Flip through any magazine these days and you’re likely to see a bar-code-like square in the corners of print ads for food products and even editorial pages. These quick response, or QR, codes invite readers to scan the square with their mobile phone to learn more about a product, receive tips or recipes or view a related video. This summer, South Fallsburg, NY-based Murray’s Chickens will be joining the ranks of such brands as Cuisinart, Target, Splenda and many more to promote its product via this technology-driven technique.

For Murray’s, the QR codes will enhance traceability and serve as a marketing tool. “We’re going for real-time, farm-to-table traceability,” says Steve Gold, vice president of sales and marketing. “We will be offering table tents with QR codes for restaurants, so the customer can take a photo of it on their smart phone and see the farmer.”

At retail, the QR code will offer recipe ideas. “You buy a whole chicken, take a snapshot of the code and you’ll be given a recipe by a famous or high-end chef or a magazine,” Gold adds. “Enter how many people you’re having to dinner and it will calculate the amount of ingredients you need to buy, and then you can download a coupon from Murray’s.” Once consumers return home, they are able to look up the full recipe online, as only the ingredients and summary would be provided in the QR code scan.

The traceability aspect will also continue at retail, as Murray’s has since 2007 allowed customers to use a number printed on-pack, plug it into the company’s website and meet the farmer who grew that chicken. The program uses Google Earth technology to allow users to view the farm via satellite as well.

“We have found through others’ research [that] people want to know where their food is coming from,” Gold notes.

As for the use of QR codes, still more a new-fangled approach than a tried-and-true method, Gold is hopeful their use can both promote Murray’s and enhance consumers’ experience with the company’s product.

Partnering for success

Partnering with others is a key component of the strategy, particularly for featured recipes. Gold says the company has already inked deals with the likes of Barbecue Bible author Steven Raichlen and Mindy Fox, author of the chicken cookbook, “A Bird in the Hand.”

The QR codes will be on all fresh, raw product the company sells, with a goal of including it on value-added products. The summer should provide the launching pad for the QR code use, and the company hopes to make a big push around Thanksgiving.

Differentiation methods

Innovative marketing and product development techniques have been central to Murray’s Chicken’s approach. The company has tackled producing gluten-free products, including chicken nuggets, and switched its packaging in early 2009 to swap the polystyrene tray for a single-material rigid container. The gluten-free nuggets were recently reformulated. The new nuggets are sold only in foodservice for now.

Company officials were early adopters of using social media as a marketing tool. Murray’s utilizes Facebook and Twitter to promote the company’s products and practices, such as the new burgers joining the product lineup this summer. Gold admits he seeks the advice and assistance of a younger demographic when it comes to social media strategy due to their continuously updating knowledge base of what’s in and what’s out. “[My kids] are going to be handling Facebook and Twitter when school season is over,” he says.

Alicia Karapetian is a contributing editor from the Chicago area.