Albertsons Cos. has become the latest company to join the blockchain-based IBM Food Trust network, and will begin piloting the technology to improve how food is traced from farm to store shelf. The IBM Food Trust network consists of more 50 brands across the food ecosystem.
Blockchain creates a digital record of every transaction or interaction as a product moves through the supply chain, from a packaging date to the temperature at which an item was shipped, to its arrival on a grocery store shelf. This enhanced transparency can address a wide range of food quality issues, among them food safety, freshness, the verification of such certifications as organic or Fair Trade, waste reduction, and sustainability. Already, more than 5 million food products have been traced via the solution.
Albertsons will begin piloting IBM Food Trust for tracing bulk romaine lettuce, the target of a recent federal government investigation following an outbreak of foodborne illness last November, from one of its distribution centers, and then then look into expanding to other food categories throughout its distribution network. The grocer’s aim in running the pilot is to help overcome the obstacles that arise when a traceback is initiated for a product like romaine, and is investigating ways to use the technology to help ensure the provenance of its extensive private-brand portfolio.
“Blockchain technology has the potential to be transformational for us as we further build differentiation on our fresh brand,” noted Anuj Dhanda, CIO at Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons. “Food safety is a very significant step, though the provenance of the products enabled by blockchain, the ability to track every move from the farm to the customer’s basket, can be very empowering for our customers.”
"Multiple high-profile consumer advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration demonstrate the need to find more efficient ways of tracing products and identifying likely sources of contamination in a timely manner," added Jerry Noland, Albertsons' VP of food safety and quality assurance. "Consequently, retailers are exploring new technologies to improve the infrastructure that underpins the global food supply chain."
Including multiple, diverse members that form a transacting ecosystem, IBM Food Trust can enable companies from across the food ecosystem to onboard and share data. Members are recommending or even mandating, that their supply chain partners, such as downstream suppliers, join the network, resulting in a more complete view of the entire lifecycle of a food product.
“Since first introducing IBM Food Trust, we have met a number of milestones that show the path toward transforming the end-to-end food system,” said Raj Rao, general manager at armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Food Trust. “Today, we are further scaling the network to bring blockchain-based traceability to an even wider cross-section of retailers, suppliers and end consumers. By working with the top retailers all over the world, IBM Food Trust is truly helping to provide a safer and more transparent food system for all.”
Companies can join the network in various ways, including guided onboarding for customized solutions. Once they’re a part of the network, members have access to Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and developer tutorials, which are openly available online through IBM developerWorks and which help enable integrations with third-party technologies, enterprise systems and other data sources.
IBM Food Trust, one of the largest, most active non-crypto blockchain networks in production today, is available as a subscription service for members of the food ecosystem.
Albertsons operates stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under 20 well-known banners, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs, as well as New York-based meal-kit company Plated. The retailer is No. 3 on Progressive Grocer’s 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.