Tatjana Meier, Blockchain Lead Schweiz, IBM
Digitalisation in the sweets industry: The opportunities of blockchain
The digitalisation has changed many things radically. And the recognition that a rejectionist attitude at least within companies constitutes no less than the loss of a (successful) future, has in the meantime more or less gained universal acceptance. Two keywords, which are more and more frequently mentioned in this connection (also) in the food industry in general as well as specifically in the snacks and sweets industry are artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain. Carola K. Herbst, Project Manager of the Food Centre of the DLG (German Agricultural Association), which is the trade partner of ProSweets Cologne, is convinced: "None of the companies in the food industry will be able to get around blockchain and AI long-term. The blockchain technology is considered to be forgery-proof, efficient and reliable. It is predestined for complex partner relations. Furthermore, it promotes transparency within the food supply chain, which enables trust building in products and brands. "The latter is an important aspect in times, in which the consumers are better informed and more demanding. Some brands have been developed over decades and a viral shit storm or having to call back a foodstuff can destroy the laboriously built-up image within the shortest space of time.
IBM Food Trust - blockchain solution for the food industry
The example of IBM Food Trust proves that blockchain is an idea, the time for which – as Victor Hugo said – has definitely come. The network based on blockchain can determine within seconds where a certain foodstuff comes from, when it was harvested or produced and to which supermarket it was delivered. With the aid of blockchain, information such as the producer, transport route, transport and storage temperature or sell-by date can be saved. So, in the case of call-back campaigns, it can be tracked fast and reliably to which regions and supermarkets the products in question were delivered. The Food Trust network also facilitates sustainability and the avoidance of waste: Because everyone is involved - from the farmer, to the supplier and wholesaler, through to the retailer and everyone knows how much he grows or produces, has to order and deliver - less waste ends up in the garbage. IBM launched a pilot project in August 2017 in close collaboration with several of the major players of the food industry, in order to define the entry fields for blockchain in its supply chains for improved food safety. Initial pilot projects, among others with Walmart in the USA and in China or with Carrefour in France, have already successfully demonstrated how the traceability of foodstuffs can be safeguarded using blockchain.
We posed several questions that are specifically related to the sweets industry to Tatjana Meier, Blockchain Lead Switzerland, IBM:
Which opportunities does IBM Food Trust (also) offer producers from the sweets industry?
Tatjana Meier: Using a blockchain the relevant data is provided to all of the companies involved almost in real-time in a safe, encoded and unchangeable format and thus enables among others targeted, fast actions. Beyond this, blockchain also provides maximum transparency and thus increases the urgently necessary trust in the food industry. It is about winning over a wide eco-system of the entire, global food industry – including of course also the sweets industry – for IBM Food Trust, in order to cover the related supply chain on the blockchain, generate added value for the industry and place a host of additional, valuable services of a wide range of partners at the disposal of the market via the "Food Trust Marketplace".
Can you cite us an example of application that could also be utilised in the sweets industry?
The focus of "FarmerConnect" ( https://farmerconnect.com/about-us/ ) on the blockchain platform is on growing coffee beans. It is about the transparency of the entire supply chain of an eco-system, i.e. for farmers, distributors, logistics companies, through to the consumer. Themes such as sustainability and the fair payment of the farmers play a role here. Through to the consumer, who can read on the coffee packet from which region the coffee originates and which sustainability projects are being carried out for instance in this region. This example can also be applied to growing cocoa beans.