A renewed focus has been placed on brand transparency, driven by a range of factors, including digitalisation, globalisation, ethical consumerism and the Coronavirus pandemic. As more consumers research products online, digital solutions will be critical to reassuring consumers that products are what they say they are. This briefing provides a discussion of three emerging technologies; blockchain, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, and their future viability in food tracing.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated consumer interest in supply chain transparency. Heightened public concern around hygiene and food safety is expected to see more consumers scrutinising the brands they purchase from. Digital traceability solutions such as smart labelling and digital tracing that provide contact-free and secure product information at speed can play a role in reassuring consumers that products are safe to eat.
Digital traceability is expected to expand in markets where digital shopping is prevalent. In markets such as China, Japan and South Korea, consumers are familiar with using mobile apps to seek out detailed product information. Asian markets can provide important learnings for global businesses in how to seamlessly integrate traceability solutions into existing digital platforms.
Simpler supply chains of fresh products such as meat and fruit and vegetables make end-to-end visibility more achievable. The global meat industry, in particular, has seen increased interest in blockchain, machine learning and robotics to counteract the rise in food fraud and animal welfare concerns.
Huge price drops in digital sensors such as RFID tags and artificial intelligence software have seen food businesses more interested in investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) over blockchain. Although, COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the application of blockchain in food safety and sustainability-based traceability, high costs and lack of clear use cases remain a major obstacle in its adoption.
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