Nestlé extends blockchain to Swedish coffee brand Zoégas

Dive brief:

  • Nestlé is expanding its use of blockchain technology to its Zoégas coffee brand to allow customers to trace each bag of coffee to its source of supply in Brazil, Rwanda or Colombia, according to a statement.
  • By scanning a QR code on the packaging, consumers can trace the journey of the beans from their cultivation origin to the Zoégas factory in Helsingborg, Sweden. The data includes information on farmers, time of harvest, transaction certificate for specific shipments and roasting period.
  • The information is provided in partnership with The Rainforest Alliance to provide consumers with access to independent information that the organization uses to verify growers in its own certification program.

Dive overview:

Since Nestlé started using the IBM Food Trust blockchain in 2017, the Swiss company has slowly expanded the use of the technology as consumers increasingly seek transparency about where their food and drinks come from. The addition of its Swedish coffee brand to the blockchain portfolio is not surprising as coffee is a category where consumers are particularly interested in knowing the source of their beans and how farmers are treated.

Sustainability has been a popular topic in coffee for years and falling prices have sparked renewed interest in fair wage issues. By introducing traceability into its packaging, Nestlé differentiates itself from the sea of ​​competitors in the coffee sector and further connects consumers to its product. Innova Market Insights 2020 Top Ten Trends List noted storytelling that explores sourcing methodologies topping the rankings of what consumers look for in the products they buy.

Zoégas also benefits from being a 100% Rainforest Alliance certified blend, which matches consumer demand for more sustainable products. According to statistics from the National Coffee Association referenced by the Financial Times, two-thirds of consumers aged 19 to 24 want to buy products that are sustainably grown and sourced responsibly.

For Nestlé, implementing blockchain sourcing technology in this brand probably hasn’t been a difficult task. The Swiss food giant is already using IBM’s blockchain technology for its Mousline puree and its infant formula Guigoz in France. However, it was a smart move to partner with the Rainforest Alliance to provide consumers with access to decentralized third-party data. In this way, consumers can be assured that the transparency of the supply chain is verified by a reliable source who is not just there to sell products.

Nestlé is not the only brand to introduce blockchain traceability in its coffee packaging. JM Smucker and Dutch beverage company Jacobs Douwe Egberts are among those using a mobile app called Farmer Connect, powered by IBM Blockchain technology. Based on the entry of some big names, it is likely that many more small coffee companies will start offering blockchain-supported product traceability in the near future.

Although coffee has adopted this technology, it is not the only product that could benefit from a more transparent supply through blockchain. Cocoa is an ingredient where blockchain traceability could spark consumer interest. The cocoa industry is fraught with challenges, including child labor, deforestation and the well-being of farmers. By providing insight into a company’s sourcing choices and verifying the certification of cocoa programs, blockchain technology would go a long way in providing peace of mind to the average consumer.

At the same time, blockchain transparency can also serve as a tool to help prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. In the event of an outbreak, early identification of the source could eliminate the need for massive recalls and instead enable targeted techniques that could save businesses and consumers money from the disease.

About Jeffery L. Parker

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