business news in context, analysis with attitude

Bloomberg reports that starting this week, people buying bagged Starbucks beans in the US "will be able to use a code on the bags to find out where their beans came from, where they were roasted and even get brewing tips from baristas …  The new tool, powered by Microsoft Corp., uses blockchain technology and will allow Starbucks to share with its customers the traceability data the world’s largest coffee- shop chain has been collecting for more than a decade. It will also help the company attract sustainably-minded young consumers, many of whom had been flocking to small craft shops where coffee is roasted at the back of the store."

The story points out that "millennial consumers have increasingly become more interested in knowing where their food comes from, how it was grown and whether it was produced in a sustainable and ethical way. That’s forcing some of the world’s largest food companies and agricultural commodity traders to be more transparent about their supply chains. And for that, they are turning to technology."

KC's View:


I've been saying for years that this kind of information ought to be made available to every consumer for every product.

I can remember years ago being in a Japanese supermarket where there were packaged tomatoes that had a code allowing people to use their cell phone camera - this was long before smart phones - to figure out where the tomatoes were grown, how they were fertilized, and see a picture of the farmer who grew the tomatoes.

In the meat counter, all of the beef had corresponding code numbers allowing you to know where the source cow was born and housed, what it had been fed, and seven see a picture of the rancher who owned the cow.

I can remember being wowed by the system - I felt like I was seeing the future - and asking the retailer how many people used the system.  "About five percent," he replied.

"Only five percent!"  I was crestfallen.  But the retailer looked at me and patiently explained that I did not understand.  (I get that a lot.)  "The fact that only five percent of our customers use the system means that 95 percent of our customers trust us, because they do not feel the need to check."

Systems such as these that promote transparency and traceability are designed to create trust as much as provide information.  In the long run, companies resistant to such transparency may be asked what they have to hide.

Remember the Latin proverb:  Trust, like the soul, never returns once it goes.