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Trends for the Digital Wine Supply Chain

As we said in our post about wine supply chain trends, it’s definitely not a Dry January in our blog. Today’s topic: the digital wine supply chain.

First, though, we’re excited about exhibiting at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium next week. Head over to our sign-up page. We have some complimentary passes available (on a first-come basis) and we’ll be giving away a few bottles of fine Italian wine at Booth 807! Sign up and visit us at the show!

Now, on to the digital wine supply chain.

What are the benefits of a digital wine supply chain?

If you follow our blog (and we know you do), you know we’ve been talking about the digital supply chain for years. For us, digitization isn’t a fad or a trend; it is the No. 1 most important “thing” you can do for your business.

In broad terms, the benefits of building a digital wine supply chain are visibility, traceability, and transparency; sustainability; optimized efficiency and productivity; and creating value and enabling new business models.

It’s important to note that visibility, traceability, and transparency make all the other benefits possible. This “trifecta” in a digital wine supply chain enables longevity, brand strength, innovation, and compliance.

Digital wine supply chain trends

We’re not ranking these digital wine supply chain trends, just noting some of the most important and prominent technologies that are driving the industry. This is also a very high-level summary, as getting into granular details is far beyond the scope of our blog. If you have any questions or want more information, contact us!

Furthermore, these technologies are important in every supply chain. It doesn’t matter what your business is: a digital supply chain is your most important strategic asset.

Blockchain

If you had to describe blockchain in one word, it would probably be “security.” Specifically, it’s about forwarding (i.e., sharing, utilizing) encrypted data that’s virtually impossible to corrupt, alter, or otherwise modify. For details about what it is and how it works, download our “Blockchain-Based Supply Chain Traceability” white paper.

For the digital wine supply chain, blockchain’s primary appeal — as you might have guessed — concerns visibility, traceability, and transparency. Put simply, it’s a powerful tool to verify everything in your supply chain, from the vineyard to distribution to final sale to the person who will be pouring your wine into a glass. It makes traceability accessible and verifiable for everyone in the chain (e.g., your trading partners).

Blockchain has other applications, such automatically verifying, validating, and enforcing contracts. These “smart contracts” can be implemented throughout the digital wine supply chain, to set up and confirm deliveries and pay suppliers, for example. There’s even been some buzz about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the wine industry.

Adoption of blockchain is far, far from universal. People still don’t fully understand what it is, how it works, and the value it can bring. However, the consensus seems to be that it will blossom and proliferate during the 2020s. Nowadays, data is king; blockchain safeguards data, so keep it on your radar.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT technology puts you everywhere your supply chain goes. It’s the heart of real-time data collection, monitoring, adjusting, risk mitigation, and brand empowerment.

For the wine industry, this means using sensors to cultivate “smart vineyards” and build a supply chain with end-to-end visibility, traceability, and transparency. (Are you detecting a theme?) For example, IoT-enabled sensors can be buried in soil, embedded in vines, or hung in leaves to monitor environmental conditions, collect data, forecast weather conditions, reduce risks during harvesting, and improve productivity.

IoT also promotes sustainability, including water and soil conservation and lowering/eliminating pesticides; combined with satellite imaging, these capabilities safeguard vineyards and promote sustainability.

IoT has applications in every facet of the wine the supply chain. The upshot is data. Lots and lots of data. Collected and transmitted in real time, the data tells you exactly what’s happening in every part of your operations on land, air, and sea.

E-labels and e-certificates

Electronic labels, or e-labels, make life easier for everyone: You, your employees, your trading partners, regulators, packaging designers, graphic designers, and your customers. They are foundational to the digital wine supply chain. And because they replace multiple paper labels, e-labels are better for the environment and promote sustainability.

DataMatrix codes and QR codes are examples of e-labels. Essentially, they can be “loaded” with information about ingredients, product provenance, traceability data, compliance data — virtually anything. They can also link to social media, websites, apps, rewards programs, and special content such as videos. E-labels are an all-in-one solution for every member of the digital wine supply chain.

Importantly, e-labels are powerful tools to fight fraud and counterfeits, problems that have a huge negative impact on the wine industry. Full traceability data, accessible with a single scan by a supply chain partner or a consumer in a store, proves a that a bottle of wine is genuine. E-labels are critical to our trifecta of traceability, transparency, and visibility.

A good case study is the EU’s “U-label” digital platform, which allows wine and spirts producers to easily create e-labels (in this case QR codes) and give consumers product information in their native language. It’s a collaborative effort of the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV), the association representing the European wine industry, and SpiritsEUROPE, whose mission is to “represent, defend and promote the European spirits sector and help members achieve sustainable business growth.”

For a deep dive on QR codes, DataMatrix codes, and other barcodes, read our “Understanding GS1 Barcodes in the Global Supply Chain” blog post.

Electronic certificates are similar to e-labels. They too are “loaded” with data that prove a product meets certain requirements and certifies key information such as origin, import-export status, tax status, and sanitary/phytosanitary compliance.

In the wine industry, common certificates include certificates of origin, free sale certificates, quality certificates, organic certificates, and environmental certificates/certifications. However, the industry has not established standards for e-certificates and to a large degree still relies on a paper-based system.

With the push for a digital wine supply chain, standard-making bodies for e-certificates should consider what certifications to include (e.g., origin, export, quality, sanitary), relevant categories of information (e.g., producer, brand, batch, Harmonized System code), and how the information will be exchanged (e.g., through central hubs).

Other things to watch in the digital wine supply chain

We’ve run out of space for now, but here are few other things to keep an eye on as the digital wine supply chain evolves.

