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The interactive future of food -- and smartphones?

Can smartphones make us healthier?

Maybe not directly. After all, what good can come from jamming a smartphone between your slanted neck and shoulders, while you try and multitask at the hardware store, or all the squinting that's required to surf the mobile Web?

Ergonomic considerations aside, a new study says consumers expect smartphones to come to their rescue when they're shopping for food. Researchers at [Latitude](Http://www.latd.com), an international research consultancy, collected and analyzed data from participants across the world that the company says shared personal narratives about a time they needed more information while grocery shopping.

Participants were then asked to imagine new or existing technology solutions that they felt would best address their needs.

The goal of Latitude's latest study, The Interactive Future of Food, was to learn how technology might be applied in new ways to help people access food information right at the moment of purchase. The research firm said it wanted to find out if smartphones can help users with better decision-making and "create a more intelligent store experience."

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"We chose food shopping for this study because it's an experience we all have in common. We found that people want to make better decisions and, regardless of age and technology adoption, now inherently expect mobile technology to help them do so," said Neela Sakaria, vice president of Latitude.

"This now-mainstream desire to access relevant information at the exact moment it matters most has far-ranging implications for brands and retailers -- implications which they've only just begun to explore."

More than half (56 percent) of the study participants expressed a need for more product information such as health, food origins, organic vs. non-organic, farming practices, food safety or ingredient details, while 31 percent requested information that was logistical in nature, such as location in the store, price and inventory status.

Regardless of the type of information they were after, three in 10 study participants were equally likely to suggest a mobile phone solution even though that number was six times the number who actually used smartphones while shopping.

**Bar codes, QR codes and RFID tags**

Drilling further into the results, 43 percent of those participating, specified the use of a smartphone application, while 16 percent of all those participating mentioned barcode scanning (including mobile-ready QR codes) or RFID tags/sensors as a way to instantly access background product information.

Latitude said the findings suggest improved information access via mobile solutions can have a significant impact on offline purchasing decisions as well. This could mean retailers can profit by providing customers with in-store tools to retrieve additional product information.

"Study participants intuitively understood how real-time technology can improve purchasing decisions, which presents a growing opportunity for both retailers and brands to build positive relationships with customers. But it also means marketers should be wary of trying to pull one over' on people," Sakaria said.

"Thanks to mobile, people will be bringing to bear not only everything they've heard about your brand before walking into the store, but also everything that's possible to learn on the Web, while standing right in front of your product in the grocery aisle," she continued. "If retailers and brands don't jump in and actively provide customers with that information, they'll inevitably find it elsewhere."

Bon Appetit.

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