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Blockchain for babies: Nestlé to test blockchain tech on Gerber products

(Image: Shutterstock)  

Nestlé (NASDAQ: NSRGF) is the latest company to turn to blockchain technology to ensure the safety of their supply chain, particularly narrowing in on the ingredients that go into the baby food purees and pouches produced by Gerber. On August 1, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes reported that the food and beverage giant has partnered with Dole Food Co., Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger Co., McCormick,  McLane Co., Tyson Foods and Unilever.

Supported by IBM, the companies belong to Food Trust, IBM’s “collaborative network of growers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers and others enhancing visibility and accountability in each step of the food supply.” Thus far, Food Trust has helped to process 350,000 food data transactions, bringing traceback test timing from seven days to a remarkable 2.2 seconds.

In the wake of the salmonella scare that tainted 7,000 tons of baby formula and powdered milk in France earlier this year, as well as the E. Coli outbreak that impacted lettuce in the United States, food traceability has become more important than ever.

Chris Kirchner, CEO and co-founder of Slync, spoke to the power of accountability within the supply chain, noting blockchain’s ability to provide a “clear, transparent view of a product’s journey by recording supply chain events – like an asset exchange from one party to the next — as they occur.”

Nestlé began experimenting with blockchain in fall 2017, tracing the single-ingredient Libby canned pumpkin from farms to shelves, but baby food production is not quite as simple. It involves “multiple data sets from all the different ingredients,” which come from across the globe, according to Chris Tyas, global head of supply chain for Nestlé.

Nestlé has met with Walmart and IBM to strategize methods of “data formatting and export issues” said Brigid McDermott, vice president of blockchain business development at IBM, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal. Nestlé is currently in the process of “moving data from the company’s SAP SE enterprise software onto the shared digital ledger,” to store data concerning harvesting, processing, packaging, and shipping, as the Wall Street Journal reports.  

“I often describe that as food traceability at the speed of thought—as quickly as you can think it, we can know it,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart, as quoted by FreightWaves.

“People want to know, quite rightly, where ingredients they give to their baby have come from,” said Tyas. “We wanted a product in which trust meant something.”

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