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Inside Retail & Mars Birdcare

Mars Birdcare turns to QR Codes for innovative solution

The endangered Swift parrot.

When Australia’s recent three years of drought drastically affected local sources of seed and grain, it forced a significant recipe change for Mars Birdcare’s Trill range of bird feed.

The new recipes were nutritionally equivalent blends, but Mars Birdcare’s business manager, Jon Regan, was faced with a pressing need to inform pet owners of the change in recipe within a short timeframe. Changing the packaging artwork to carry the announcement is a process that would have taken months, so Regan turned to a simple and often overlooked digital tool that has gradually been gaining acceptance among Australian consumers – the simple QR code.

“We had to do something proactively that was agile and also affordable,” says Regan. “We landed on the idea of using a QR code placed on the core range of Trill seedboxes using a label that was applied during production. The QR code linked to a video on how the drought was impacting the seed and grain used in our products, as well as providing a link to our consumer care team in case they had any additional questions.”

QR codes have been around since 1994 and were once expected to be of major importance with the advent of smartphones in the late 2000s – but Australian consumers have been slow to embrace the system. With the increased accessibility of these codes in the market following a QR scanning function being made native to iOS, Mars Birdcare saw the strategy as a simple and elegant solution that could rapidly and affordably be applied to packaging, getting the labels on shelves within a matter of weeks.

“It was really simple,” says Regan – “we were focused on providing information directly to our consumers in an efficient manner.  If the consumer had additional questions, they were directed straight to our consumer care team.”

After the success of the QR code strategy in 2019, Mars Birdcare saw an opportunity to use the same technology to help prevent the extinction of the Australian Swift Parrot, under threat by logging in its natural habitat. In a first-of-its-kind campaign, Mars has partnered with non-profit organisation Australian Birdlife to educate consumers about this iconic bird and how they can help to save it by placing QR coded labels on their Trill products linking to the campaign website.  

“This is really exciting, and it ties back to the global purpose for Mars – in that the world we want for tomorrow starts with how we do business today,” explains Regan. “We’ve been able to partner with Birdlife Australia and raise awareness among our consumers about their current campaign.”

The social movement to save the Swift Parrot comes at a critical time for the species, which has been reduced to as few as 300 breeding pairs. The parrots nest in the tremendous blue and black eucalyptus gum trees of Tasmania that can grow upwards of 100 feet – but with increased and sustained logging in Tasmanian forests, nests are routinely failing and the species is now considered critically endangered.

The campaign is being delivered via a “peel and reveal” QR-coded sticker. The top label features a beautiful graphic of the Swift Parrot and a code that links to – Birdlife Australia’s landing page for Trill, which provides an opportunity to engage with the conservation effort. Given the solemnity and importance of the conservation work, the Trill campaign is not linked to any particular product promotion or discount, making appropriate use of the distinct and straightforward reach-out strategy presented by the QR code technology.

“QR codes are specifically targeted, ideal for a particular use,” observes Regan. “That removes the confusion. For the consumer, it’s very clear that if they scan this QR code, it will immediately take them to the website. Certainly, as we become more familiar with it, we will look for ways to integrate it into our sales and marketing strategy.”

Boxes of Trill carrying QR code labels for the Swift Parrot campaign are currently in all major grocery stores and independent pet stores across Australia. Those interested in supporting the campaign can scan the QR code below to click through to the Trill page on Birdlife Australia.