria for securing meat


Each of these four phasesand the consequences for label selection are discussed in detail in thefollowing.


1.     Label application


When securing chilled orfrozen meat products, it is essential to choose an EAS label that is suitablefor the environmental influences. To ensure the best deactivation and detectionperformance, it is not only vital to consider the actual product and packaging,but also where the label is applied and under which conditions. Key factors todetermine which EAS label to use on chilled or frozen products are:


• Product

• Packaging

• Temperature

• Humidity

• Location (in-store vs. atsource)


Depending on theseconditions, different types of labels need to be selected to make sure that theEAS labels perform best. When goods are tagged in the store, for example, the productshave often been in humid and low temperature conditions for quite some time.This leads to the development of condensate, which can cause standard EAS labelsto slide off the packaging.


When applied at source, theconditions are typically relatively controlled and applying the EAS label isusually part of the (post) packaging process. Therefore, standard labels workfine in most cases, as the surface of the packed product is still dry andadhesion is guaranteed.


Another important aspect isthe proximity of the label to the actual product. When applied extremely closeto the products, standard EAS labels can detune and perform less well. In thesecases, it is advisable to consider EAS labels that are less sensitive todetuning as detuning can have a negative effect on the label detection at theEAS antennas.


2.     Shelf

Anotherkey factor is the product shelf life, because long-term moist conditions alsohave an impact on performance. Products that are chilled for a longer periodand are therefore moist will cause lower performance. To solve this, it isadvisable to select RF labels that are more resistant to moist conditions.


Fordeep frozen products, which are likely to have an even longer shelf life, it isimportant to select labels that perfectly stick to the packaging. Standard EASlabels can fall off the packaging when exposed to very low temperatures over alonger period of time.


3.     Point of sale


Thepoint of sale is a key element in the EAS system, because the scanning speedand accuracy is essential to guarantee a fast, customer-friendly check-outprocedure and prevent false alarms at the EAS antennas. While false alarms areof course annoying for your customers, they also lower staff confidence in theEAS solution.


Deactivation speed


Tooptimally serve paying customers, it is crucial that labels can be deactivatedwithout errors. As labels are deactivated during barcode scanning, it isimportant that the labels can be deactivated at the same speed as scanning. Asa consequence, the deactivation electronics also need to be able to cope with ahigh scanning speed (of up to 45 deactivations per minute) in order not to interferewith the cashiers’ scanning procedures.


4.     Consumer


Consumersafety is of course a top priority for any food retailer. In that respect, itis important to select labels that are certified for food application and thatadhere to food safety management protocols. As the EAS label is applied on themeat packaging and not on the meat itself, labels certified for indirect foodapplication are the best choice here.


Microwave-tested labels


Inmany households, time is precious and food preparation needs to be astime-efficient as possible. Therefore, it is likely that customers will putproducts in a microwave oven without removing the EAS label and/ or thepackaging before defrosting or cooking the product (despite the warnings andinstructions).


Theproblem is that certain EAS labels can cause serious damage when placed into amicrowave. By selecting microwave-tested labels with an official test reportfrom an independent test institute and a clear warning message on the label,retailers can prove that they have done everything within their power toprotect their customers in case of related claims.


Label design & warning messages


Infood retail, the appearance of the product is naturally a very important factorwhen it comes to attracting and informing customers. While some retailersprefer an invisible EAS label that completely blends in with the packaging,others prefer to have a visual deterrent that clearly signals that the productis secured. The most unobtrusive solution is to sandwich an (auto) apply labelunder the brand or price label that is applied to the outer packaging. Othertypical design options include dummy barcodes, warning messages or labels thatare completely designed according to the specifications of the retailer to makeit look like a promotional sticker rather than a security label.


Typicaldesign options are:

•Invisible (auto apply) label

•White or black

•Dummy barcode

•Brand or marketing message

•Warning message (e.g. security protected)




Dueto specific product characteristics, chilled and frozen meat products demandanother type of EAS label than the standard soft labels. In order to bestprotect these products, retailers need to consider the product conditions, thedeactivation speed and their customers. With regard to the product, thecombination of packaging, storage temperature and shelf life are the primaryfactors to consider in the label selection process. From the consumerperspective however, reliable deactivation is important to prevent unwantedalarms and make sure your customers do not get into an uncomfortable situation.In addition to this, retailers need to make a choice concerning the visibilityof the label and consider the risk of labelled products being placed in microwaveovens to select the best possible solution for securing this high (theft) riskproduct group.


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