How blockchain is making waves in the food industry by cutting waste and improving consumer confidence

December 15, 2023

Traceability is key to maintaining the integrity of the food system and the increased use of blockchain is proving enormously useful for this, key industry players have said.

Following scandals over food not being what it was labelled as being – such as originating from a country different to the one it was supposed to be from – blockchain provides confidence to producers, retailers and consumers, according to experts.

Among the many companies now heavily involved in the technology is the engineering giant Siemens, which offers as an example organic potato crisps.

The company highlights the fact that there are many steps in the process of creating crisps, including the growing and subsequent storage of the potatoes themselves.

These then have to transported, processed, cut and packaged, before they are taken to the wholesaler and retailer for eventual sale.

“Each station on the potato’s journey generates data, which can be collected,” the company said in an online briefing document.

“But before this data can be placed in the blockchain, it must be verified by everyone involved in the network.”

How blockchain is making waves in the food industry by cutting waste and improving consumer confidence

Photo credit: Arno Senoner / Unsplash

Using a QR code on the label, Siemens notes, consumers are able to see that certified organic potatoes, processed in the right way, were used to make the crisps.

Among the other firms to have developed blockchain technology for the food industry is Unisot, a company headquartered in Norway that offers what it calls Digital Product Passports.

Similar to the technology that Siemens offers, these allow, the company said, raw materials, components, manufacturing locations and cold chain integrity to be recorded.

Certifications, carbon footprints, accreditations and even details of waste recycling can also be recorded by the technology.

If they scan a QR code, customers are able to make “better-informed purchase decisions”, while suppliers can, according to the company, demonstrate that they are accountable.

In a statement released earlier this year, Stephen Nilsson, Unisot’s co-founder, said that the company “felt the time was right to offer a blockchain solution to the food industry”.

“Food suppliers need to demonstrate transparency across the global supply chain, via a standardised system to track and authenticate products,” he added.

“Manufacturers and consumers have been demanding this for years, with the DPP facilitating the ability to simply scan a label and view data via the application.”

How blockchain is making waves in the food industry by cutting waste and improving consumer confidence

Photo credit: Walter Otto / Unsplash

According to the Blockchain Council, an organisation that offers training programmes in the sector, the technology can help to reduce food waste, an issue that could have a cost the sector as much $103.1 billion within the next five years.

Promoting sustainability and reducing food waste are just two examples of the many types of benefit that blockchain can bring in the food industry, according to the council

As well as ensuring food safety and traceability, the organisation says that blockchain can improve the efficiency of supply chains, authenticate labels and certifications, and facilitate fair trade and ethical sourcing.

It can also help to ensure compliance with regulations, while the data it helps to gather can prove invaluable to companies across the supply chain.

“Blockchain affords an obvious and immutable report of every transaction inside the food supply chain,” the council said.

“It permits stakeholders to verify the authenticity and accuracy of data about products’ origins, certifications, and ingredients.

“Through Blockchain, suppliers, distributors, and shops can track and validate items’ motion at every stage. This transparency helps identify inefficiencies, ensure regulation compliance, and construct confidence with consumers.”

Among the other organisations looking to promote the use of blockchain in the food industry is the European Union.

It has said that improving transparency in the agri-food sector is a “key objective” of the Green Deal from the European Commission, as well as the 27-member bloc’s Farm to Fork Strategy.

In line with this, the EU has introduced several initiatives to help promote blockchain in the food industry, including the Digital Europe Programme and the Research and Innovation Programme Horizon Europe.

So blockchain looks set to become ever more important in the food sector in the years and decades to come.

Main photo credit: Edgar Castrejon / Unsplash

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