Soil Association blockchain trial

Soil Association Certification has expanded a trial of the use of blockchain technology in its supply chain, allowing shoppers to trace the entire journey of organic food from the field to the supermarket shelf.

The trial, run in association with tech firm Provenance, launched yesterday (6 September) in As Nature Intended’s Chiswick store. It allows shoppers to use their smartphones to scan packets of Eversfield Organics bacon and instantly retrieve information on the product’s entire supply chain journey.

A successful pilot of the scheme took place in June. It now also includes Near Field Communications technology - the same used on public transit passes like Oyster cards - plus barcode and QR code technology, to access information on the product’s background. This can include the validity of its certification, the organic criteria met by the product, a map of its journey, and even photographs from the farm.

This meant consumers with NFC-enabled phones were now able to trace the product’s provenance, even without accessing an app, the NGO said. The Soil Association and Provenance are also in discussions with other UK retailers about rolling out the technology and creating a digital certification mark, The Grocer understands.

“After these initial trials, we plan to continue to explore batch tracking and promote the new Soil Association Certification interactive digital symbol to brands and retailers - aiming to significantly extend its reach for businesses and shoppers alike,” said Soil Association NPD manager Louise Forster-Smith.

The pilot builds on findings from research carried out by Soil Association Certification last year, that identified trust and transparency in supply chains as “fundamental to future food shopping for consumers”.

It comes as France’s Casino Group gears up to launch an NFC mobile app in October, giving shoppers access to technical, commercial and educational information about all the retailer’s products.

Mistrust of supply chains

“Today’s shoppers are not just more conscious of their health and wellbeing, but of how to get information that tells them that what they’re buying supports these values,” said Soil Association Certification business development director Clare McDermott. 

“Mistrust of supply chains is a key issue to address in today’s food retail, so we’re thrilled to see blockchain technology working with organic supply chains to give consumers full transparency when they see the Soil Association organic symbol.”

She added: “We’re excited to see blockchain technology being used in organic supply chains and setting the precedent for the future of food. Whilst the Soil Association organic symbol already has extremely high levels of trust with consumers due to its rigorous inspection and certification, this takes it to the next level, arming shoppers with detailed information via their smart phones at the point of sale andbringing it to life in a digital age.

“Retailers can now proudly share the stories of the foods they make available to their customers to secure their trust, while prompting support for sustainable food systems and providing the transparency consumers will naturally come to expect.”

As Nature Intended MD Jeff Martin said: “We are proud to be part of this project collaborating with the Soil Association and Provenance as we believe customers deserve to have more and more confidence in their local shops. Enabling shoppers to easily access more info on the farmers-to-shelves chain can only be beneficial for building trust and forming a long-term relationship based on the same values.”