Product Expiration Dates: An Issue of Confusing Labels

One marketing decision that often is overshadowed by more glamorous aspects, such as product design and advertising, is that involving product labeling. As we note in this tutorial, labeling typically involves the imprinting of information on product packaging or, in some cases, on the product itself (e.g., sticker on an apple).

While this area of marketing may not capture a high level of marketers? enthusiasm, it is something that can receive significant attention from customers, government regulators and non-profit groups. For instance, an issue with labeling is raised in this story where the value of expiration dates that appear mostly on food and drug products is questioned.

According to this story, the dating that appears in the form ?use by? or ?sell by? or ?best by? dates is often misleading and the groups researching this issue, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, claim customers are clearly confused. The result, they say, is that customers end up spending more because they are trashing products well before it goes bad. Because of this, these groups recommend changing how these labels are presented including changing ?sell by? dating so only retailers can see it and creating a uniform dating system to apply to nearly all products.

Image by Mark Turnauckas