As the world comes together in the hope of reducing its carbon emissions and working towards achieving net zero, this year's Brodies' Food and Drink Virtual Conference set out to examine sustainability within the sector.
A particular theme was the role of emerging trends and technologies being adopted by producers aimed at fostering more sustainable practices. Of those technologies, blockchain could prove to be a valuable tool to drive greater transparency across supply chains, which ultimately stands to benefit both producers and consumers.
What is Blockchain?
Put simply, blockchain is a system in which a record of transactions or information is stored in a distributed fashion across a network of computers. The value of blockchain over other forms of storage is that when a change is made to the data (the "blocks") it doesn't result in the original data being erased. Rather, such changes are recorded as subsequent entries of data, similar to a ledger (thus creating the "chain"). As a result, the chronology of the data can be tracked, and each change readily identified.
In a previous blog we touched on the potential of blockchain in the food and drink industry, covering the journey of Adelphi Distillery. Through adopting blockchain technology, Adelphi were able to track and certify the production of its bottles of whisky, before making this information to consumers via QR barcodes and other smartphone scannable technology. For Adelphi, the value of blockchain was being able to build a bridge between the production lifecycle of the whisky and the end user by allowing consumers to verify authenticity and provenance of the production process.
Sustainability: Supply Chain Management
We are also starting to see examples of blockchain being deployed as a tool to demonstrate sustainable supply chain practices.
From ' bait to plate'
Having teamed up with teamed up with SAP Software Solutions (a supply chain management expert), Bumble Bee SeaFoods (a canned seafood producer based in the US) sought to deploy blockchain to accurately record and trace the production process of its yellowfin tuna, with the aim of being able to tell the story of "bait to plate". The application of blockchain provided accurate, detailed, and trusted information such as the size of the catch, point of capture, and the fishing community that caught it. This information is then made available to consumers via a QR code visible on the products, meaning that at the touch of button, consumers could independently review and determine the sustainability of the product.
AB In Bev
Ab In Bev, as the world's largest brewer, have also come out in support of utilising emerging technologies such as blockchain to promote sustainability within the food and drink sector. Having recently launched the pilot scheme "barley to bar", the brewing company intends to use blockchain to provide greater transparency and traceability of its supply chain of barely. As with the examples above, information gathered from each stage of the brewing process (such as farming, malting, and brewing) will be made available to consumers via a QR code displayed on the packaging. Additionally, Ab In Bev have confirmed that the information gathered from the use of blockchain will be aggregated and benchmarked to help farmers improve their yields and environmental footprints.
The nature of blockchain means that once each component of the production process is recorded it cannot be tampered with or altered, providing greater certainty of the accuracy of the information. Blockchain can be used to foster greater transparency throughout all stages in a supply chain and based on the above examples, it can also be applied to trace the entire carbon journey of a food product.
Recent evidence has shown that 71% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for the ability to trace the supply chain of a product and so based on this evidence, blockchain could play an important role in allowing producers to showcase sustainable environmental practices, which in turn may serve as a valuable marketing technique.