To help our manufacturing customers build trust and transparency with consumers, we’ve begun development on CAT Squared FoodTrace, a blockchain-enabled traceability platform that will allow manufacturers to make available varying levels of traceability data to other supply-chain stakeholders.
There will be three levels of visibility available:
- Manufacturer Portal will provide CAT Squared’s customers with a complete view of their plant-floor production data as well as supply chain data.
- Retail Portal will give retailers access to select data for mock recalls and freshness tracking.
- Consumer Portal will show select traceability and freshness data to consumers via scanning the product QR code with their mobile device. It will also allow manufacturers to offer coupon discounts and view data on what products are being scanned at which retail outlet. (Scan QR codes above to demo the Consumer Portal.)
For nearly 25 years, CAT Squared has developed manufacturing execution systems (MES) to manage plant-floor processes for food processing facilities. CAT Squared’s MES delivers end-to-end traceability from receiving of ingredients and dry goods through shipping of final product. By combining our MES with blockchain and other IIoT technologies, CAT Squared can now expand the reach of our capabilities outside the four walls of the plant, connecting all participants of the food value chain.
Connecting Manufacturers to Consumers
By scanning a QR code on a package of product, consumers are connected to high-quality consumer content plus traceability data from the MES (as selected by the brand’s marketing team). Through stories and data, consumers can experience the care and quality of the food they are about to purchase. Manufacturers can also offer promo offers and provide opportunities for customer feedback.
Connecting Manufacturers to Retail Customers
CAT Squared will offer a private blockchain for manufacturers to share select data with retail customers. Our team will create a unification warehouse and API services application to chain the right data from the MES to the QR Code. Chained information along with data with more rigorous data requirements will be moved into a private, immutable blockchain that the manufacturer can share with its retail and wholesale customers. This data will allow retailers to perform mock recalls and query quality check data. The blockchain platform archives the data securely and proves the data provenance with time-stamping during storage so it can be independently verified to consumers, retailers or restaurant chains.
Preparing Food Suppliers for Potential Blockchain Mandates from Retail Customers
Since Wal-Mart issued its traceability mandate to their leafy-greens suppliers, other suppliers have been watching closely to see if their industry will be next. CAT Squared is mindful of the need for interoperability between blockchains. If at some point in the future one of our manufacturing customers becomes mandated to share data with another retail customer’s blockchain, data can easily be integrated with other blockchain platforms like Food Trust.
Trends driving blockchain adoption
At Purdue University’s 2019 National Conference for Food and Agribusiness, speakers presented results of the University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture survey analyzing what data is collected across the food value chain.
According to the survey data, many changes are being driven by about 30 percent of consumers. Of the consumers surveyed, 70 percent said there was no additional information they wanted to see on a food label. Of the 30 percent who desire more information, many want to know the location where their food was produced.
The survey also revealed consumers hold widespread misconceptions about the food supply chain. For example, when asked whether broilers are given growth hormones. Only 8-percent of survey participants answered it correctly. (No broilers are given growth hormones.) This illustrates a great opportunity for the food industry to better educate the public. However, this will prove challenging in the current social/political climate. Trust in manufacturers has changed. Science is no longer trusted.
“People who think GMOs are good usually think science around climate change is bad, people who think science around GMOs is bad usually think science around climate change is good,” said Rob Dongoski, partner and global business leader at Ernst & Young. “When are we talking about science, and when are we talking about marketing? I actually saw a label advertising non-GMO water! Right or wrong, the final arbiter of science is the consumer because they decide what they will spend money on.”
“Sometimes the winners are those on Twitter who never looked at the science but have the loudest voices,” said Michael Shackelford, advisory services lead from Ernst & Young. “Manufacturers are having to respond to claims that they are sourcing products from a non-sustainable resource, and they’re having to combat these claims with reliable data. How are you treating your employees? How are you sourcing your products?”
“There are new opportunities to differentiate between bulk commodities and premium products that can be created through value-added data,” said Dr. Mindy Mallory, Purdue University associate professor and Clearing Corporation Charitable Foundation endowed chair of food & agricultural marketing.
“In the meantime, how do we satisfy the consumers’ desire to get closer to the producer?” asked Dongoski. “You do it with data. What consumers really want to know is how did you treat that pork loin? What did you feed it? What are your values?”
“Seeing news about recalls and outbreaks erodes consumer trust, food producers and retailers need to provide transparent data to maintain trust,” said Renee Greenwalt, advisory risk transformation team lead from Ernst & Young.
A key driving force for manufacturers is coming from retailers’ willingness to go around manufacturers.
“Retailers are going around manufacturers if they can’t get the relationship they want,” said Shackelford. “Costco is developing its own poultry facility [for example]. Costco is very selective over who it allows in its store. Your track and trace capabilities add to the trust in their brand. Traceability makes your brand more attractive to more retail customers. Retailers want to satisfy consumers. Manufacturers who best understand and respond to what consumers want will win.”
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