    • Artificial intelligence to manage and process data, monitor crops, make decisions about watering and fertilizing, predictive maintenance on lines, warehouse management, and distribution
    • Robotics in planting, fertilizing, pruning, harvesting, and warehousing
    • Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and satellite imaging for “digital cartography” to monitor land use, study the effects of climate change, conduct surveys, track diseases, generate thermal and infrared imaging
    • Creating “digital assets” to leverage in brand protection and consumer engagement strategies. Note: Our upcoming articles will discuss this in detail.

Final thoughts

The wine industry has always maintained a balance between tradition and innovation. Winemakers, grapegrowers, and other stakeholders want to preserve the past while embracing current and developing technologies.

The digital wine supply chain brings the industry the best of both worlds: Technology ensures traditions endure. But technology also creates new traditions for traceability, transparency, visibility, and sustainability — the very things that, as we said at the outset, enable longevity, brand strength, innovation, and compliance.

Contact us today to learn more. Check our blog next week for our articles about brand protection and consumer engagement for the wine industry. Read our two-part series about traceability in the wine supply chain.

And if you’re at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium next week, by all means visit us at Booth 807 to continue the discussion. We hope to see you there!

 

Antares Vision Digital Supply Chain

Who Investigates Counterfeit Cosmetics Products?

In our last blog post, we talked about the global problem of counterfeit cosmetics. Today, we’re talking about who investigates counterfeit cosmetics products, starting with how cosmetics are regulated in the United States and the EU.

Regulation of cosmetics products varies greatly from country to country, so our discussion today should not be taken as an overview of what to expect everywhere cosmetics are sold. Enforcement of laws and the actions authorities take to target counterfeits also vary.

What is universal, however, is that the cosmetics industry faces unique challenges with consumer safety, increased consumer demand for transparency, and being targeted by counterfeiters. It’s good to know who investigates counterfeit cosmetics products and what measures you can take to be part of the solution.

Who investigates counterfeit cosmetics products: USA and EU

Counterfeit cosmetics are dangerous because the criminals who make them don’t follow regulations or standards for production. Fakes are often contaminated with “stuff” you really don’t want to think about, let alone put on your face, such as bacteria, animal and human feces, arsenic, and mercury. So, regulators keep an eye on cosmetics.

United States

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the governing body for cosmetic regulations. Cosmetics products do not require FDA approval — but they are regulated. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) explain the FDA’s requirements, restrictions, and disciplinary actions regarding cosmetics.

The FDA focuses on preventing adulteration and misbranding, mislabeling, and harmful ingredients or drugs. Adulteration refers to products or product ingredients that are not in line with FDA regulations or that have been contaminated. A misbranded product is “improperly labelled or deceptively packaged,” which could include counterfeit cosmetics products. The FDA prohibits 11 chemicals from being used in cosmetics products.

Additionally, the FDA reserves the authority to request recalls and work with the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Border Customs if any violations are found. It maintains a “Cosmetics Recalls & Alerts” page and has a searchable “Enforcement Report” database of recalled products.

The European Union

Cosmetics products manufactured in and imported to Europe are regulated under the EU Cosmetic Regulation. Like the FDA, the EU regulates ingredients and labeling; generally, however, the regulations are broader and more precisely defined.

For example, more than 1,300 substances (e.g., chemicals, colorants, and preservatives) are banned from cosmetic use, and hundreds more are permitted only under certain conditions. The regulations also mandate Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), whereas the FDA only suggests GMP as “guidelines for effective self-inspection.”

Furthermore, the EU requires significant product documentation. Every cosmetics company must have a “responsible person” for every product they make. This person is responsible for ensuring products are safe and comply with regulations, and must submit a cosmetics product notification through an online portal before a product can be sold.

The responsible person must also create a product information file that includes the name, description, and nature of the product; description of the manufacturing methods; statement of compliance with regulations and GMP; a product safety report; and data about animal testing, if any. They must also assemble a product safety report that contains product safety information and a product safety assessment.

Do consumers have a role?

Yes, and it begins with vigilance with prices, packaging, and product quality:

      • Prices: If the price is too good to be true or just noticeably cheaper than the last time you bought it, there’s a good chance it’s a fake.
      • Packaging: The printing might look shoddy or the colors might seem off. There might not be a barcode. There might not be packaging at all, and the products might be offered in bulk.
      • Product: If the consistency or texture seem different, it’s likely a fake

In the United States, consumers can “report suspicions concerning the manufacture or sale of counterfeit or pirated goods” to the FBI. For suspected counterfeit cosmetics products seen online, consumers can contact the FBI Internet Fraud Complaint Center. The FBI has also partnered with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to create a tip line where consumers can report products they suspect to be fake.

In the EU, consumers are encouraged to contact their local authorities about counterfeit cosmetics products. Depending on the nature of the situation, the authorities might investigate themselves or contact the appropriate investigative body, which could include Europol. The United Kingdom has Action Fraud, an online reporting tool for fraud and cybercrime.

Consumers should also be aware of what brands are doing to combat counterfeits and consumer engagement programs that encourage people to report suspicious products.

Final thoughts

If you really want to drill down into the U.S. and EU regulations, download our “Global Cosmetics Market” white paper today. It also has a section about regulations in Singapore, plus more information about counterfeit cosmetics products.

In “Top Supply Chain Trends of 2021,” we posed some important questions companies should ask themselves as we move toward what is likely to be another challenging year for supply chains. Many of those questions, listed below, fit perfectly with what we talked about today — regulations, counterfeits, brand protection, consumer engagement.

Your supply chain is where all of these concerns converge. Which is why you should schedule a short demo of our solutions. In about 15 minutes, we can show you the basics of our Traceability System and how it transforms your supply chain into a strategic asset that will improve and protect every facet of your business.

