Carrefour uses blockchain to offer consumers greater supply chain transparency

Photo: Carrefour
Apr 18, 2022

Carrefour has become the first retailer to use blockchain technology with its own branded organic products.

The distributed ledger technology behind bitcoin enables consumers to scan the QR code on a label to access information about the life cycle of a product, including:

  • Its origin and the pathway it has taken: Producer name, field location, packaging location and transport means; 
  • Its quality: Harvest date, analysis results, variety and seasonality; 
  • Its organic certification: Conversion date, official certificate and additional initiatives implemented by the producer.

“By using this technology with our organic products for the first time, we are delivering on our aim of becoming the leader in the food transition for everyone,” Benoît Soury, Carrefour organic market director, said in a statement

Blockchain systems store data securely and in a tamper-proof manner. Potentially replacing paper processes and disjointed data systems, the enhanced data visibility from blockchain promises to more quickly resolve food safety issues as well as overcome inaccurate supply and demand predictions, manual errors, counterfeiting and compliance violations.

Walmart began using IBM’s Food Trust blockchain technology to track lettuce and spinach in 2018, but the technology has been only slowly gaining traction despite the hype around cryptocurrencies.

Hurdles slowing mainstream adoption include a general lack of knowledge on blockchain and its applications, customization issues and challenges correlating the multiple ways data can be submitted.

Before being widely used, costs likely need to come down, although heightened recordkeeping requirements being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration for food safety is expected to incentivize adoption to help scale blockchain-based food tracing, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Jan Beránek, CEO and founder of U+, a tech consulting firm, believes a business case still has to be made for suppliers to replace current tracking and compliance methods, such as GS1. He recently told Food Engineering magazine, “In order to justify building or integrating a blockchain solution within their business, it would need to provide additional revenue, save costs, provide a competitive advantage or meet compliance requirements.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see blockchain technology making a breakthrough soon in tracking and tracing products across the supply chain? What’s holding back adoption at this point?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Product availability issues and consumer demand for product data will speed up blockchain adoption."
"It would also be good if it didn’t take a village of electricity to power the blockchain."
"It looks like Carrefour has emerged as one that is ready to walk the talk."

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17 Comments on "Carrefour uses blockchain to offer consumers greater supply chain transparency"

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Christine Russo

If these are truly the reasons (they are not the ONLY reasons): “provide additional revenue, save costs, provide a competitive advantage or meet compliance requirements,” — what is severely omitted from this is the customer. If the customer wants heightened transparency only available from blockchain then the store that provides it wins, and everyone else follows.

Ken Morris

Well, is it really “organic”? That is always the question which blockchain can answer, but at what cost? The current method of ringing up produce, in most cases, is by weight using PLU at point of sale. This method would require prepackaged produce to actually work. So the challenge to scale with blockchain will probably not be met in the produce department. I do see blockchain coupled with RFID as the future of soft and hard goods. We talk about several other uses for blockchain in our recent white paper on LP, and that’s where I see the greatest potential for ROI going forward.

Carol Spieckerman

Retailers have been promising next-level transparency, tracking, and disclosure for years. The current multi-category supply chain snags create a fertile environment for pushing harder. It looks like Carrefour has emerged as one that is ready to walk the talk. Organic produce is a well-chosen billboard for Carrefour, lending credibility in a hot category that tests the limits of blockchain capabilities.

Dr. Stephen Needel

If you don’t trust your store to tell you the truth about the source of a product, you shouldn’t be shopping there. And really, how many people really care about the details? You want to know if it’s organic or not, if it’s locally sourced or not, not the details of a piece of fruit’s life story.

Gene Detroyer

The transparency boasted by Carrefour seems like the transparency provided by Alibaba’s Hema chain. Alibaba has about 100 stores giving the customer just the same details that are described by Carrefour. They have been doing it for over four years.

If blockchain technology provides Carrefour with operation insight, great. But the real reason we are talking about this seems to be what it will offer the shopper.

Phil Rubin

Blockchain will be increasingly adopted for a variety of reasons but the ultimate proof point for supply chain applications lies in whether a chain like Carrefour shares the impact of initiatives such as this one and, as the leader it intends to be, everyone else (or enough of its competitors) follow.

