Blockchain technology has been attracting attention for quite a while and is working its way into various industries. Most recently, we have seen the adoption of blockchain technology gain momentum in the retail food industry, specifically related to food traceability.
Previously, retailers would trace food product lifecycles through traditional methods like pen and paper or dedicated software. Unfortunately, these methods depend on trust and honesty to provide accurate information. If anyone were to cut corners, or make errors, then the accuracy around food traceability greatly suffered. However, blockchain technology can improve food traceability for grocery retailers and consumers.
Blockchain food traceability enables grocery retailers and consumers to immediately trace the entire lifecycle of food products from source to production to consumption and disposal with an unaltered, undisputed record. This kind of transparency bolsters credibility and efficiency for retailers and, most importantly, increases consumer safety.
In this blog, we’ll explore the concept of blockchain food traceability, discuss its benefits, and explain why grocers need to adopt new technologies.
What Is Blockchain Technology?
Blockchain is an immutable digital record of transaction data authenticated every time a new transaction occurs. This means that once information is entered into a blockchain-based system, it can’t be hidden, altered or changed. This eliminates third-party involvement and provides transparency and accuracy for suppliers, retailers, and consumers.
Blockchain enables different people and partners to operate privately, anonymously, and securely. Food supply blockchains also allow grocery retailers to protect their business operations and navigate supply chain disruptions, resulting in better performance, control, and systems security.
Why Blockchain Technology and Food Traceability Make a Good Pair
In 2020 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced a New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint to improve food traceability. As a result, the retail food industry has begun to turn to blockchain technology to amplify this concept and enhance food traceability practices. With strengthened security, blockchain technology traces a food product from “farm to fork.”
The main goal of food traceability is to quickly identify where a product was made, produced, and sold, to promptly identify the source of an issue and correct it before it causes harm to the end consumer. By eliminating the ability to alter records, blockchain food traceability enables systems to be checked for food fraud and product tampering instantaneously. Additionally, the technology permits the identification and classification of product waste within supply chains and can rapidly identify food contamination issues to aid in rapid product recalls.
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Benefits of Blockchain Food Traceability
As mentioned above, blockchain technology enables consumers to access detailed information about the products they buy.
By scanning a QR code, consumers can discover critical information about their food, like when and how it was harvested. Blockchain-based supply chain ledgers can also quickly identify food lots subject to product recalls and facilitate their prompt removal from shelves. Access to this information enables consumers to make informed decisions and avoid potentially harmful foods. Ultimately, having this level of transparency is crucial to building customer trust and brand loyalty.
Reduce Food Waste
Food waste is not a new problem, but it’s a problem gaining more attention. Food retailers generate 10.5 million tons of food waste, sending almost one-third of wasted food to landfills. Approximately 45% of all fruits and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, and 20% of meat and dairy products are wasted annually by suppliers, retailers, and consumers.
As ESG initiatives become more important, blockchain food traceability can play a significant role in reducing the amount of food waste. Blockchain enables food retailers to track contaminated produce, identify hotspots, and pinpoint where a product was spoiled in a matter of seconds. This information can help ensure that the product doesn’t end up on shelves and that no more product from an identified hotspot is purchased.
Implementing blockchain technology into food supply chains can lead to more accountability for manufacturers and suppliers. Since there is much more transparency with consumers, it becomes a lot easier for them to spot and report bad practices. Because of this, food manufacturers and suppliers are unlikely to break the rules to avoid fines for not following food safety regulations.
Drive Operational Efficiency
Retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers require access to business-critical data to make strategic decisions. Because many organizations operate globally, internationally, or nationally, digitization of data is critical to facilitating actionable insights for the entire food retail industry.
Current data sources are often siloed, making it challenging to analyze and use them efficiently. However, this data is crucial for determining pesticide and herbicide levels to ensure the integrity of the food they purchase. Adopting blockchain technology for food supply chains can help address several key logistical issues and is less costly than existing food tracking systems.
The Future of Blockchain and Food Traceability
Blockchain food traceability is an up-and-coming tool for optimizing food safety and security practices and processes. Major players like Walmart, Tyson Foods, and Nestle have successfully implemented the technology. As the retail food industry begins to embrace blockchain technology’s benefits, the need to stay competitive will ultimately drive the migration to Blockchain.
Although, more effective implementation of blockchain technology for smaller chains faces specific challenges. In some cases, the initial cost of implementing blockchain technology may prevent businesses from adopting the technology. However, the ability to monitor and track products through a distributed network makes it more valuable than ever. With Blockchain, a retailer can ensure that products are of high quality, contain the necessary ingredients for safe consumption, and are sustainable, two factors essential to winning over today’s consumer.