Edible QR Codes: What’s The Deal?

Fast Food QR codes google glass

The usefulness and popularity of smartphone-scannable QR codes has gotten to be so significant that the codes are branching out and being implemented in other industries, many of which haven’t had much use for the codes up to this point.

One of those uncharted territories is the food and restaurant industry, where QR codes are just now starting to show up.

These are quickly becoming known as “edible” QR codes, though the codes themselves aren’t actually for food. But they are being used by the food industry in a number of campaigns and innovative methods to both market products, provide access to content and certify the sustainability of the food being sold.

While it hasn’t seen any kind of widespread implementation at this point, the companies that have used edible QR codes, both large and small have seen a lot of success as a result.


Fast Food QR codesOne of the first companies to implement edible QR codes was Taco Bell, in an effort to promote their new Cantina Bell Menu. The QR code itself was actually made out of avocados and lemons and positioned in the shape of a proper QR code, which was then photographed and placed in ads.

When a user activated the code with their smartphone, they were taken to a page with recipe ideas, social sharing items, a Taco Bell store locator and videos from Lorena Garcia, the chef primarily responsible for the Cantina menu items.

On a smaller scale, San Diego’s Sushi hotspot Harney Sushi is using QR codes that actually come with the fish they serve so that restaurant goers can verify the location of the catch of their fish and be assured of the sustainability and health of the fish that they’re eating.

It’s part of an effort to combat unhealthy sushi practices in the United States, which include serving fish past expiration as well as processed fish scraps from plants.

Executive chef Rob Ruiz has even made connections with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to find out which fish species are the healthiest and best to fish for. The QR code is served with the fish and simply acts as a way for patrons to verify that they’re eating what they think they’re eating.

In some cases, you can even see a picture of the fisherman who made the catch.

Niche Market or Moving Forward?

The question is whether or not QR codes have simply found a niche market in the Sushi and fast food industries, or if they’ll continue to push into other areas.

There are a lot of food-related companies that don’t utilize QR codes. Perhaps if the success that pioneers in the food industry have with them is well known, other companies will implement similar campaigns and make use of QR codes for other products.

In the spirit of sustainability, it’s certainly possible that local grocery stores and coops could find a place for edible QR codes among the locally grown produce that they sell.

It would just be a quick and easy way to get to know the product you’re purchasing.

You could find out where something was grown or if you’re buying meat where it was raised and who the farmer was.

The possibilities are endless.

Benefitting the Business and Consumer

If it’s profitable to a business and helpful to the consumer, there’s no reason we shouldn’t see more of this practice in the near future.

Anything that is effective in providing information and useful content to the consumer should certainly be considered by those in the food industry, which historically has been technologically agnostic.


This article was written by Camille McClane, a tech writer and social media enthusiast with an interest in QR codes. She hopes you enjoy this article and encourages you to check out more of her writing on HostPapa.co.uk’s blog.

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