The Walmart China Blockchain Traceability Platform is currently tracking 23 product lines, and is expected to widen this to an additional 100 product lines by the end of 2019.
This new platform allows consumers to acquire detailed information about the products of interest by scanning a QR code. This information could include the source of the scanned products and geographic location received by Walmart, logistics processes, product inspection reports, and more.
According to the company, a good deal of emphasis will be centred on traceability for its packaged fresh foods. The goal is that by the end of 2020, 50% of all packaged fresh meat sales will be traceable, 40% of all packaged vegetable sales traceable, as will 12.5% of all seafood sold.
“Walmart China has continuously invested in the whole supply chain [and the use of] digital methods to improve efficiency and transparency, providing products and services of quality to customers,” said Walmart China Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Shi Jiaqi.
“[From] source procurement and commodity strategy, supply chain construction, to store and e-commerce platform operation management, [digital methods can be applied to make] life better for busy [consumers] in China.”
The platform is powered by blockchain technology from Shanghai-headquartered blockchain company VeChain.
“In the future, the [platform] shall adopt multilateral cooperation, synchronizing data from local governments' traceability platforms and suppliers' own platforms, so as to provide customers with safe and high-quality products,” added Walmart.
Food safety focus
In a previous press conference announcing the launch of its Marketside traceable fresh meat, Walmart had also emphasised that its focus moving forward would be very much on packaged fresh foods, in line with government initiatives focused on food safety.
‘In order to provide greater transparency and peace of mind to consumers, in recent years Walmart China has been actively responding to the government’s policy orientations and made fresh food traceability an important part of our development strategy,” said Walmart China Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Chen Mingzhi in a formal statement.
China has been increasingly active in enacting regulations to control food safety in the country over the past few months, including urging lifetime bans for food safety offenders and making local governments accountable for ensuring food safety within their jurisdiction.
“High-tech digital technology [is the way forward to] achieve control [all the way from the source] of the supply chain [and] enhance the overall food safety environment,” added Chen.
Marketside traceable beef from Inner Mongolia was cited as an example, where its free-range cattle are tagged with special ear tags that will follow the cattle’s journey through the supply chain processes of breeding, breeding, slaughtering, processing, testing, quarantine and so on.
Each processed piece of beef will be given a two-dimensional QR code for scanning, upon which information such as place of origin, vaccination serial number, official veterinarian assigned, person-in-charge of the farm of origin, cholesterol testing results and more.
“In addition, because Marketside traceable beef bypasses the middleman to work directly with suppliers, costs that are saved can be directly transferred to consumers resulting in obvious advantages in terms of pricing [and consumers will be able to see this],” said Walmart.
Previously in 2017, the supermarket giant had also collaborated with IBM, JD.com and Tsinghua University to form the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance in China.