Albertsons Is Putting Lettuce on the Blockchain

It's the latest retailer to join IBM’s Food Trust to track products

The retailer will start with romaine lettuce from one distribution center. Getty Images
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Like Walmart before it, grocer Albertsons is putting its lettuce on the blockchain by joining IBM’s Food Trust network and piloting the technology to trace romaine lettuce from a single distribution center.

In a release, IBM said this will help the retailer “overcome the obstacles that have existed when a traceback is initiated for a product like romaine.”

IBM’s Food Trust creates a digital record of transactions or interactions like packaging date, temperature at which an item was shipped and arrival on a shelf. This is the result of data shared by members. Food Trust allows companies to set rules about who can see the data they upload and for how long—and they maintain control of that data after it has been uploaded.

Beyond lettuce, IBM said Albertsons will explore other food categories, including where the products in its private label portfolio originate.

The new retailer brings the Food Trust up to 80 brands—and IBM said more than 5 million food products on the blockchain are on shelves today as a result. These Food Trust members are addressing food system issues like supply chain efficiency, freshness, waste reduction, sustainability and participants’ ability to verify certifications, such as fair trade and organic.

Blockchain has the potential to turn nationwide food recalls into “efficient, precise eliminations of recalled products,” IBM said.

“Multiple high-profile consumer advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration demonstrate the need to find more efficient ways of tracing products and identifying likely sources of contamination in a timely manner,” said Jerry Noland, vice president of food safety and quality assurance at Albertsons.

As previously reported, Walmart and Sam’s Club are working with IBM and food companies including Dole, McCormick and Co., Nestle, Tyson Foods and Unilever for more than a year to develop a blockchain-enabled food traceability network.

IBM and Walmart have previously worked together to trace pork in China and mangoes in the U.S.

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.
Publish date: April 11, 2019 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT