Blockchain can leverage transparency to make supply chains more consumer-centric

Rising consumerism has pushed businesses in the food and beverage space to stock their products on the market shelf throughout the year, irrespective of where or how they source it. This leads to a scenario where food supply chains rarely remain localized, but are instead becoming quite international, leading to a lengthening list of stakeholders spread out globally within a value chain. 

Such a scenario also makes provenance tracking very hazy, as the complexities involved in tracking products or the flow of data from the farm to the customer’s table is hazy at best and often too opaque to glean insights into its movement through the supply chain.

“It’s hard to pull data, hard to really get to the bottom of what a supplier provides, and which retailer or consumer is holding on to a specific last batch in a product line,” said Pratik Soni, the founder and CEO of Omnichain, a blockchain-based supply chain technology startup. “The challenge is to get visibility through a singular platform where a user can get visibility without sifting through a bunch of Excel files, trade customs paperwork, purchase orders, or receipts.”

Soni contended that the process of provenance tracking is complicated as the supply chain is flooded with several data streams and stakeholders’ complexities, making it hard to answer simple questions on origin and lineage. 

“The number one concern for data transparency is essentially data validation. How can I, as a consumer, be sure that a product is truly organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, or kosher? Without lots of paper trails – both physical and digital – it is really hard to come to a conclusion on a product’s authenticity,” said Soni. 

Aside from validation, it is essential to look at how consumers perceive the need to understand the provenance of the products they consume. “These days, everyone is looking for fresh and healthy food. However, we also see many recalls happening in the marketplace every week, for example, with the salmonella outbreak in meat and lettuce,” said Soni. “It now becomes essential for vendors and food and beverage manufacturers to instantly identify the potential of a recall or contaminant, wherever be the issue within their value chain. But right now, this is very difficult.”

The technology of blockchain does come in handy to combat such a situation, as it can put checks across every single step within a supply chain, making sure there is proper quality control, food handling, and that all the requirements with regard to testing and certification are met. 

Recently, Omnichain collaborated with Ruby Rockets, the healthy snack store chain, to implement blockchain within the company’s supply chain to better understand the provenance of the raw materials that go into producing its products. 

“Ruby Rockets’ pain point was that they had to sift through a lot of paperwork and contact suppliers to figure out what went into producing a specific batch. We took a holistic approach to manage that implementation. We looked at data the raw materials suppliers and contract manufacturers provide and we sifted through the data and validated it against the quality requirements that Ruby Rockets holds against them,” said Soni. “We worked with those suppliers to make sure the data is sent to us either digitally or via PDF, and then we validated the data and pushed that into the blockchain.”

Omnichain uses the data coming out from the distribution channel to get better granularity into its supply chain visibility, and track and trace every single batch of products leaving the manufacturing floor to the retailer and down to the customer. Thus, in the event of an unforeseen incident of contamination in its supply chain, Ruby Rockets will now be able to accurately pinpoint which product batch is affected and contain the problem before it mushrooms. 

“It is about using that data in a more proactive way to let consumers and brands know sooner and act faster. Blockchain can help create a demand-driven customer-centric supply chain, as we now have the data and can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive processes like suggested replenishment, proactive replenishment, and manufacturing planning,” said Soni.

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