Blockchain uptake on the rise for secure food supply chains2 Mar 2020
Blockchain technology has been hailed as a way to improve transparency in food supply chains, and it is now being adopted by a growing number of companies.
Blockchain technology refers to a system that creates a permanent digital record of transactions along supply chains. For food ingredients, this means each time they change hands, from the farm or fishery to the end consumer, the transaction becomes a block of information. These are then added together to become a detailed description of the supply chain. Everyone along the chain has access to the complete record, but no one can edit it without every other participant’s authorisation.
Infant food and formula are among the most sensitive products in the food supply network, so it is perhaps unsurprising that suppliers in this sector have shown some of the greatest interest in the technology. Most recently, Danone announced a plan to use blockchain with QR codes to enable its customers to trace every pack of infant formula back along the supply chain. The codes can be scanned before purchase, and then a second code behind a tamper-resistant seal can only be read after purchase, giving another layer of security. The company said it would start with its Nutrilon and Aptamil brands in China before applying it to other brands in Germany, France, New Zealand and Australia later this year.
Infant formula is an important area for the technology, as it has been suspected as the source of several foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years, and has also been the subject of food fraud and adulteration scandals.
In the food industry as a whole, blockchain promises to standardise and centralise information about how ingredients are sourced and handled. It has already been adopted or explored by many of the biggest commodity ingredient suppliers, including Bunge, Archer Daniels Midland, Louis Dreyfus Company and Cargill. Apart from providing greater transparency and traceability, it also has potential financial benefits, as it could help shorten ingredient storage times and reduce the time and money spent on processing traditional documents.
Many ingredient suppliers and food manufacturers have suggested that its greatest potential is in improving the efficiency of food recalls. This is an area that often is not openly discussed until a recall is underway, but more companies are turning to blockchain to hasten the process and help lessen the impact of foodborne illness or undeclared allergens, for instance. Global food conglomerates such as Nestlé, Unilever and Tyson Foods are among the big names already using the technology.
In addition, blockchain could be used to ensure food authenticity, in terms of organic or Fairtrade claims, for example, and to prevent food fraud.
However, the complexity of global food systems continues to be a barrier. Research groups like FoodLogiQ and standards organisations like GS1 have been assessing how to improve the uptake of blockchain in the food sector for years, and suggest that using it for food traceability requires a different approach from technology-oriented systems like banking or insurance. According to research organisation Gartner, about 80% of supply chain-related blockchain initiatives therefore are destined to remain at a pilot stage through to 2022.
At a time when consumers are increasingly sceptical about processed food and its origins, blockchain could prove a useful tool for improving trust in the industry, while also boosting food safety and sustainability. Using the technology as part of a range of traceability initiatives could help manufacturers and suppliers achieve these goals.
Timeline: Impacts of COVID-19 on the global food industry
30 Mar 2020
The number of cases of COVID-19 continues to climb, with more than 723,000 confirmed cases and 34,000 deaths worldwide as of March 30.Read more
Beyond plants: Is the future in microbial protein?
29 Mar 2020
Plant proteins may be among the hottest topics in the food industry right now, but another group of alternative proteins is emerging, based on microbial sources, such as algae, fungi and bacteria.Read more
Covid-19: Food companies turn to online platforms amid social distancing
28 Mar 2020
Web conferencing and other online platforms have surged amid global advice to practise social distancing as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues. How are food companies making the most of online tools to reach their customers?Read more
Newly discovered plant pigments could hold food industry promise
23 Mar 2020
The discovery of a new class of natural colours could lead to more vibrant and stable colourings for foods and beverages. Is this the breakthrough the industry has been waiting for?Read more
Coronavirus: Supply chains under scrutiny
22 Mar 2020
Covid-19 will reveal holes in the relative resilience of companies’ supply chains, as the global and interlinked nature of the food industry is laid bare.Read more
New textures make plant proteins more like meat
15 Mar 2020
New processing technologies are making the texture of meat alternatives more realistically meat-like than ever before, as manufacturers and consumers alike focus on texture as well as taste.Read more
Unscrambling the myths around eggs and heart health
15 Mar 2020
Yet another study has suggested no link between moderate egg consumption and heart disease risk, but despite research repeatedly finding little association between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, many consumers continue to link eggs with hea...Read more
Targeting texture in indulgent foods and drinks
9 Mar 2020
Despite consumer assertions that they want healthier foods, sales of indulgent products continue to grow, providing opportunities for creamy, crunchy and contrasting textures in various categories.Read more
Sugar remains top concern for consumers
9 Mar 2020
Avoiding added sugar is the number one concern for consumers when using front-of-pack labelling to choose healthier foods and drinks, a new study suggests, while excess saturated fat and salt are less likely to influence purchase decisions.Read more
Natural blue: the quest for the holy grail of food colours
2 Mar 2020
The colour palette for naturally sourced food colours has become increasingly diverse, but blue colours have remained challenging. What options are available to food and beverage manufacturers?Read more
Are you a supplier
Here's what we can do for you
- Generate quality leads for your business
- Stay visible for 365 days of the year
- Receive product inquiries and respond to meeting requests directly
- Improve company online presence through Search Engine Optimisation