The French multinational retailer, Carrefour, is looking to improve checks on the standards of its food products, as it prepares a major overhaul to challenge the competition from Amazon, Leclerc, and others. Carrefour is among the several companies utilizing the use of blockchain in order to track where products come from, as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of what they eat and want to ensure that the products meet standards regarding ethics and general safety. The company also hopes that the blockchain system will drastically improve food safety, by taking steps related to traceability and reduction of food waste.
In early April this year, Carrefour, Europe’s largest retailer, said that the use of blockchain would enable shoppers in France to trace where certain food products are sourced and said that it was extending its use of such technology in this capacity.
According to authors Don and Alex Tapscott. “Blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Blockchain, which first emerged as the system underpinning the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, is a shared record of data kept by a network of computers, rather than a trusted third party.
In 2017, large food and retail companies like Unilever, Nestle, Tyson Foods, etc., have joined an IBM project to explore how blockchain technology can be effective for tracking food supply chains and improve safety. The German automobile company, BMW, and a London-based start-up company have also indicated interest in using blockchain technology to prove batteries for its electric vehicles only contain cobalt.
Blockchain technology is already being used by Carrefour to trace the production of free-range chicken in the Auvergne region in Central France. Consumers can know if the chicken was well fed and treated humanely. Consumers can use a smartphone to scan a code on the package and obtain every piece of information concerning the chicken, including the date it was born, where it was raised, what it was fed (whether or not it was French cereals and soya beans, on GMO-free products, etc.), what treatments were used (antibiotic-free, etc.), where it was killed, as well as where the meat was processed.
The grocery chain plans to extend the use of blockchain to its other products such as honey, eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, salmon, and hamburgers by the end of 2018. It is currently conducting tests to improve tracing the source of food products in China and could expand it to other countries.
The bulk of the essential documentation and certifications in the supply chain management are paper-based. Because of this, thefts, missing documents, forgery, continue to plague the supply chain management. If supply chain management protocols could be automated and run on a highly efficient blockchain, it would make trade much more efficient.
The Vottun protocol will replace the paper and poorly-secured digital documentation by leveraging the power of the immutable ledger to provide trusted-tracking services for products across the supply chain. Vottun is designed to offer tracking and traceability functions to both supply chain management and general logistics. This provides value for farmers, suppliers, and consumers.
One unique way that the Vottun protocol can help Carrefour with traceability and transparency on all its products are certificates that are a seal of quality and adherence to statutory standards and regulations. Every member of the food supply chain, from the farmer to the supplier, to the retailer, is issued a certificate. This certificate issued to various levels of the food supply chain shows that every step has been scrutinized and proven safe.
These certificates are linked with a barcode and consumers who pick an item from a Carrefour store can use their smartphone and scan to check the history of the products they are purchasing. This boosts consumers’ confidence and assures them that they are eating healthy
Alexandre Bompard, who took over as Carrefour’s CEO in July 2017, unveiled in January 2018, a five-year plan to boost profits and sales. As explained by Laurent Vallee, Carrefour’s General Secretary and head of quality and food safety, “Become the leader of the food transition for everyone is the aim that Alexandre Bompard has set for the Carrefour group. Making use of blockchain technology is an exemplary step in meeting this aim. This is a first in Europe and will provide consumers with guaranteed complete transparency as far as the traceability of our products is concerned.”
The group has struggled for years to become less reliant on its French hypermarkets and has now promised to revamp its range of food, as consumers demand healthier products. The Carrefour 2022 transformation plan entails overhauling Carrefour’s French hypermarket and expanding online operations, with a pledge to invest 2.8 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in digital commerce by 2022. The company is targeting 5 billion euros in organic food sales by 2022, compared to 1 billion euros generated presently.