The transnational food and drink giant Nestlé has successfully used blockchain technology to trace its Gerber baby food ingredients. This news confirms that the shared digital ledger has more to offer than cryptocurrencies and can accurately identify the source of fruits and vegetables used in food products.
The trial of the technology’s applicability to procurement and supply relationship management used Food Trust, a blockchain system developed by IBM. This included nine other major food producing participants, Walmart, Unilever, Tyson Foods, McLane, McCormick, Kroger, Golden State Foods, Driscoll’s and Dole Food.
Nestlé was able to track ingredients for one of its most popular Gerber baby food purees (Sweet Potato, Apple and Pumpkin). Food recalls can dent consumer confidence, but any news of tainted baby foods will always strike an especially raw consumer nerve, which is why Nestlé selected this particular product for its test.
The tests tracked numerous ingredients and cross-border shipments to determine how effective the technology is in tracing food across the globe. The benefits of this could be faster food recalls in future, should the need arise.
Nestlé’s Global Head of Supply Chain, Chris Tyas, said, “People want to know, quite rightly, where ingredients they give to their baby have come from. We wanted a product in which trust meant something.”
Food Trust can store data about harvests, product processing, packaging and freight. What’s remarkable about this development is that this tech can slash days or even weeks off conventional ingredient tracking processes, stripping it back to mere seconds. Earlier tests by IBM, for example, cut a seven-day traceback process to 2.2 seconds.
There was a degree of “grunt work” involved in setting up the new system as data from farms, processing units and logistics had to be transferred from the firm’s legacy ERP software to the blockchain system. But the results have been a resounding success.
Can blockchain technology bring a new meaning to procurement transformation? Can it facilitate better spend analytics, tail spend management and category management? Time will tell, but the prospects seem encouraging.
Steve has over 28 years of success as CPO, MD and Procurement BPO leader in a range of industries. Steve is COO at Odesma, responsible for Odesma’s delivery capability & infrastructure.