Walmart – one of blockchain’s early adopters

FMCG Case study | Walmart uses blockchain | retail

The problem

When it comes to food traceability, it is vital to show where the food was sourced from and where it has been. This is because when an outbreak of a food-borne disease happens, it can take days, if not weeks, to find its source.

In 2022, in the US alone, there were 13 multistage foodborne outbreaks (CDC website). This does not take into account recalls due to other contaminants. For a global view, Food Safety News published outbreaks and recalls on a regular basis.

Better traceability could help save lives by allowing companies to act faster and protect the livelihoods of farmers by only discarding produce from the affected farms.

In 2016, when Walmart’s Vice President of Food Safety asked his team to trace a pack of sliced mangoes to its respective suppliers, his team took 6 days, 18 hours, and 26 minutes (Source: Walmart’s website).

Solution

This started Walmart on its journey to implement a food traceability system using blockchain. They partnered with IBM to create a traceability system based on Hyperledger fabric. Walmart ran two proof of concept initiatives to test this system.

The first proof of concept was for pork in China to install trust in a system where there was none.

The second proof of concept was for mangoes in the US. The purpose was to trace their provenance so that product recalls are faster and more effective.

The results

Pork in China: The new system connected and verified various pork suppliers, packaging companpanies, shippers, and buyers with those who were involved in moving the product around China. It allowed uploading of certificates of authenticity to the blockchain, instilling trust where it used to be a serious issue.

Mangoes in the US: The time needed to trace mangoes to their suppliers went from 7 days to 2.2 seconds!

By 2020, Walmart could track more than 500 food products using blockchain and could provide the FDA with detailed information on the original source of a potential contamination within an hour.

Source: Walmart Website, Hyperledger Foundation website and Foley.com

Learn more about this new technology :
Our blog : “Blockchain in FMCG supply chains”

Author: Veena Giridhar Gopal

After more than 20 years working in the FMCG/retail sector, Veena is now co-founder & CEO of salesBeat. salesBeat has an AI driven platform that uses micro and macro factors to model consumer buying behaviour and makes predictive recommendations of optimal stock levels to FMCG sales people who sell into supermarkets, distributors & wholesalers, ensuring 100% availability of your brands in store and increasing revenues by up to 30%.

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