Albertsons Cos., Boise, Idaho, joined the blockchain-based IBM Food Trust network, North Castle, N.Y., to begin piloting technology designed to improve how food is traced from farm to store shelf.

IBM Food Trust enables network members to share digital, distributed and immutable data, so that stakeholders across the supply chain can work together to trace and authenticate products or optimize supply chain processes.

“Blockchain technology has the potential to be transformational for us as we further build differentiation on our fresh brand,” says Anuj Dhanda, chief information officer, Albertsons. “Food safety is a very significant step. In addition, the provenance of the products enabled by blockchain — the ability to track every move from the farm to the customer’s basket — can be very empowering for our customers.”

“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,” says Jerry Noland, vice president of food safety and quality assurance, Albertsons. “Consequently, retailers are exploring new technologies to improve the infrastructure that underpins the global food supply chain.”

Albertsons, which operates nearly 2,300 stores across the United States, will pilot IBM Food Trust for tracing bulk Romaine lettuce from one of its distribution centers, and then explore expanding to other food categories throughout its distribution network. Albertsons plans to help overcome the obstacles that have existed when a traceback is initiated for a product like romaine, and is evaluating ways to use the technology to highlight the provenance of its extensive Own Brands portfolio.

“Establishing IBM Food Trust and opening it to the food ecosystem last year was a major milestone in making blockchain real for business,” says Raj Rao, general manager, IBM Food Trust. “Today, we are focused on ensuring that the solution scales and is accessible to participants across the food ecosystem, such as Albertsons Cos. By bringing more members into the network and enabling them to share greater cross-sections of data in a secured environment, we believe our vision of a transformed food ecosystem using blockchain is closer than ever.”