Over the past year, numerous mainstream companies, such as Walmart and Bumble Bee Foods, have jumped into the blockchain space, harnessing the tech to improve their respective supply chains. Global foods giant Nestle is now diving into public blockchain technology to enhance its dairy supply chain.
Taking Nestle's Supply Chain To The Next Level
Via an inked "agreement," Nestle will work with Australia-based startup OpenSC to bring its blockchain-supply chain work to the next level, Nestle blockchain lead and supply chain digital transformation manager Benjamin Dubois told me in an interview. World Wide Fund For Nature Australia (WWF-Australia) and Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures founded the 2019 startup OpenSC.
This agreement "is complementary to what we do with IBM with Food Trust," Dubois said. "We were looking at a solution to increase a step further than IFT in terms of transparency for our supply chain."
Nestle was a "founding member" of IBM's Food Trust blockchain operation back in 2017, which seeks to improve food product traceability, according to an article from Nestle. In April 2019, Nestle and French retailer Carrefour teamed up to provide customers the ability to track Mousline Puree throughout the supply chain, the article detailed.
In February 2019, Nestle also announced its intent to publicize data surrounding its top 15 commodities in an overall effort "to reach full supply chain transparency," a statement from Nestle said.
Moving Toward A Public Blockchain
Nestle's recent move with OpenSC, however, is geared toward even greater transparency, testing out the use of a public blockchain. "Something that allows full disclosure, without any Nestle control, where the data is uploaded by every actor along the value chain and is available for anyone and anywhere to take on this data," Dubois said. This would allow people to "make their judgment on the sustainability factors of [Nestle's] supply chain," he added.
The initiative will begin in the dairy niche, tracking products from their New Zealand origin, to Nestle's Middle Eastern sites, a statement from Nestle said. The food industry powerhouse also has plans to similarly track "palm oil in the Americas, although for palm oil we're still figuring out the small details in terms of the project itself," Dubois explained.
Obtaining comments and observations from consumers is also part of the rationale for the project's testing, according to my interview with Nestle blockchain lead Dominique Schmitz. "The objective is to go live this year," Schmitz said, regarding testing in the dairy sector. If the tests are met with success and a positive response from consumers, the goal is to branch out to other commodities, Schmitz noted.
Approaching The Aspect Of Greater Transparency
A public blockchain format allows a greater pool of independently available information for the public to see regarding the process and journey products go through in their lifetime, prior to reaching the hands of customers. Through its cooperation with OpenSC, Nestle wants to provide such added independent data to consumers and industry professionals, Dubois explained.
The new public blockchain approach differs from Nestle's work with IBM's permissioned blockchain operation. "Not everyone can participate at the moment, and especially the public," Dubois said of IBM's permissioned blockchain. "You have to join the consortium and the solution to be able to participate," he explained.
With a public solution, we see that it's much easier for people to participate [...] The aim is not one replacing the other. It's really to compliment. The Food Trust solution is very much a business-to-business solution. It's very powerful. It's a fast solution as well. It can handle the scale of Nestle, but for specific use cases where the commitment of the group is full transparency, we see a public solution as something that can enable us to reach that goal."
The world has seen many players harness various permissioned and permissionless forms of the Ethereum blockchain, as well as other blockchains. OpenSC's platform is capable of working with a variety of blockchain technologies, and its team, along with Nestle, will choose the best option for every objective, Dubois explained to me in a follow-up email.
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