Kelsey Blackwell's Blog

Push for traceability now

A customer is in the produce section of your store. Before throwing a cluster of grapes in the cart, they’re able to scan a barcode with their phone. What pops up on the screen is not only where the product was grown, but also how far it traveled and when it arrived in your store. Imagine consumers using this same method on meat, cheese, basically any food item in your store.

At the Traceability Institute’s boot camp which took place today in Denver, we learned that the technology to create such a scenario has arrived. Two traceability programs, Breadcrumbs and HarvestMark , allow retailers and consumers to trace products back to their origins. Why don’t we have this app downloaded to our phones right now? Why aren’t retailers touting products based on their limited carbon footprints? In order for these systems to fall into place, manufactures must supply the makers of these various technologies with traceability information. That translates to time and money—something most companies aren’t interested in giving up.

The reasons for better traceability extend beyond the consumer and retailers benefit. A more transparent system leads to better food safety. I.e. it’s easier to pinpoint contaminated products and issue targeted recalls when you know where everything’s coming from. There’s also the benefit of better environmental protection. How can anyone be sure their product is sustainable if they don’t know where all the raw materials are sourced and the impact on those communities?

Looking strictly at the bottom line, yes, it will cost money, probably a lot, to institute a system that will trace the chain. It will also cost to implement a new labeling protocol for barcodes to provide this information to consumers. But, “local” and “sourcing” are buzzwords I don’t anticipate going anywhere soon. Already, consumers are humming with the possibility of knowing EXACTLY where their food comes from using this technology. Wouldn’t it pay for merchandisers to jump on the traceability train now? Not only will it differentiate their products from others on the market but I suspect increase brand loyalty.

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