New EFR Study Shows Foodservice Case Coding Rose to 69% in 2001

The foodservice industry’s use of bar codes on cases and inner packs increased significantly in 2001, according to a new survey conducted by Efficient Foodservice Response (EFR).

The survey of six foodservice distribution facilities showed that case coding rose to 69 percent – up from 61 percent in 2000 and 54 percent in 1999.  Ninety-two percent of inner packages assessed in the survey included a bar code.

EFR Executive Director Mark Allen said “the results of the 2001 EFR Bar Code Survey show that the industry is making strong progress but still has much more that needs to be done to reach EFR’s goal of 100 percent case-level bar coding on foodservice products.”

The survey also revealed significant variations in the use of case coding among different product categories.  Equipment and supplies had the highest rate of case coding at 74 percent, followed by dry grocery at 71 percent, frozen foods at 69 percent and refrigerated foods at 64 percent. Produce cases, although showing modest progress in 2001, ranked lowest, with 16 percent compliance.

“Chain operators recognize the benefits of using standard product identification and bar codes to improve labor utilization and operations and to better ensure food safety, said Ken Fowle, director, supply chain management at Darden Restaurants, Inc. and chairman of the EFR Bar Code Implementation Committee.  “The results of this third annual survey are encouraging and will allow us to finally begin to realize the efficiencies that so many other industries have been reaping for years,” he said.

“Distributors are realizing that the supply chain of the future will be dependent on 100 percent adoption and use of standard product ID’s and bar codes,” said Pamela Tann, senior manager coding and standards at SYSCO Corporation.  “If the foodservice value chain is going to achieve true supply chain excellence, we need standard product identification and bar
codes as the fundamental building blocks.”

The survey also found that:

  • Individual facility compliance varies.  Facility surveys ranged from a low of 60 percent case coding to a high of 78 percent for a distributor that mandates coding.
  • The majority of cases are marked with bar codes on at least two sides. Sixty-seven percent had a bar code printed on at least two sides while 33 percent had a code printed on one side only.  EFR recommends placing bar codes on two adjacent sides.
  • Scan quality continues to be a challenge. When using the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) grading scale, bar code quality continues to be a concern.
  • Six in 10 cases have codes printed directly on corrugate. The remaining 40 percent have codes printed on labels.

“The survey presents powerful evidence that suggests the day when a supplier can remain competitive yet not apply bar codes to individual cases is quickly coming to an end.” Allen noted.  “Many operators and distributors are realizing there are great operational efficiencies to be gained when their suppliers apply bar codes.”

Stratix Corporation conducted the 2001 survey for the EFR Executive Committee.  The researchers scanned 28,535 cases in six different distribution facilities – three regional broadliners (Southwest, Southeast and Northeast United States); two national broadliners (West Coast, Mid-Atlantic); and a systems distributor.  The survey team recorded cases from 1,604 different suppliers.

In order to maintain focus on the issue of bar code adoption and implementation, the EFR Executive Committee has established a Bar Code Implementation Work Group to further increase the voluntary adoption of standard product identification and bar coding in the foodservice industry. In addition to Darden Restaurants, Inc., other participating companies include Metromedia Restaurant Group, Brinker International, Wendy’s International, Inc., Advantica Restaurant Group, Unified Purchasing Cooperative (Tricon), Restaurant Services Inc. (Burger King), SYSCO Corporation, Marriott Distribution Services, Alliant Foodservice, Rich Products Corporation, Kraft Foods, Inc., Sugar Foods Corporation, Frito-Lay, Inc., Seneca Foods Corporation, Tyson Foods, Inc., Edward Don Company and the Uniform Code Council.

To learn more about EFR topics, resources and initiatives, contact EFR Executive Director Mark Allen, at (703) 532-9400, ext. 228; or by e-mail to – or visit the EFR web site at

Efficient Foodservice Response is a joint industry project sponsored by six industry trade associations.  The project was created so manufacturers, agents, distributors and operators could study methods to eliminate non value-added costs from the foodservice supply chain.  The project is built around the EFR strategies of: Supply Chain Demand Forecasting, Electronic Commerce, Equitable Alliances, Logistics Optimization and Foodservice Category Management.  The EFR sponsoring associations are: International Foodservice Distributors Association/Food Distributors International, International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, Uniform Code Council, Inc., Association of Sales and Marketing Companies – Foodservice, National
Restaurant Association and Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors.