AIPIA member Digimarc Corporation and the German retailer Netto Marken-Discount have announced an important milestone in delivering an easier, more efficient checkout while ensuring its branded products at Netto’s 4,300 stores nationwide are recycle-ready. Netto private labelled food and beverage products are now digitized using Digimarc’s product digitization technology, including incorporating covert digital watermarks into the packaging.

“It is exciting to partner with retailers like Netto that are setting the example for the rest of the industry and leading the way for a circular economy,” said Digimarc CEO Riley McCormack. “More sustainable packaging is becoming a business imperative, and our digital watermarks are transforming recycling as a validated way to improve circularity dramatically.”

“We initially cooperated with Digimarc to optimize our checkout by digitizing our private label food and beverage products,” said Christina Stylianou, Netto corporate spokesperson. “Netto is now also well positioned to adopt Digimarc Recycle by leveraging the same digital watermarking technology that makes the checkout easier and more efficient.”

Retailers like Netto implement Digimarc’s digital watermarking, which is imperceptible to the human eye, across a package’s or label artwork’s surface area. The covert nature of the watermarks works well with packaging designs and branding, According to the company. Netto has enhanced 1000s of food and beverage packages with digital watermarks.

Since 2018, Netto Marken-Discount has been the first and only retailer in Germany to integrate the technology into the packaging of its private-label food range. “The fact that Digimarc digital watermarks didn’t obscure our branding and therefore enhanced the packaging was another important factor in selecting them as a long-term partner,” added Ms Stylianou.

Netto boasts an extensive sustainability program — assuming responsibility for business outcomes is part of the Netto corporate culture, it says. “At Netto, we are committed to less plastic packaging, more recycling, and more responsibility,” said Ms. Stylianou. “Digimarc is a valued partner in supporting us in achieving our sustainability goals as we look to the future.”

Digimarc Recycle represents a revolution in the sortation of plastic waste and recycling, claims the company. By linking covert digital watermarks (used to deterministically identify plastic packaging to any desired level of granularity) with an extensible cloud-based repository of product attributes (such as brand, SKU, product variant, packaging composition, food/non-food use, etc.), Digimarc Recycle overcomes the limitations of optical sorting technologies to make improvements in the quality and quantity of recyclate.

In addition, the same information used to drive this advanced sortation in facilities can provide product-specific and location-based disposal instructions via a brand-owned direct-to-consumer digital communication channel accessed via on-pack watermarks or QR codes.

The technology also captures and provides a holistic view of the post-purchase product journey, unlocking data benefiting stakeholders across the value chain, it believes.

Digimarc Recycle is expected to launch soon in France and Canada, with more conversations ongoing in other countries, the company confirms. In addition, Digimarc’s product digitization technology has recently been chosen to guard the integrity of a national deposit-return scheme.

This article was created in collaboration with AIPIA (the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association). For a full update on active and intelligent packaging, come along to the AIPIA World Congress (co-organized by Packaging Europe) in Amsterdam on 14-15 November. The only smart packaging event covering the entire technology spectrum, the World Congress is a meeting place for the global active and intelligent packaging industry where brand owners, innovators, and other stakeholders can network and see and discuss the latest trends and innovations. Register to attend here.