 

  • Are you keeping up with supply chain trends?
  • Are there gaps and blind spots in your supply chain?
  • Are counterfeits a problem in your industry?
  • Are you doing everything you can to protect your brand?
  • Are you actively reaching out to your customers to bring them closer to your brand?
  • Are there compliance deadlines on the horizon?
  • Are you certain your current supply chain solutions are truly optimal?
  • Are you using your supply chain as a strategic asset?

Why We Should Worry About Counterfeit Cosmetics

Counterfeit cosmetics have boomed during the pandemic. Not that they’ve ever not been in fashion among the criminal set. But recent research shows a renaissance, a proliferation of often dangerous fakes readily available to more people and through newer channels.

We just published a white paper about the global cosmetics market. It has a section about counterfeit cosmetics, and now we want to keep the conversation going with more information about this global problem. Here we go.

The statistics reveal “a worrying threat”

In “Global Trade in Fakes: A Worrying Threat” (June 2021), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that the global value of counterfeits and pirated goods amounted to as much as $464 billion in 2019, or 2.5 percent of world trade.

Worldwide, there were “consistently” more than 130,000 customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods annually in 2017, 2018, and 2019. “Overall,” the report continues, “the unified database on customs seizures of IP-infringing goods includes almost half [a] million observations.”

In 2017 and 2018, counterfeit cosmetics and perfumery products accounted for about 4 percent of all customs seizures. That rose to just under 10 percent in 2019 — a considerable jump in a very short time. Furthermore, cosmetics and perfumery products were among the Top 5 products “targeted by counterfeiters” every year from 2011 to 2019. (The others were articles of leather, clothing, footwear, and watches.)

What toll do counterfeit cosmetics take on the industry’s fiscal health? One report shows that annual sales losses from counterfeiting in cosmetics and personal care products sector amounted to 4.7 billion euros, or about $5.3 billion.

Our brand protection series talks more about counterfeits. It’s a real problem that every industry, some more than others, must contend with.

Counterfeit cosmetics in a huge global market

According to a Fortune Business Insights report published in September, the cosmetics market was worth $277.67 billion in 2020. Despite an overall decline in sales during the pandemic, the market is projected to grow to $415.29 billion by 2028.

The market has responded to consumer demand for a wider variety of products, and online shopping has added an ease of access. Online shopping will drive the market and, according to industry watchers, could account for nearly 30 percent of global beauty sales by 2026.

However, the dramatic shift from in-person to online purchasing during the pandemic has emboldened criminals to churn out more and more counterfeit cosmetic products. As OECD put in its “Global Trade in Fakes” report, “Under confinement, consumers turn to online markets to [fulfill] their needs, driving significant growth in the online supply of a wide range of counterfeits.”

Research from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security supports this finding. Its “Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods” report (January 2020) noted that “Selling counterfeit and pirated goods through e-commerce platforms and related online third-party marketplaces is a highly profitable venture.”

The threat to businesses and consumers

Counterfeit cosmetic products are a real threat to manufacturers and consumers. The bogus goods mimic the original, undercutting company sales. They bypass quality control processes and regulatory oversight, which means they can contain harmful “ingredients.”

For example, in 2018 authorities in the United Kingdom recovered counterfeit cosmetics that were found to contain mercury and high levels of hydroquinone, a skin-whitening agent. UK Police have also warned consumers about fake products containing “rat droppings, human urine, and arsenic.” Police in Los Angeles found counterfeits with bacteria and animal waste.

With the surge in online orders, shipping has become important to the counterfeit industry. The OECD reported that between 2017 and 2019, 64 percent of global seizures were postal shipments and 13 percent involved express couriers. In the same period, 77 percent of all counterfeits seized by authorities were discovered during the shipping period.

Final thoughts

Counterfeit cosmetics — counterfeit anything — threaten consumer safety and brand reputations.

Your supply chain is your first line of defense. With the right solution for end-to-end traceability, like our rfxcel Traceability System, you can leverage data and lock down your supply chain guard to against counterfeits and help mitigate other risks.

You’ll also be able to meet consumer demand for transparency. You can tell them with certainty that your products are what you say they are. You’ll ensure product safety and protect your brand.

If you have questions, we can help. Take a look at our solutions for brand protection and download our white paper about the global cosmetics market. And contact us today to arrange a short demo of our Traceability System. In about 15 minutes, our supply chain experts can show how our solutions will turn your supply chain into your most valuable strategic asset.

Top Supply Chain Trends of 2021

The supply chain has been grabbing headlines since the pandemic began, but this year was especially newsworthy. From flotilla-like bottlenecks at major U.S. ports to warnings about counterfeit toys in Santa’s sleigh, it’s been a challenging time for supply chain stakeholders and consumers alike. So, as the year winds down, we thought we’d take a look at some of the top supply chain trends of 2021.

The Year’s Supply Chain Trends

Before we start, please note that this isn’t a ranked list or a “countdown” to the No. 1 supply chain trend of the year. It’s just a collection of trends that have occurred in different industries and that have made industry news as we’ve worked our way through the year. That said, without further ado, here are the top supply chain trends of 2021.

Automation

Automation includes robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, process mining, drones, and driverless delivery systems. This trend dates back to the first half of 2019, when companies in North America spent $869 million on more than 16,000 robots. This year, the World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots report said there were 3 million industrial robots operating in factories globally, a record number and an increase of 10 percent. The report also said sales of new robots grew 0.5 percent, with 384,000 units shipped globally in 2020.

Blockchain

Blockchain has been a buzzword for years, and worldwide spending on the technology has been predicted to reach more than $11 billion by 2022. In regard to supply chain management, blockchain has great potential for traceability because it allows the provenance of any product to be easily demonstrated with and supported by immutable, tamper-proof data. It’s a big topic, so download our “Blockchain-Based Supply Chain Traceability” white paper to learn more.

