12/11/2018 – Technology Series / Food Traceability / Edible Barcodes
Code crunchers: edible barcodes & blockchain
Combining the leading-edge technologies of edible barcodes and immutable ledgers, a new alliance between TruTag and PwC could help usher forth an advanced level of supply chain visibility for the F&B sector.
The globalisation of supply chains has brought myriad benefits – in many cases, it has also led to a loss of control and visibility. And nowhere is the threat larger or more real than in the domain of food fraud. Food misrepresentation, adulteration, diversion and counterfeiting are jeopardising consumer safety and costing the food and beverage industry billions in lost revenue. Now, a new tie-up between PwC Australia and TruTag Technologies seeks to address such challenges by bringing security and traceability to global food supply chains.
A leading provider of product identity solutions, TruTag Technologies’ new strategic alliance with PwC Australia will see TruTag's ‘edible barcode’ technology incorporated as part of the PwC Food Trust initiative. The latter is considered one of the most advanced and holistic anti-counterfeit technology solutions for the food and beverage industry today. PwC Australia developed the platform so as to provide manufacturers and consumers with greater confidence in the provenance of food products.
Recognised as a ‘Technology Pioneer’ by the World Economic Forum, US firm TruTag boasts the world’s most advanced precision-fabricated, cGMP nano-porous silica manufacturing operation for a variety of applications and security solutions – including product identity for food, medicine and secure labels. And the two companies are confident that integrating TruTag’s edible barcode technology into the PwC Food Trust Platform will enable the platform to deliver unrivalled supply chain visibility for F&B players the world over.
The perfect “crypto-anchor”
In essence, TruTag firms up a weak link that hasn’t kept speed with other advancements in the supply chain, as Trent Lund, the firm’s Lead Partner Innovation and Ventures, describes. “Blockchain technology offers brand owners a new means of sharing information and improving supply chain visibility. However, these systems are still reliant on ensuring a secure link or crypto-anchor between the physical and digital world,” he advises. “TruTag’s covert edible barcodes act as a perfect crypto-anchor, offering unrivalled security and a unique ability to directly mark foods and food-contact packaging.”
There are many benefits to the edible barcodes – or TruTag microtags. Made of silicon dioxide, or silica, which is “generally recognized as safe” by the US FDA, the barcodes are resilient, lasting for the entire product lifetime, alongside being covert. According to the manufacturer, TruTags are also customisable: they can mark items with unique information for product verification and traceability.
A shared vision for food traceability
PwC Australia and TruTag are already working on developing supply-chain technology programmes with lead customers in the meat and wine industry. They are also working to expand their focus into other food and beverage applications.
“We are thrilled to be working with PwC Australia on this initiative,” said Barry McDonogh, SVP Business Development at TruTag Technologies. “PwC brings a shared vision for food traceability, a highly complementary technology platform, and the resources to scale and deliver across multiple industry segments and geographies.”
Certainly the challenge that the new technology aims to thwart is significant. In 2015, for example, Chinese authorities seized smuggled meat with a market value of US$483 million. Unbelievably, some of the meat seized dated back to the 1970s, and had been thawed and refrozen over and over before reaching consumers.
On a global scale, food fraud is estimated by PwC to cause the food industry A$40–50 billion per annum. Compare this figure to the A$45bn value of Australian agriculture and food exports, and the scale of the issue becomes abundantly clear. Nor do such losses sit well with estimates from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that by 2050 food production worldwide must increase by 70 per cent for the global population to have sufficient access to safe, nutritious food.
Back at a corporate level, given that the journey from paddock to plate is today longer than ever, even those with reputations as clean, sustainable and safe food producers are largely out of control of what happens further along the chain today. Firms that are serious about protecting their brand and reputation would therefore be wise to explore the potential benefits of new traceability innovations like the aforementioned as a means of fortifying their integrity.