Jeff Sward

This all sounds great. But my head immediately goes to the details of the math. What did all this technology and new information cost? And the impact on retail prices? And then the impact on total sales? And if there is a non-blockchain supported product in the next bin, and it’s cheaper, which one did the customer buy? The information is great, but if the customer is shopping in person they can certainly trust their own senses in buying fresh produce. If they are shopping online, the blockchain data may provide an additional level of comfort about quality and freshness. Sounds like a great first step in how blockchain will support all kinds of shopping avenues.

Lisa Goller

Product availability issues and consumer demand for product data will speed up blockchain adoption.

Grocery is an ideal category for blockchain to boost efficiency, accuracy and food safety, and reduce food fraud. More consumers now pay attention to a product’s country of origin and its journey to their plate.

Market leaders (Walmart, Kroger, Starbucks, AWS) have innovated with blockchain for years. High costs, limited global standards compliance and laggards catching up to mainstream tech hold back widespread adoption.

Travis Mariea
7 months 12 days ago

Proving organic origin is a great application of blockchain technology but I feel the major opportunity is in eliminating the counterfeit/resale market.

Allowing consumers to feel 100 percent confident in product authenticity when purchasing a branded item from a reseller would be a massive win as a whole for the retail industry.

It would first take an organization to spearhead this effort (which I don’t believe I have heard of today) and then if enough big name brands buy into to the program, it could certainly lead to a breakthrough of blockchain in retail.

Amazon I would imagine would be the biggest proponent of this as they have fought against counterfeit resellers for years and I would imagine they are likely already having conversations about how this technology can solve this major issue for them.

Brian Delp
7 months 12 days ago

This is a similar concept to what is in place with oeko-tex certifications such as Made in Green which allows consumers to use a labeling code to verify the sustainability, provenance, social responsibility, and safety of the item. Consumers want transparency — but it must be easy. I don’t believe they care how the info is conveyed, as long as it’s frictionless — and scanning a code should be about as easy as it gets.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

I like this approach as there is a customer cohort who are interested in organic product provenance. And implementing blockchain for its own-brand products relieves Carrefour of the multiple party collaboration obstacle that impedes wider supply chain usage.

Paula Rosenblum

Tracking and tracing across the supply chain is good. It has been. A holy grail. Blockchain, however, still doesn’t scale all that well. That’s the biggest barrier to adoption. I was just reading about that this morning.

Paula Rosenblum

It would also be good if it didn’t take a village of electricity to power the blockchain.

Roland Gossage
7 months 11 days ago

I believe that this will become a standard for all products. Consumers want to know the origin and carbon footprint of the products they are buying. This allows consumers the ability, at an individual level, to enact change in the supply chain and the thus the environment. What this also means is that locally made/sourced products will have an advantage over overseas products. Viva la revolution!

Kai Clarke

No. There is nothing unique behind using blockchain technology to give consumers supply chain transparency that traditional (read data-driven with currency) doesn’t already offer. Properly communicating, storing, reporting and sharing this data requires great systems, processes and controls, regardless of whether it is blockchain based (which is generally less secure) or not. Why risk this on a nascent, unproven, insecure, transaction that has yet to prove itself through billions of transactions?

Brad Halverson

If costs to implement a QR code packed with every conceivable attribute under the sun is currently too complex or places an unrealistic strain on consumers paying for product, then start with a simpler approach and build from there.

Likely all shoppers will want to know these basics: when was it picked/produced, is it actually organic or not, and producer/grower info.

Be excellent at these standards first to earn basic consumer trust and to develop industry standards. Then go after all other certifications, initiatives and wish list items.

Anil Patel

This is fantastic! People who buy organic foods are always concerned about whether or not what they are buying is truly organic. They will like having such detailed information regarding their food purchases. The most stumbling barrier here is widespread industry adoption. Once blockchain-based product tracking and tracing become commonplace, a slew of new providers will emerge, lowering the cost of implementing the technology. I am hopeful that in near future the majority of retailers will be able to provide accurate product information to their customers. This will help to make more informed food choices. Due to mass-production of labels and space constraints on food packaging, customers are unable to acquire accurate and sufficient information about their food. This has to change right away!

"Product availability issues and consumer demand for product data will speed up blockchain adoption."
"It would also be good if it didn’t take a village of electricity to power the blockchain."
"It looks like Carrefour has emerged as one that is ready to walk the talk."

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