Employee Login

Enter your login information to access the intranet

Enter your credentials to access your email

Reset employee password


Blockchain’s Role in the Global Food Network

November 7, 2022
By Ian Averback

Cryptocurrency has dominated headlines over the past few years for both good and bad reasons. While some say it’s the future and others avoid it like the plague, there is one component of it which can revolutionize industries: blockchain. Blockchain is a decentralized and immutable public ledger that allows individuals and organizations to track transactions. Although the context of blockchain is usually associated with cryptocurrency, its applications extend far beyond and change how other industries function, for the better. The food production and food transportation industries are examples of where blockchain offers immense benefits over previous work processes and can help build an organization’s overall reputation.

How is blockchain different from other databases?

There’s no shortage of systems and tools for organizations to track and monitor transactions, but none are perfect.

Food producers, distributors and retailers rely on such tracking systems to monitor their supply chain. This includes the ability to trace both backwards, to the source, and forward, to the consumer. Traceability requires proper documentation and recordkeeping, but the data associated with the food industry is often incomplete or inaccurate.

Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which sets regulations for maintaining supply chain records, acknowledges there are holes in the system. For example, farms and restaurants are excluded from FDA traceability requirements, meaning that parts of the supply chain cannot quickly or easily be accounted for in an outbreak investigation.

To address these issues, the FDA issued a “new era of smarter food safety blueprint” in 2021, in which it endorsed blockchain to better “receive critical tracking events and key data elements” from companies throughout the supply chain.

How can blockchain support the food production industry?

Companies in the global food chain are increasingly exploring blockchain as it has a unique ability to trace goods. Its applications and use cases if properly managed could allow businesses to follow their products – whether that be from overseas, farm-to-table or anything in between. Driven by a higher desire for food safety, companies at the end of the production cycle want to take advantage of blockchain’s transparent and unalterable nature. This could result in each step of the supply chain being more easily traced and verified. Not only is that immensely valuable in validating and further developing sustainability goals, but it makes a massive impact on transparency with consumers as well. For example, by scanning a QR code, one could confirm how fresh a product is, what farm it came from, which companies and vehicles transported it, if it went to a food processing facility and which store has it on the shelves.

This level of accountability therefore can revolutionize food recalls, which can devastate an organization’s finances and reputation if handled poorly. The Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association calculated that the average food industry recall costs $10 million in direct costs, not to mention brand damage and lost sales. That may even be a steal — a recall in June cost one company an estimated $125 million.

In the event of a recall, blockchain technology would allow grocery stores and consumers to be alerted immediately and contaminated food still in transit could be identified and discarded immediately. If it is in store already, store owners can dispose of the remaining product in an easier fashion and consumers could be alerted immediately. No longer will consumers see the news stories of a massive recall due to pathogens such as E. coli or salmonella and wonder if their groceries are tainted. Growers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, transporters and retailers all would operate on the same network of shared records that account for food origin details, processing data, shipping details, point of sale and other prevalent information. With one quick scan, any organization can see if their product came into contact with the infectious farm or batch before it was put on sale.

Better access to this information will allow both B2B and B2C brands to build and maintain consumer confidence. Consumers can purchase their groceries without fear and companies can save millions by avoiding lawsuits, instilling better faith in their products and processes and operating with the highest quality assurances.

How does that impact communicators?

Blockchain is here to stay, regardless of what happens in the crypto market. The food industry has been implementing plans to adopt the technology for years and its use is only projected to grow.

Consumers today are more conscious of ethical and sustainable supply chains than ever before, and they’re looking to support brands and products that align with their values. For organizations involved in the food supply chain, blockchain technology provides a great opportunity to win the trust of consumers.

The food industry is still restabilizing itself following the pandemic and different sociopolitical factors across the world. However, a fully developed blockchain food cycle offers unprecedented transparency into our food’s quality as well as a company’s sustainability efforts. The desire from food suppliers and sellers is constantly growing because by keeping everything tracked and accountable, blockchain makes it easier for companies to prove their products’ value and provide stronger Environmental, Social and Governance data for consumers, partners, investors and regulators alike.

Additionally, companies that leverage blockchain technology will have a competitive advantage when it comes to communications. With robust data on everything from freshness and safety to sustainability, they’ll be better positioned to build and share narratives and generate brand awareness. 

Blockchain technology offers unique benefits to both organizations looking to make every dollar count and consumers who demand quality assurance with their products. With a transparent, effective and traceable supply chain — blockchain enables organizations to solve many of the strategic obstacles they battle daily. The result is a better, healthier, more transparent and sustainable community.