Sustainability

There’s been a barrage of research about supply chain sustainability, particularly consumers’ expectations for transparency and environmentally friendly products and packaging. In one recent survey, 83 percent of respondents said it was “important or extremely important” for companies to design environmentally conscious products. Another found that 81 percent of shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them. In short, more companies are choosing to make their supply greener and more transparent.

Consumer engagement/customer experience

Consumer engagement and customer experience have always had a place in marketing and branding, but they’ve risen to a priority position over the last several years. (See a tidy summary of why here.) But what does your supply chain have to do with any of this?

The short answer: Your supply chain is a gold mine of information that can be leveraged for robust, innovative engagement/experience strategies. The basic building block is serialization. Read our two-part series to learn more. And definitely read our article about how supply chain traceability is building a “consumer kingdom.”

“The Trifecta”: Traceability, Visibility, Transparency

It should come as no surprise that we’re including these three “must-haves” on our list of the top supply chain trends in 2021. We’ve always maintained that visibility, transparency, and traceability are the key to a successful supply chain; however, the last two years have shown us that this trifecta is more important than ever and is the best way to optimize, safeguard, and leverage your supply chain for business value.

Visibility means using data to gain insight into how your supply chain is functioning and to take steps to make it run more efficiently. The goal is to see every ingredient/input, every product, every partner, every handoff … everything. Transparency means communicating supply chain knowledge internally and externally so all stakeholders, including consumers, can see how you operate. Traceability means you can follow a product to its point of origin and prove what it is and where it came from.

We have written extensively on these topics. Here’s a suggested reading list:

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is a network of physical objects that connects to the internet via sensors and software. It’s the basis of our Integrated Monitoring solution. It enables greater visibility and flexibility across your entire supply chain. For example, IoT-enabled sensors placed in a shipment of vaccines will send a real-time alert if a problem arises, such as a temperature excursion or route diversion. We’ve written about IoT in the food and beverage industry, and rfxcel CEO Glenn Abood wrote a great article about real-time monitoring in the pharma cold chain. We also have a great video about it.

Digitization

If we were ranking the 2021′ supply chain trends, we’d make digitization No. 1. A supply chain that isn’t digitized cannot function efficiently. It cannot give consumers what they demand. It cannot comply with regulations. It cannot compete. It cannot make your business better.

Final Thoughts

As we move toward the New Year, it’s a good time to think about the future of your supply chain. Ask yourself some basic questions:

    • Are you keeping up with the trends we talked about today?
    • Are there gaps and blind spots in your supply chain?
    • Are counterfeits a problem in your industry?
    • Are you doing everything you can to protect your brand?
    • Are you actively reaching out to your customers to bring them closer to your brand?
    • Are there compliance deadlines on the horizon?
    • Are you certain your current supply chain solutions are truly optimal?
    • Are you using your supply chain as a strategic asset?

The next step is to contact us. Our digital supply chain experts can share a short demo of our award-winning Traceability System that will clearly show why it’s the best solution for any business, under any circumstances.

Meat Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: Getting to Know Your Protein

Today’s consumers demand transparency, particularly when it comes to the meat they consume. They want more information about how and where the livestock was raised and processed — not just from a nutritional standpoint, but also with regard to food safety practices, animal care practices, environmental impact, and worker safety. Put simply, they want meat traceability.

Consumers are making an emotional connection to the foods they buy and consume; they want to feel good about where their money is going and what they are putting into their bodies. While this trend has been growing over the past several years, it has gained significant traction recently. Add the pandemic into the mix, and you’ve got an even greater demand for transparency amid an environment driven by heightened health and financial concerns.

The supply chain saw significant disruption during the pandemic, as high infection rates in processing plants led to a marked curtail in operations in pork, beef, and poultry plants—and in some cases, plant closures. In fact, roughly 65 percent of meat processing plants experienced outbreaks and 20 percent were forced to temporarily suspend operations, which, in a consolidated meat industry, had a ripple effect across the country. As the outbreaks played out publicly, consumers grew even warier of the origins of their meats.

Adding more complexity to the issue, bad weather over the past year meant smaller corn and soybean harvests, making it harder and more expensive for cattle, hog, and poultry farmers to feed their herds. The last time the industry saw such high grain prices was during the 2012 U.S. drought.

As meat supplies diminished, consumer demand grew, with more people stuck inside and forced to cook and eat at home. The result: price inflation at the grocery stores, making it more expensive for consumers to feed their families. As they pay more for the foods that nourish their families and read headlines about the pandemic’s effects on the food supply chain, their demand for transparency has only become greater.

Meat traceability is more essential than ever

As we usher in a new era in food safety, meat traceability is no longer a “nice-to-have” — it’s essential. With increasing consumer demand for more information about where their protein is coming from, clear documentation from the farm to the end product is a must.

The Global Food Traceability Center defines traceability as the “ability to access any or all information relating to a food under consideration, throughout its entire life cycle, by means of recorded identifications.” This goes beyond the information itself; it’s about linking the information throughout the supply chain and ensuring coordinated processes and end-to-end meat traceability.

The good news is that tech-enabled meat traceability doesn’t have to be complicated, and its benefits are vast and powerful. From increased meat quality, improved food safety, and fewer product recalls to better inventory tracking and superior customer service, traceability delivers a range of benefits that go far beyond simply responding to consumers’ demand for information. With visibility across the entire supply chain, manufacturers can document and link the production, processing, and distribution chain of their protein products, which results in greater organizational efficiencies, reduced market and operational risks, a stronger competitive advantage, and a better brand image.

Final thoughts

While challenges continue to emerge amid a rapidly evolving global landscape, brands have an opportunity to tell a story that evokes a positive emotion and inspires a purchase. Consumers want to know that their meats were produced ethically and safely, and, of course, pose no risk to themselves or their families. As more and more people scan labels and packages for information about where their food came from and how it was made, transparency will play an increasingly crucial role in a meat producer’s brand image. It really comes down to trust: If consumers don’t trust your brand, they’ll be more than happy to buy another company’s product. Meat traceability satiates a consumer’s need for information, which builds trust with your brand.

