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Starbucks released this week that it is working with blockchain technology to create a “bean to cup” tracking system. The innovation is driven by the consumer’s desire for more transparency into where food and beverages come from. Starbucks is launching the pilot program to track coffee beans from Costa Rica, Rwanda, and Colombia.
Starbucks + Blockchain = Coffee Traceability
The premium coffee company believes that blockchain’s “traceability technology” pairs well with their commitment to ethically sourced coffee and ecologic sustainability. Starbucks believes the technology will enable them to strengthen their supply chain and relationship with consumers.
The blockchain pilot program will go through multiple phases over the next two years. The pilot will fall in line with the Sustainable Coffee Challenge that the company championed with Conservation International in 2015. The company plans to share its results with the public.
Shortcomings of Current Blockchain Technology for the Food Supply Chain
The traceability of coffee beans to the cup is a noble cause by Starbucks, but it is worth noting that there are still some shortcomings with blockchain technology when applied in the food industry. Food supply chain experts still believe the “winning” blockchain application has yet to be developed for the food industry.
There are currently issues with entirely tracking that ingredient to the final product in many cases. IBM is working on a few innovations to help solve this issue. They believe that “cryptographic anchors” may be the solution in the next five years. Anchors would include microscopic, digestible ink dots on products to verify the authenticity of the final product within the supply chain.
While there are a few shortcomings, Starbucks is again leading the way with technology in the food industry. It will be interesting to see how blockchain works for them over the next few years.
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