Blockchain may be coming to food aisles. Here’s what it may cost

Blockchain technology could increase transparency around food and beverage products, but experts are divided on how it could affect the prices customers pay.

Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, is a public ledger of every transaction that has taken place. Proponents claim the global online database improves food safety – and quality – by making it easier to trace the path of food from farm to supermarket.

With blockchain, food suppliers and middlemen can submit data about the breeding, manufacturing, and transport of products into a ledger, which customers can then access. Information stored in this ledger cannot be edited retroactively. This acts as an assurance of the quality and reliability of information.

How blockchain could affect food prices

That means suppliers can segment their products by quality and freshness, and charge premiums for higher quality segments, consulting firm Deloitte wrote in a June report about the use of blockchain in food.

But professional services firm Accenture said customers may not see that impact on prices at the register.

“Price data, for example, could allow upstream supply chain actors to better negotiate price and receive a greater portion of the final price from the consumer,” Accenture wrote in a 2018 report.

“Due to high margins, the opportunity exists for producers to increase their prices without much impact to the final retail price,” the report noted.

One company that’s using blockchain to track tuna fish caught in Indonesia is Bumble Bee Foods. The firm, known for its canned seafood products, partnered with cloud company SAP to provide more detailed information about its fish. SAP’s blockchain lets consumers “easily access the complete origin and history” of Bumble Bee yellow fin tuna. By scanning a QR code on a package, customers can check a product’s authenticity, freshness and sustainability.

Deloitte highlighted that blockchain may lead buyers to focus on things like taste, shelf life,…

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