The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst chatted on June 29 with Elliott Grant, founder and chief marketing officer of YottaMark, Redwood City, Calif. You can read the entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.

3:27 p.m. Tom Karst: PTI is being driven by leaders like yourself, along with PMA, United, CPMA, and now GS1 US. Yet often we hear how important the retailers are as well to the momentum for PTI. What is your sense of how retailers are engaging with PTI now?

Q&A | Elliott Grant, YottaMark


3:28 p.m. Elliott Grant: Very timely question. We are actively talking with retailers — and we also agree that they are key to driving adoption — and have been consistently hearing that they are committed to PTI and believe in it.

3:30 p.m. Karst: From what I understand from recent comments from Dan Vache, there is outreach to retailers on the issue, so perhaps there is more news to come on that front. The dynamics of the sales desk versus information technology and operations play a part in how “together” the retail response is, I take it.

3:31 p.m. Grant: I think there’s a lot more going on in the retail world than meets the eye. Major retailers are evaluating what they need to do to update their distribution center operations and systems to accommodate GTINs/lots, store all the additional data, and — critically — how to use that data to improve their operations.

3:32 p.m. Karst: I guess before we leave the issue of retailers, is there any update on the VoiceCode solution and where that is at right now in the big picture?

3:33 p.m. Grant: Sure, if you were to evaluate PTI’s adoption simply by polling buyers — you’d probably conclude that retailers aren’t taking it that seriously. But when you talk with the operations folks, IT, supply chain and quality leaders ... you realize that this is a major initiative in the retail business.

3:35 p.m. We are currently working through the specifics of the VoiceCode with several retailers who are evaluating the method. As you know, we published the solution for free. Several of our competitors have adopted the solution ... such as RedLine ... and I saw it show up in someone’s PTI presentation at CPMA. Nice to see!

3:49 p.m. Karst: As you consider PTI and produce, do you think it will be an example to other perishable food categories? Knowing what you know now, what if anything would you change about how PTI has unfolded?

3:50 p.m. Grant: I think we can all do a better job of talking about the value of PTI ... not just the cost.

3:51 p.m. Yes, I know other categories are watching PTI — to see how it plays out. And once a major retailer has equipped their DC/system to handle GTIN/lots then it makes sense they’ll want to do it on other perishable items.

3:52 p.m. What would I change? I think it’s been said already that the process wasn’t very inclusive — which alienated some folks. Plus, the focus on implied mandates rather than figuring out how it creates value for the whole system created unnecessary friction. There was a lack of specificity in some areas — which made it hard for people to go ahead.

3:54 p.m. But, these systemwide changes are hard — and no one should assume that it was going to be a breeze to make such a dramatic change in the industry. Years from now I believe we’ll look back and wonder how it worked before having these systems (think about supermarkets without UPCs!) ... but looking at the work in front of us, sure it’s complex.

3:56 p.m. I would like to figure out a way to get all the smallest shippers on board. Right now the cost and complexity of getting a GS1 prefix is a barrier. I don’t think anyone wants to disenfranchise the small independent farmer ... nor do we want them to be outside the traceability system.