How Can Blockchain Technology Benefit the Food Industry?

How Can Blockchain Technology Benefit the Food Industry?

Two of the topics that I tend to write about are food and travel – especially how they are enhanced by tech.

With blockchain technology becoming more prevalent in all industries (not just finance!), I wanted to explore some of the ways that the food and travel industries are using blockchain to enhance customer experience.

What the heck is blockchain?

First of all, let me quickly go over what is blockchain.

Simply put, blockchain is a record of transactions. Data is verified and then stored in “blocks” of data forming a “chain”. Hence, a “blockchain”.

What makes blockchain unique and different from current transactions is that the data is 1) decentralized, which means that each stakeholder has a record of the data and can see all transactions in the chain; and the data is 2) encrypted, which means each block uses an encryption system that references the previous block making it very difficult to hack.

Since all the stakeholders can see the transactions – this provides transparency and trust at all stages. And since the data is encrypted – this provides security and further provides trust.

(I’ve simplified the process and the technology so as not to overcomplicate things.)

So what does all this mean in the real world?

Okay, so now that we have a basic understanding of blockchain and how it can provide transparency, security and trust, let’s look at how the technology can be used by the food industry.

I’ll give a specific example.

Unilever, the consumer goods company that owns brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Dove, Vaseline, Knorr, and other well-known brands, has announced that it will be leveraging blockchain to tackle deforestation.

Problem:

How can Unilever track that the palm oil they source come from responsible sources that don’t contribute to deforestation and provide transparency to all stakeholders along the supply chain as well to the end user (the consumer)?

Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree and is used in thousands of non-food consumer products, including soaps and shampoos. However, sustainability issues, like deforestation, are connected to the production of palm oil and its supply chain.

Challenge:

Many supply chains, like those of palm oil, are long and complex. The material goes through many hands before it ends up as soap or shampoo. And the rapid expansion of the palm oil industry has resulted in poor production standards and accelerated deforestation.

Solution:

Unilever is using a blockchain application called GreenToken by SAP. GreenToken allows companies to track and record where raw materials come from, production attributes, as well as any certifications. It does that by using blockchain technology to create digital tokens which establish chain of custody. These tokens cannot be altered as the materials move through the supply chain.

Conclusion

Blockchain tech allows companies to improve their supply chain sustainability practices and help ensure the palm oil used in its products comes from responsible sources and doesn’t contribute to deforestation.

Imagine being able to track all the food products that we consume as well as their raw materials and always knowing where they are sourced. We can make better decisions about choosing more sustainable options.

Also imagine with all the supply chain data that companies are amassing, this will also lead to better analysis of supply chain efficiencies.

Besides Unilever, there are many other food companies using blockchain tech including Kraft Heinz, Nestlé, Dole, Subway, and more.

Here is an image of some of the ways that businesses can benefit from blockchain technology:

I also talk about how blockchain can be used in the travel industry. Click here to read that post.

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