Is RFID Worth It for Food Traceability?

While barcode tracking is the standard for supply chain traceability in the food industry, it’s not the only option. As RFID technology has advanced, many have asked if it’s worth the investment for food manufacturing and distribution.

RFID technology has its pros and cons. For example, it offers more functionality, but is typically more expensive, which is why it’s often reserved for products with a greater profit margin such as automobiles. So does it ever make sense for a food or beverage company?

Is RFID tracking worth it for a food manufacturing facility?

After scoping out your project and determining the total cost of ownership, you can begin to understand whether RFID is right for your project. Here are some things to consider:

Project scope

  • What is the scope of the project and what is your goal?
  • When does the project need to be implemented?
  • Is there time to complete any testing?


  • What environment will the system be in? (Moisture, high heat, extreme cold, etc.)
  • Does the environment change throughout the supply chain?

Read range

  • What are the read range requirements?
  • How many read points will be needed?
  • How many tags will need to be read at once?

Asset material composition

  • What type of surface will you be tagging on? (metal, plastic, wood, etc.)
  • How are you attaching the tag? (adhesive, screws, epoxy, etc.)

Cost feasibility

  • Evaluate all costs associated with the project and calculate the ROI of the entire system
  • Items to consider from a cost perspective:
    • Fixed costs: equipment such as readers, antennas, etc.
    • Recurring costs: RFID inlay, software license renewal, etc.

Applications of RFID technology in the food industry

Though it may not be the ubiquitous standard in the food industry today, RFID can have a variety of useful applications for these manufacturers and distributors.

Logistics and supply chain management

RFID technology can track materials when they ship and arrive as well as locate them within a warehouse. RFID inlays can be added under bottle caps or behind shrink labels to make products “visible” throughout the supply chain.

Material management

Returnable containers or pallets can be tracked via RFID across the supply chain. This allows companies to optimize their inventory.

Product safety

Sensors allow users to determine the temperature of the package throughout distribution. This means retailers can track fresh products for their customers and avoid products passing their “sell by” dates, which decreases waste.

By placing RFID tags behind labels, consumers can also scan these labels with a smartphone to ensure the product is genuine and not counterfeit. This is especially valuable given the growing interest in home deliveries and e-commerce.

Access control

Finally, RFID technology can even be used within employee badges and keycards to control what personnel has access to certain doors or buildings. This is not only a benefit for employee safety, but it can also be an added measure to keep personnel who work in raw and ready-to-eat areas of a facility segregated to avoid cross-contamination.

Again, RFID is usually used on higher-value goods, but that doesn’t mean it never makes sense for a food manufacturer or distributor. The best way to know for sure? Conduct an ROI analysis to determine if RFID is an appropriate fit for your facility.

Interested in conducting a traceability analysis at your facility? Have more questions about RFID and barcode scanning? Leave a comment below or email me at


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