Today’s consumers have become increasingly discriminating about the food products they consume. Consumers want to be certain they’re making healthy eating choices for themselves and their families. Regulators, for their part, are rightly concerned at the increasing incidence of product adulteration in the food supply and the time it takes to identify the source of outbreaks and respond effectively. What’s needed is trustworthy end-to-end transparency along the food supply chain, not only to authenticate the origin of products, but also ensure that they are properly handled at every stage of the source-to-fork process.
Retailers and brands are searching for ways to provide this transparency, but the process is only becoming more and more challenging, as supply chains grow in complexity, and competitive pressures increase. Smart Cosmos Solutions has been working with Oracle to assemble solutions using established and emerging technologies such as blockchain, RFID, NFC, and the cloud to fuel today’s consumer engagement and supply chain visibility.
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The three Ts of food: supply chain security and authenticity
There are three basic elements to any solution to the problems of maintaining a healthy food supply chain:
1. Transparency: Transparency helps foster trust that food origin and quality are what brands claim them to be and enables real-time collaboration among all partners, achieving cost and risk reduction in the supply chain.
2. Traceability: Consumers and regulators want to know the origin and pathway of the products reaching the market.
3. Trust: Engendering trust between brands and consumers—and among multiple parties along the supply chain—is necessary but difficult to achieve efficiently with traditional methods.
These three elements create multiple challenges that food producers, distributors, and retailers face today. The first of these is a lack of interoperability among the multiple systems used by companies along the supply chain, making the sharing of provenance and safety data (such as proper temperature) difficult. And when these systems do share information—or are unified under the control of a single stakeholder—it is difficult to verify, which reduces trust and transparency. In fact, many transactions are still conducted on paper, which significantly slows the supply chain journey, leading to increased costs and opportunities for error. Finally, because data sharing is not instantaneous, a party could conceivably withhold the transmission of negative data until it could be verified, slowing the process and ultimately reducing trust.
This is where emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain present a compelling solution. By combining temperature sensors at a granular level (pallet or even individual case) with blockchain’s distributed ledger technology (DLT), stakeholders gain full visibility and traceability across the entire supply chain to ensure product authenticity and chain of custody responsibility.