From farm to table, rfxcel’s food supply chain solutions have you covered. Our award-winning Traceability System (rTS) is the basis of a modernized, digital supply chain with fully customizable and scalable solutions that yield complete end-to-end meat traceability. It is the foundation of a digital supply chain and a successful food recall management system that operates with surgical precision.

Offering the most complete and flexible raw materials and meat traceability solution for food and beverage, we’ll help you to optimize your supply chain operations while catering to the consumers’ increasing demand for information about the meats they consume.

How a Digital Consumer Goods Supply Chain Builds Brand Reputation & Trust

Everybody knows people don’t shop like they used to. Today, consumers demand detailed information about the goods they purchase and expect to interact with products far beyond the point of sale. To make this happen, companies have to build a sharable product provenance and create a product experience. And they can do this with a digital consumer goods supply chain. Let’s see how.

What is a digital consumer goods supply chain?

First, let’s establish that when we talk about a digital consumer goods supply chain, we’re really talking about a digital supply chain for consumer goods.

What do we mean by this? Well, though a digital supply chain can most definitely be designed to serve the specific and unique needs of any industry — consumer goods, for example — in and of itself, it doesn’t discern or care about what industry it’s working for. It’s an important distinction, because any industry can (and should) have digital supply chain.

So, a digital consumer goods supply chain is exactly that: a digital supply chain for consumer goods. It has all the wonderful, powerful, customizable, data-centric capabilities of a digital supply chain “pointed at” the specific and unique needs of a consumer goods company. That can mean an apparel company, a company that makes fast-moving consumer goods, or a laundry detergent concern.

To break it down with industry lingo, a digital consumer goods supply chain will optimize operations for the four types of consumer goods: convenience products, shopping products, specialty products, and unsought products.

Using a digital supply chain to secure brand reputation and trust

Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

Franklin (probably) wasn’t thinking about the ability of a digital consumer goods supply chain to deliver end-to-end visibility and transparency, or its unique ability to engage people almost everywhere they go, before and after a sale. But if we could explain to Ben what all this means, he would (definitely) agree that a digital consumer goods supply chain was the key to securing brand reputation and trust.

Here’s how.

End-to-end visibility

End-to-end visibility in a digital consumer goods supply chain creates a full, traceable provenance for every product. You can add critical tracking events and key data elements at any point in your supply chain. For example, add a photo of a product as it leaves the factory or integrate a quality inspection to enrich the data associated with the product. Consumers can access this information and confirm that your product is what you say it is. This burnishes your reputation and builds trust with the people who buy your products or are thinking about buying your products.

And let’s not forget the other benefits of end-to-end visibility. (In fact, all the things we’re talking about have additional benefits for consumer goods companies.) If you can see every part of your digital consumer goods supply chain from one end to the other, you’ll be able to manage operations more efficiently, including dealing with recalls and other crisis situations. You’ll make it harder for counterfeits and fakes to reach consumers. You’ll consolidate data to improve processes, outcomes, and product quality. And you’ll be empowered to make better decisions based on that data.

End-to-end transparency

Transparency is a kind of “full disclosure” about what happens in your supply chain. For example, were the ingredients sourced in sustainable manner? Are all actors in your supply chain adhering to regulations and other pertinent laws?

And consumers want transparency. According to one recent study, a staggering 81 percent of food shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them — and if they don’t get it, they’re more than happy to buy another brand.

In a digital consumer goods supply chain, consumers can verify that you employ sustainable practices to make and deliver your products. They can get information that shows exactly where and how their shoes or clothing were manufactured. And if they can see that you’re doing everything “right,” your reputation will grow and they’ll trust you more (and maybe even tell their friends about you.)

Engage people almost everywhere they go

The customer is always right — but today that means more than merely ensuring they’re happy with your goods and services. Now it means you’re nurturing a committed relationship. Therefore, when we talk about engagement in a digital consumer goods supply chain, we’re talking about bringing the supply chain directly to consumers. Sharing details (not just visibility and transparency, by the way) and bringing people into the “world” of your brand.

The most effective way to do this is to use mobile traceability technology, which of course is all digital. It puts the supply chain right into the consumer’s hands. For example, using their mobile device, a person scans a 2D Data Matrix code on your product and is taken to a website full of relevant content, special offers, and so on. If you sell shoes, it may be a video of a famous athlete wearing your latest model. If you sell food items, it could be recipes or information about where the ingredients came from. It can be anything you want, really, from coupons to information about your sustainability and environmental efforts.

By taking advantage of mobile traceability, you’ll build your brand reputation and trust by presenting visibility and traceability information in a clear, compelling manner; enabling consumers to share a pre- and post-sale experience with your product; and fostering a lifelong relationship with your brand.

Final thoughts

If you don’t have a digital consumer goods supply chain, you aren’t maximizing your potential for building your brand reputation and consumer trust. Plus, you’re missing out on its many other benefits, including:

  • Monitoring and protecting your products 24/7
  • Mitigating risk and supply chain blind spots
  • Combatting counterfeits, fakes, and theft
  • Automating your workflow
  • Eliminating paper records
  • Future-proofing your operations

If you don’t have a digital supply chain, it’s all right. rfxcel was made for this moment. Our digital supply chain solutions, anchored by our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System, feature leading-edge products like our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring solution and MobileTraceability app for supply chain traceability and visibility. Our teams of experts can help you create a digital consumer goods supply chain that builds your brand reputation and consumer trust while delivering all the other benefits we’ve discussed above. Contact us today to find out more.

