According the United Nations, the world population is projected to jump from 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion by 2050. With all these mouths to feed in just over three decades, the pressure is definitely on the entire food and beverage industry to implement sustainable solutions to tackle the devastating impact of climate change, pollution, deforestation, energy and water consumption, resource degradation and depletion, and food waste on the global food supply.
What’s more, increasingly conscious consumers are demanding more transparency in the worldwide food system, requiring that food brands be more transparent regarding sourcing, production and transportation methods and nutrient content. Now, more than ever, brands need to provide full traceability in order to appease consumers’ concerns for their health, the environment, the well-being of workers and animal welfare. Without substantiated information to back up their marketing claims, brands run the risk of losing customer trust and loyalty, facing PR and regulatory compliance nightmares, and ultimately experience major drops in revenue.
While food companies look to become more socially responsible, there are significant challenges to overcome. More sustainable practices and transparency mean more investments in terms of improving supply chain performance, changing suppliers and processes, training employees, instilling monitoring and reporting mechanisms, etc. With low margins in the food and beverage industry, companies have to strike the perfect balance with what is pragmatically achievable and what will ensure a positive bottom line.
A compelling example of the importance of transparency when it comes to sustainability is the palm oil market. Because palm offers a significantly higher yield at a lower cost of production than other vegetable oils, palm oil is used in a wide array of food products, detergents, cosmetics and even biofuels. Unfortunately, due to its unwavering popularity with food brands, palm oil exploitation has caused widespread deforestation of tropical forests and unprecedented devastation to vulnerable ecosystems. Shocked by the impact on the environment, non-governmental organizations and customers are participating in boycotts of major palm oil brands to force them to find sustainable solutions produce their products.
As a part of their overall sustainability initiatives, many renowned brands have already set very ambitious sustainability goals, and, according to Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Trends Report 2018, companies across the board are recognizing sustainability as a revenue driver and effective means to slash operational costs.
The key to sustainability and business success? Technology and data. And a case in point? End-to-end, item-based traceability solutions.
More and more food brands are integrating digital traceability systems within their supply chains to clearly show that their sustainability actions speak louder than words. Allied Market Research points out that the global food traceability market is expected to reach $14.1 billion in revenues by 2020—a testament to the rise in companies’ commitment to demonstrating accountability and increase consumer safety.
Advanced end-to-end traceability solutions, namely those developed by OPTEL, are powered by blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), allowing manufacturers to serialize each food and beverage product, using a unique mark or identifier number. A food item can therefore be tracked in real time from the moment the raw materials are sourced through to production, warehousing and delivery—and all the way to the consumer’s plate.
As opposed to lot-based traceability, item-based digital traceability zeroes in on a single produced item (assembly or sub-assembly). This means that food brands can literally prove that a specific and unique food item was made, stored, packaged and transported in a sustainable way. This level of traceability gives food brands improved supply chain visibility and control—as well as razor-sharp information—so that, based on their overall sustainability strategies, they can:
- Set realistic sustainability goals
- Optimize resources
- Select more sustainable suppliers
- Minimize waste and environmental impact
- Have confidence in the statements they make to the market
- Provide customers with access to accurate information as to a food products’ origin and authenticity
- Monitor sustainability progress
- Increase customer trust and brand loyalty
When it comes to the food and beverage industry, walking the sustainability talk is no longer a nice-to-have—but a must-have. In today’s hyper-competitive markets, sustainable practices and complete transparency with consumers are the only ways to stay in the game. End-to-end traceability systems can therefore become a food brand’s number-one solution to address the cultural and economic imperatives of sustainability. OPTEL, a global leader in traceability, is the only developer on the market to offer end-to-end traceability solutions that are readily accessible today and can be seamlessly integrated into existing supply chains. Contrary to other providers that only offer lot-based traceability, OPTEL’s solutions guarantee item-level traceability, which opens up more opportunities than ever before to providing the valuable information distribution and retail partners—as well as customers—require to choose socially responsible food brands.