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Don't take our word for it. Read what our customers say on Gartner Peer Insights and on Capterra.
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Diana Avram 01/05/2023 5 min read

Why a product ”expiry” date matters for more than just food

The importance of product expiry dates goes far beyond the food industry. While perhaps most evident on our supermarket shelves, “best before” and expiry dates serve a critical purpose in many different industries. 

Whether you are a manufacturer, laboratory, or even a retailer, if your products have an expiration date, then it is essential to ensure that this date is accurate and reliable. For producers, expiry dates help ensure their products maintain the level of quality and effectiveness that they promise their customers. 

While foodstuffs are perhaps the most obvious area where expiry dates are used, they are also used in many other industries, such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and more. In the chemical industry, for example, using reagents that are past their expiry date could lead to inaccurate test results and, thus, unreliable products. 

In our interconnected global economy, no company is truly independent. They depend on other businesses for ingredients and supplies to create and build their own products. Without accurate information at all stages of the supply chain, products may become unsafe or unusable.  

What is an expiry date, and what does it mean for manufacturers?

There are many different dates on product labels, each with its own individual meaning. Manufacturers use these dates to share specific information with buyers, but in many cases, there can be confusion between what each date is and the purpose that it serves.

“Best Before” or “Expiry” along with “Sell By” and “Use By” dates all serve distinct purposes yet often get used interchangeably. To help clarify things, we’ve put together a quick guide on each of these phrases and what they actually reference.

  • A Sell By date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before this date expires, and it is often quite close in terms of timing to the use-by date.
  • A Best Before or Expiry date tells you how long the product will be at its best quality. You can still use the product after this date, but it may not be at its peak effectiveness.
  • A Use By date is the final expiration date. You should not use the product after this date as the ingredients may have gone bad.

While there is some interrelation between the three, they are also each uniquely different.  For example, let’s consider a staple in many homes – milk. While a soured milk smell definitely tells you that you’ve passed the Use By date, it’s the manufacturer that determines this. Dairy producers pasteurize milk before distribution to kill all bacteria. They then test or simulate how long the milk may last under typical storage conditions and use this data to determine an Expiry date.

In this case, you can think of two different expiry dates at play. The initial expiry date from the manufacturer and also the expiry date for the consumer. The dairy producer knows through testing how long pasteurized milk will last. If their product is delayed in shipping for any reason, it will impact the consumer expiry date (the Sell By) date. However, after purchase, if a product sits for too long without being consumed, then the Expiry date is reached.

As you can see, knowing how to differentiate between Expiry, Use By, and Sell By dates is essential in many industries. Not only do these dates help keep consumers safe by ensuring they don’t purchase or consume spoiled products, but it also helps manufacturers stay on top of their product freshness and shelf life.

expiry-date

How can you calculate a product's expiry date?

Calculating a product’s expiry date may seem like a complicated task, but it’s actually quite simple. All you need is the production date and the shelf life of the product.

Cosmetics labels are usually printed with the production date and the shelf life. To calculate the expiry date, you simply add the shelf life to the production date. For example, if a moisturizer were made on October 1st, 2020, with a shelf life of 3 years, it would expire on October 1st, 2023. It really is as simple as that!

However, manufacturers cannot simply wait to see when products go “bad” before they decide on the shelf life. Instead, they perform challenge testing. This involves storing the product at a higher temperature for a set amount of time and then measuring how the product performs. Based on these results, manufacturers can determine the length of time appropriately.

By including an expiry date on cosmetics labels, consumers are better informed about the safety and quality of the product they’re buying.  It also allows cosmetic producers to comply with labeling regulations and ensures that manufacturers are responsible for setting realistic shelf lives – something that’s beneficial for both customers and businesses alike.

The best-before date may seem like just a tiny detail, but for manufacturers, it’s actually a big deal.  This date helps them ensure that their products are of the highest quality when they reach consumers and helps ensure that items taste and work the way they are expected to. 

When calculating expiry dates for thousands of items, the process can be tedious and time-consuming. Fortunately, there are automated tools like those available through AlisQI that can do the heavy lifting for you. By using AlisQI to calculate expiry dates, manufacturers can maximize output and reduce waste – meaning that you get the most out of each batch of ingredients without sacrificing safety and quality. 

Final thoughts

It’s important to state that expiry dates aren’t an indication of safety – they simply represent the time after which quality may start to deteriorate. However, as a manufacturer, having the right expiration dates on all your products is essential to ensure that they remain safe and of the highest quality at all times. By investing in automated tools and processes, you can make sure that the process of setting and managing expiration dates is as efficient as possible.

Following best practices when it comes to calculating expiration dates can also provide great value in terms of cost savings and efficiency improvements for your organization.  Ultimately, taking a closer look at expiration dates is something every business should strongly consider if they want to maximize customer satisfaction and minimize risk. 

Best-before and expiry dates are an essential part of the production and distribution chains for many organizations, but they can be complex to calculate. Luckily, with the help of AlisQI, manufacturers can now calculate accurate expiry dates for their products easily and quickly. They can also customize this calculation to meet different requirements for sell-by, use-by, and other expiry settings.

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Diana Avram

Marketing & Media