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COVID-19: Now Is the Time for Food Supply Chain Transparency

The novel coronavirus pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in food supply chains around the world. It’s also pushed the conversation about food supply chain transparency into the public square. Indeed, it’s likely that more people are thinking about supply chains today than at any other time in history.

However, it’s prudent to point out that the industry has resisted full end-to-end transparency. In light of the pandemic — and with the U.S. food supply chain in the news in recent weeks — we might have approached what’s commonly referred to as a teachable moment. The question is, will stakeholders finally realize that food supply chain transparency is in everybody’s best interest?

Why is there industry resistance to food supply chain transparency?

The main reason for resistance is that the industry views food supply chain transparency as a cost instead of an investment. As we pointed out in our “Seafood Supply Chain Traceability Trilogy,” it takes money — sometimes a lot of money — to implement the necessary systems.

Resistance also stems from the fact that supply chains weren’t really designed to be transparent. Companies see their supply chains as things to be guarded, proprietary infrastructure that’s nobody’s business but their own. Why should they “give away” information that could jeopardize their market position or possibly harm their reputation?

Another facet of this built-in opaqueness is that companies can’t always keep tabs on what their trading partners are doing. If an upstream or downstream partner is bending or breaking the law or otherwise doing something they shouldn’t, how can the company know? The gist of this problem is data: If it’s collected at all, it may be incomplete or just plain wrong.

And one final thought: Does the resistance mean the industry actually doesn’t want to be held accountable? Though some companies say that they care and want to held accountable, if they don’t embrace food supply chain transparency, this amounts to an empty promise and deflecting accountability to their trading partners.

Why we need food supply chain transparency in the time of COVID-19 — and beyond

The benefits of food supply chain transparency are not contingent upon world events (though transparency helps companies stay steady when events bring risk and uncertainty). They are what they are, no matter the circumstances. But the pandemic has illuminated the benefits, like a lightbulb going off over the collective head of the industry. Specifically, we need food supply chain transparency now for several key reasons:

    • It decreases risk. Food supply chain transparency helps companies identify problems and risks before they escalate into a crisis (or crises). If all trading partners adhere to the same clear standards and can be held accountable for their actions, they’re more likely to self-govern to avoid trouble. Furthermore, with everybody “on the same team,” it’s significantly easier to solve a problem.
    • It boosts efficiency. As we just said, food supply chain transparency gets everybody on the same team. And with teamwork comes efficiency. Stakeholders keep each another informed, enabling upstream and downstream trading partners to make better decisions, take pre-emptive action when needed (instead of waiting to react to a problem after the fact), and keep the supply chain moving.
    • It helps increase the volume of actionable data. Transparency means being open about what you’re doing — which means sharing data about your operations with your partners, customers/consumers, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders. With more high-quality data flowing inside and outside of the supply chain, every aspect of your operations can be improved.
    • It encourages cooperation. When trading partners have seen their risks lowered and efficiency increased, they’ll be motivated, if not inspired, to cooperate more. Cooperation is great when things are going well; it’s even better if a problem arises. For example, if there’s a recall, everyone will know how to work together to get the product out of the supply chain.
    • It increases supply chain resiliency. Transparency means you can know what’s going on in your supply chain, share information with your trading partners, put it in the context of events, and execute course corrections quickly. For example, if a factory closes due to a natural disaster, political unrest, or a pandemic, transparency intel empowers you assess the situation, see the real and potential impacts on your operations, and make necessary changes. All of this makes your organization more agile and the supply chain stronger.
    • It inspires trust. The ultimate result of food supply chain transparency is trust among all supply chain stakeholders, from manufacturers all the way to consumers. Without trust, systems can break down. That’s the last thing you want to happen during a crises.

Final thoughts

rfxcel is committed to transparency in every supply chain — food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, and government. As we’ve shown, it’s an indispensable tool that’s more important today than ever before.

When external factors such as the current pandemic affect supply chains, transparency helps ensure products are delivered on time, safely, and to exactly the right location and/or person. It helps vital supply chains keep moving. It helps guarantee a product’s authenticity (i.e., no food fraud or counterfeit drugs). It helps protect the public health and safety.

For food supply chain transparency, our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) offers the most complete and flexible raw materials and finished goods traceability solution for the industry. Our rfxcel MobileTraceability app heightens transparency even further, able to track any batch, movement, and handler at any location. And our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution lets all stakeholders see their products in real time and mine rich unit-level data about more than a dozen environmental conditions.

Learn more about these and our other solutions for food and beverage here and contact us to start a conversation about transparency in your supply chain.

 

Compelling Arguments for Transparency in the Global Seafood Supply Chain

This is the last installment of our global seafood supply chain Transparency Trilogy. Thanks for reading!

If you read our first and second blogs about transparency in the global seafood supply chain, you probably feel that the seafood sector needs to change its tune. Sure, industry thought leaders are re-evaluating how they do business and have taken some initial steps to make transparency the norm — that’s what leaders do — but widespread change has yet to come.

The seafood supply chain remains opaque and complex. There are countless opportunities for products to be compromised as they change hands over and over again on their global journey “from catch to plate.” Fish populations continue to be depleted. Trading partners don’t always trust each other, and they certainly don’t always like to share their data (if they have any data at all). And people continue to be exploited and abused on land and sea.

Let’s look at a few of the most pressing problems facing the industry and how transparency can help solve them.

The specter of slavery

Yes, slavery.

In a 2014 blog post, Human Trafficking Search, an international organization that seeks to raise awareness and help prevent and eliminate human trafficking worldwide, wrote, “It is not a new revelation that slavery plagues the global food system.”

