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A new EU electronic label regulation for winemakers simplified by Georgian Tech startup RETAIN.

By Gvantsa Butikashvili

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In response to evolving consumer demands and regulatory requirements for more transparency from wine producers, the European Union has implemented new wine label requirements with Regulation 2021/2117. All wines produced or sold within the E.U. after December 8, 2023, must disclose comprehensive information regarding ingredients, nutritional data, and other specifics.

While information about allergens and intolerances must appear on the label of the product, other ingredients and nutrition details can be disclosed via electronic means and QR codes, for example. The QR will take you to a page listing all required information without any ads.

RETAIN, a Georgian startup on the one hand, understands the new EU regulation and provides the technology to help winemakers meet their obligations and easily display all the required information for the customers. On the other hand, it provides a means of communication directly with the winemakers for the customers who care what they are consuming. Since its establishment, RETAIN's QR codes have been displayed in over 1,600 branches nationwide, and over 100 winemakers have opted for the service.

In an interview with the Entrepreneur CEO of RETAIN, Levan Jabua tells us an exciting story of the company and its plans for the near future.

E: How did the idea of RETAIN come about, and when was it established?

The idea of RETAIN came from a real-life experience, specifically the wrong one we, the founders, experienced ourselves. At that time, we had no medium to communicate the feedback to the company. Calling a hotline service, posting on social media, or reaching out to the responsible manager were not good enough alternatives for us, so the existing gap in the market was an excellent opportunity to create something that would make direct communication with the company seamless.

From the beginning, we set ourselves the task of creating a means of communication that would be convenient and fast for all users. Using RETAIN does not require downloading, installing, or registering on any platform. Just scanning and opening a link is needed for the consumer to start the conversation, making the process easy and smooth for users.

E: How do you think QR codes on labels can help winemakers in improving their products?

As you know, our QR codes are currently displayed in branches of different companies, through which people can evaluate the service, and the feedback goes directly to the head office. In the case of wine, the idea is similar. Today, the process is as follows: the winemaker makes wine, bottles it, and sells it in a store or wine bar here in Georgia, the United States of America, or any other continent, but with so many intermediates, it is simply impossible to get feedback from the customer. However, this information is critically important for the winemaker. Our QR codes and feedback system will allow winemakers to consider the customers' opinions and increase the production of products both in our country and abroad.

E: Could you please elaborate on a bundle of services RETAIN offers for the consumers and winemakers (producers)?

Specifically to winemakers

The new regulation of the European Union requires the winemaker to put a great deal of information on the wine label, which is tricky on a relatively small paper and without compromising on the label's aesthetics. That is why the solution is a QR code. It turned out that every winemaker will need to apply for a QR code to be generated for every type of wine produced, for which, traditionally, there are expensive solutions, which also require specific knowledge and time, which means an additional headache for the winemaker. All RETAIN needs from the winemaker is the company logo, the list of bottled wines, and the information the European Union requires to publish. If the winemaker also provides us with a label template, we will redesign the label so the QR code is nicely integrated into the label design and return the file ready for printing. All is left for the producer to print and apply the label on the bottle. We understand that the winemaker's primary concern should be wine, so we take care of the compliance side for this new E.U. regulation. For all this, we need less than an hour, and the cost is symbolic because our primary goal is to promote the development of Georgian winemaking and introduce innovations in the process. In addition, the QR code we create is as unique as dynamic, meaning that the winemaker can change or add the information at any time.

Our leading service involves generating QR codes that allow users to leave feedback and ensure it reaches responsible people in management. From the management perspective, the data is collected and displayed on one platform, making it easier to review and promptly address any issues. We believe this technology makes decision-making more effective.

We started working on the company's technological solution in February 2023, and the platform was launched in May 2023. Even though only a little time has passed since then, RETAIN has achieved positive results with various companies across the country.

E: What are your plans for the near future?

This year will be significant for our growth as we plan to expand into several domains. First and foremost, we will continue developing the technology behind our brand; we already have the next couple of months tightly scheduled. Cooperating with more Georgian winemakers and producers in the country would be vital for our company, but we are also working on entering many new markets in 2024. We already have sales representatives in Spain, Portugal, France, and Australia, and we aim to offer our services to other regions.

Our main priority, though, will be wine - we want every bottle of wine exported from Georgia to have a QR code designed by us. A Georgian winemaker who lives in Kakheti, Imereti, or any other region for that matter and sells wine abroad now does not have any feasible way of communicating with its end user.

Through our QR codes, people worldwide can give feedback and contact the winemaker directly, read more about the wine and the winemaker, or order the wine directly from the winery. As Georgia is the birthplace of wine in the world, we want wine enthusiasts, experienced connoisseurs, or just people who enjoy wine to have direct communication with the winemakers, and we want that to be a Georgian innovation, too.

As the wine industry embraces technological advancements, electronic labels become the missing puzzle towards greater transparency, efficiency, and consumer satisfaction.

Gvantsa has over ten years of experience working with multinational teams in the finance industry. Enthusiastic about efficiency and sustainability within the company and in everyday life. She is passionate about writing, mostly about finance and luxury.
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