Earlier this month, the Transparency-One team attended the Global Food Safety Conference 2018 in Tokyo, Japan hosted by the Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

“Safe Food for Consumers Everywhere” was the theme of this year’s event. In keeping with the Japanese location, the opening plenary featured leaders from major Japanese companies AEON, Ajinomoto, and Costco Japan as they discussed the role that top leadership plays in ensuring food safety and establishing food safety culture.

While the implementation and development of food safety culture varies between companies and between countries, the key building blocks remain the same. In particular, the attitude of any company’s management team is critical for ensuring food safety: not only can top management set the example for how all employees should approach safety, but they can also ensure that food safety remains a top priority for businesses seeking to build consumer trust.

Big Data and the Food Supply Chain

During the conference, Transparency-One CEO Chris Morrison participated in the panel for the “Big Data” Breakout Session. At this session, moderated by Ruediger Hagedorn of the Consumer Goods Forum, technology providers and retailers shared their views on the emerging role of Big Data, blockchain, and AI in the food industry, an undeniably hot topic today.

Big Data is transforming the way both food industry professionals and consumers alike approach food safety and transparency. In today’s technology-driven world, shoppers have ready access to virtually any type of information, and want to know more about their food purchases. To capture this consumer trust, supply chain transparency is critical.

During the panel, Chris Morrison spoke about Transparency-One’s three-pronged approach to achieving transparency:

Chris Morrison speaks at GFSC 2018

  1. What level of detail is needed? Supply chain transparency is not “one size fits all.” Detailed, batch-level traceability is sometimes necessary, but at other times it can be equally valuable to simply identify suppliers and map the entire supply chain.
  2. What standards do you want your supply chain to adhere to? Social responsibility, sustainability, animal welfare, labor rights, etc. are important issues for today’s shoppers. This information can be digitized in many ways, from audits to product tests to supplier questionnaires. What issues are important for your business, and how can you implement this at a practical level?
  3. How can you differentiate your business? All panelists agreed that while mitigating risk and increasing supply chain transparency is important, the journey doesn’t stop there. The next step is to use the data gathered to differentiate your business and increase sales and revenue – such as by sharing supply chain data directly with consumers. For example, our latest project has enabled Mars Food to map the entire Uncle Ben’s basmati rice supply chain and communicate detailed supplier and sustainability information directly with consumers via an augmented reality application.

By taking the time to address these three questions, businesses can effectively use big data and other innovative technologies to achieve transparent, compliant, and integrity-driven supply chains for increased consumer trust.

Final Day in Tokyo

To close out the busy week, Transparency-One also sponsored the GFSI’s Technical Working Group Meetings and Dinner. This dinner brought together technical experts from retailers, manufacturers, standard owners, certification bodies, and industry associations for a lively evening of cocktails and conversation on the growing need for transparency—and the technological tools needed to achieve this—and its key role in the future of the food industry.

Blockchain banner

The Future of Food

While GFSC 2018 featured several sessions addressing a wide range of food safety issues, a major theme was the transformation occuring in the food industry today: consumers are demanding more information about the products they buy, and technology is making this easier to achieve. But how should the food industry best leverage the latest technologies to meet and exceed consumer expectations? And on a global scale, how can technology help us with the challenges that lie ahead?

Buzzwords like “blockchain,” “big data,” and “AI” are appealing and ambitious concepts, and can easily be misunderstood. But when applied to the food industry, they can all be used to serve the same end goal: achieving transparency. These technologies ultimately enable food businesses around the world to discover their supply chains and take action to improve the status quo, whether by sourcing more responsibly, reducing food waste, improving food safety, or sharing more detailed information with consumers.

It is important to remember that collective action, taken globally and enabled by technology, can significantly impact both the present and the future of the food industry. Farmers, suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers all have an important role to play in creating safer and more transparent supply chains. Major events such as GFSC, which promote discussion and collaboration between global business leaders, are essential for advancing the state of the food industry as a whole. While technology plays a critical role, it is only when it is used efficiently and on a large scale does it have the true potential to make a real difference.

Our thanks to the GFSI for organizing such a great event, and we look forward to next year’s edition in Nice!

This post was originally published on MyGFSI.

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