So, six years ago, slavery was “not a new revelation.” Alas, more recent headlines confirm the global seafood supply chain has not dealt with this problem:

If ever there was an argument for change in the global seafood supply chain, this is it. Transparency will combat slavery by shining a light on who is doing the fishing, who is processing and transporting the seafood, etc. We’re all in.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing

UII fishing includes fishing during off-season breeding periods, catching and selling unmanaged fish stocks, and selling fish caught by slaves. It threatens the stability of seafood ecosystems in every body of water where it occurs.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IUU fishing “remains one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its potent ability to undermine national and regional efforts to manage fisheries sustainably as well as endeavors to conserve marine biodiversity.”

Furthermore, the FAO reports that IUU fishing accounts for as much as 26 million tons of seafood annually, valued between $10-23 billion. It capitalizes on corrupt governments and exploits weak management systems. In some countries, it has been linked to organized crime. It depletes resources, which can cause local fisheries to collapse. It threatens livelihoods, intensifies poverty, and increases food insecurity.

Transparency helps mitigate UII fishing because it enables buyers and wholesalers to guarantee the provenance of their product. It will help shrink markets for illegally sourced fish, as more trading partners — and consumers — will demand data that proves seafood is from a legal, regulated source and has been reported to the appropriate government agencies.

Food fraud

Food fraud is the illegal practice of substituting one food for another. It’s very dangerous, and it happens around the world, usually when the supply for a commodity fluctuates. To keep an in-demand product flowing to customers, fishermen and restaurateurs can feel pressure to commit seafood fraud, replacing one species for another.

Studies by Oceana, which works to protect and restore the Earth’s oceans, illustrate how pervasive food fraud is. For example, between March and August 2018:

    • Twenty-one percent of 449 fish Oceana researchers tested were mislabeled.
    • One-third of establishments sold mislabeled seafood.
    • Mislabeling was found at 26 percent of restaurants, 24 percent of small markets, and 12 percent of larger chain grocery stores.
    • Sea bass and snapper were mislabeled the most.

Transparency fights food fraud by holding all nodes of the seafood supply chain accountable for what they’re selling. Put simply, with transparency, there’s nowhere for unscrupulous actors to hide.

Consumer health and food safety

Without a transparent supply chain, it’s difficult to safeguard consumer health and food safety. Imagine what a widespread foodborne illness outbreak and consequent recalls would look like without supply chain transparency and traceability.

As with the problems we’ve discussed above, the seafood industry isn’t fully part of the solution for consumer health and food safety concerns. Food fraud (species substitution) continues to make people sick and cause death. Mishandled seafood continues to carry high histamine levels, posing health risks to millions of people.

People want to assume they are eating safe, authentic food. Transparency will not only give consumers peace of mind, it will go a long way to build — or rebuild — their sense of trust with the seafood industry. In every aspect, transparency is a win-win for everybody.

Final thoughts about transparency in the global seafood supply chain

To wrap up our transparency trilogy, we want the seafood industry to know that supply chain transparency is within reach and that it doesn’t have to be painful.

Forgive the pun, but the world is the industry’s oyster: Help is available all around you. Government and global initiatives such as the GDST want to work with you to become more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethical. Consumers are also ready to help; if you build transparency into your supply chain, they will come.

And rfxcel is with you too, here to answer your questions about achieving transparency in your supply chain. We want you to know you have three options that we call “Keep, Replace, Provide”:

    • Keep your current system, but integrate it with new solutions.
    • Replace outdated systems with less complicated solutions that, in the long run, do more for less money.
    • Look to rfxcel to provide a new supply chain system that closes all the gaps and brings you to full transparency.

Take a look at our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS), the most complete and flexible raw materials and finished goods traceability solution for the industry. Check out our rfxcel MobileTraceability app, which can track any batch, movement, and handler at any location, putting the power of a digital supply chain at your fingertips. And our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution lets supply chain actors see their products in real time and mine rich unit-level data about more than a dozen environmental conditions.

Learn more about these and our other solutions for F&B here and contact us to start a conversation about transparency in your supply chain.

How Transparency Benefits the Global Seafood Supply Chain

This is Part 2 of our global seafood supply chain Transparency Trilogy. Check back on Friday for the last installment, as well as other food and beverage news!

In the first part of our trilogy, we talked about why the worldwide call for global seafood supply chain transparency has gotten louder and louder. Now we’re ready to talk about how transparency benefits the supply chain itself.

Spoiler alert: It just makes everything better!

Can a penny-pincher be proactive?

If asked, most seafood companies would probably say their intentions are good and they support a “do no harm” approach in their operations. They see themselves as guardians of a well-managed resource; indeed, they’d argue that it’s in their best interests to promote sustainability, legal fishing practices, environmental responsibility, and supply chain transparency. After all, if fish populations dwindle, they could be out of business.

Many companies have policies that require their buyers to verify (as much as possible) that the seafood they procure meets minimum standards for sustainability, safety, and quality. Such self-regulation is a good first step, but the reality is that enforcing these standards is tough. Very tough.

Lack of transparency in the supply chain is one reason for this. But given its overwhelming “pros,” why do seafood companies continue to view transparency as a cost rather than an investment? Sure, it takes money — sometimes a lot of money — to implement the systems, but there are compelling reasons for actors in the seafood industry to open their wallets and get on board with transparency in a digital supply chain.

The benefits of global seafood supply chain transparency: What stakeholders should know

From “catch to plate,” transparency benefits everybody in the seafood supply chain. Here’s how.

Suppliers. These are the processors and manufacturers. They benefit from transparency because it allows them to protect their business investments and comply with regulations. Suppliers can use transparency data to show their trading partners and consumers that they are doing things the right way, the responsible and sustainable way. Transparency also lets them control their supply chains more accurately and improves the quality of their product, also important selling points for partners and consumers.

Suppliers can also use transparency to build their brand reputations. For example, they can engage with consumers directly, using data to demonstrate that their products are sustainably sourced and legitimate, and that they are responsible corporate citizens. These are qualities that consumers will demand more, not less, as they have ever-expanding ways to verify what they’re buying and more options for where to spend their money.

Brands and distributors. Transparency lets brands and distributors know exactly what they’re purchasing, which will give them peace of mind about the origins, sustainability, and legitimacy of the products they offer. Furthermore, like suppliers, they can comply with regulations, such as the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP). Brands and distributors can also use transparency to build their reputations and solidify their relationships with customers. Being able to prove the who, what, when, where, how, and why of their products is a powerful tool for branding and communications.

Retailers, food service groups/providers, and consumers. High-quality products with traceable provenance give retailers and food service companies better control over their supply chains and more ways (i.e., data) to protect their brands. Like suppliers, brands, and distributors, they’ll be able to entice customers and secure their loyalty.

At the very end of the supply chain, it’s consumers who stand to gain the most from transparency. They’ll know where their seafood comes from. They’ll know it’s safe, and they’ll feel good about being responsible shoppers. And as transparency really becomes the norm, they’ll be inclined to purchase only products that can prove provenance, and only from companies that can prove they are “doing the right thing” when it comes to the global seafood supply chain.

Final thoughts about global seafood supply chain transparency

rfxcel is part of the transparency solution. If you read our last blog about transparency in the global seafood supply chain, you’ve seen that our solutions optimize traceability, transparency, efficiency, and quality so supply chain stakeholders and consumers alike can reap the benefits.

For seafood and all other F&B supply chains, the latest version of our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) is the most complete and flexible raw materials and finished goods traceability solution for the industry. Our rfxcel MobileTraceability app can track any batch, movement, and handler at any location, putting the power of a digital supply chain at your fingertips. And with our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution, supply chain actors can see their products in real time and mine rich unit-level data about more than a dozen environmental conditions.

Learn more about these and our other solutions for F&B here.

READ THE LAST INSTALLMENT OF OUR SEAFOOD TRANSPARENCY TRILOGY

The Importance of Transparency in the Global Seafood Supply Chain

This is the first of a global seafood supply chain Transparency Trilogy. Check back later this week for the second and third installments, as well as other food and beverage news!

The seafood you buy at your grocery store or eat at a restaurant made its way to you through one of the most fragmented food supply chains on the planet. The global seafood supply chain is like, if we may, an octopus: It’s many arms are spread out into international waters, are wrapped around waterways within nations’ borders, embrace millions of workers at all social strata, and move up and down through a notoriously opaque and difficult-to-manage supply chain.

For these and other reasons, most notably intense supply/demand and price pressure, the worldwide call for transparency in the global seafood supply chain has gotten louder and louder. From international environmental and conservation groups all the way to final consumers, the chorus is for better management, sustainability, and transparency.

rfxcel is committed to transparency in every supply chain — food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, and government. This is why we’re proud to have been invited to sign a letter of support for an initiative put forth by The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST, or “the Dialogue”). Let’s talk about this and other important programs that want to bring transparency — and much more — to the global seafood supply chain.

The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability

The GDST is “an international, business-to-business platform established to advance a unified framework for interoperable seafood traceability practices.” It brings together seafood stakeholders and civil society experts to develop interoperable industry standards. Its goals include improving the reliability of product information, reducing the cost of traceability, helping minimize risk in the supply chain, and facilitating long-term social and environmental sustainability.

rfxcel was invited to be a signatory to its GDST 1.0 Standards. Launched on March 16, 2020, these standards aim to harness the power of data to support traceability and methods to guarantee that seafood products are sourced legally.

GDST 1.0 has two objectives:

  1. Harmonize the data standards so all supply chain actors can share data. To make interoperability possible, it calls for all nodes to create Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) events. (EPCIS is a GS1 standard that allows trading partners to share information about products as they pass through a supply chain.)
  2. Define the key data elements that trading partners must capture and share to ensure the supply chain is free from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to collect relevant data for resource management.

The Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration

Tuna is a universally popular protein, found on both the shelves of your local supermarket and at fine restaurants serving high-end sashimi. By 2014, the sector was catching 5 million tons of commercial tuna species worth almost $40 billion. Not surprisingly, such intense demand has put a huge strain on the species and marine systems in general.

The Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration is dedicated to “stopping illegal tuna from coming to market.” Under the aegis of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which believes traceability and transparency is one of the best ways to ensure a sustainable commercial future for tuna fishing,

the Declaration establishes a set of actionable standards and brings together companies, traders, government bodies, and civil organizations. A non-legally binding declaration, it focuses on implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14, specifically Target 14.4, which is worth quoting in full:

By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics

The Global Tuna Alliance

The Global Tuna Alliance is dedicated to improving the sustainability of the tuna sector. An independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies, it supports the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration commitments to tuna traceability, socially responsible tuna supply chains, environmentally responsible tuna sources, and government partnerships. It supports developing harvest strategies for tuna fisheries, avoiding products yielded from IUU fishing, and progressing work on human rights in tuna fisheries.

rfxcel is part of the transparency solution in the global seafood supply chain

We’re excited to be part of the team working on the GDST 1.0 Standards. It’s our mission to optimize traceability, transparency, efficiency, and quality so supply chain stakeholders and consumers alike can reap the benefits. We are definitely part of the solution.

For seafood and all other F&B supply chains, the latest version of our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) is the most complete and flexible raw materials and finished goods traceability solution for the industry. Our rfxcel MobileTraceability app can track any batch, movement, and handler at any location, putting the power of a digital supply chain at your fingertips. And with our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution, supply chain actors can see their products in real time and mine rich unit-level data about more than a dozen environmental conditions.

Learn more about these and our other solutions for F&B here.

READ PART 2 OF OUR SEAFOOD TRANSPARENCY TRILOGY