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Strike Two Summit’s Consumer Trust conference: EuroAfri Link Gain & Takeaways

Where is my food coming from and is it produced in a sustainable and fair manner? Is the production company transparent about the ingredients labelled on the packaging? Is my food safe for consumption? These are some of the challenges that food industries, and consumers have to deal with!.

Consumers concerns in the food industry

Today, many consumers are concerned about the choices they have to make when purchasing food. Shoppers wonder whether the packaging and labelling  honestly represents the contents and whether this item is a healthy and sustainable choice. In fact, there is no reference or information available to the consumer about authenticity based on ethical production, sustainability, economic viability, or any other value deemed important. From food scandals  to the shocking use of slave labour in production – consumers demand a change in the Agri-food sector and improvements in the the supply chain. In response, food producers have employed a number of strategies to re-gain consumer trust. The most promising developments can be seen in technological and innovative breakthroughs, which address product authenticity. These breakthroughs can help both consumers, producers and suppliers trace quality in the supply chain, thus increasing transparency in the market and building trust with consumers.

The Strike Two Summit shed more light on food safety, food quality and food circularity. The summit opened stating that ‘the future of food systems are guided by the consumer’. According to the summit:

  • one in ten people fall ill because of what they eat and,
  • less than one third of consumers truly trust their food.

Spread over three tracks, the conference explores how new technologies can improve Food Safety, Food Quality and Food Circularity.

EuroAfri Link  at Strike Two Summit’s Consumer Trust conference

EuroAfri Link  (EAL)participated in the interactive and collaborative conference for two main reasons. EAL’s mission is to facilitate links between European entrepreneurs and businesses with interests in African agriproducts and crops; and African entrepreneurs, farmers and agri-producers to EU markets for trade. It is only reasonable that we understand what the present trend in the EU agri-food market is and more importantly what the consumer wants. African agri-product sellers and producers should know what EU consumers are looking for in a product and how to incorporate that in the production system. EAL can help supply chain companies and agri-producers understand EU consumer trends and advise producers on the quality and traceability of their production systems.

EAL’s goal at the summit was to better understand the added value of a product if the production chain is transparent, sustainable and authentic; and how this can be achieved with the use of technological breakthroughs and the latest innovations.

It is clear from the panellist’s at the summit that the future of the food ecosystem is a transparent collaboration between the players in the supply chain. EAL understands that we must work with African farmers and cooperatives to increase transparency and authenticate their production system – adding value to their product and satisfying their buyers and consumers. From a consumer point of view, it is of increasing importance that any product is traceable and giants such as Google and IBM have joined the trend – the first one has already put in place mechanism to include blockchain in their production system to trace all their product, while IBM has already incorporated the technology in their system.

The plenary and group sessions of the summit focused on how to gain consumer trust across 3 tracks: 1) Food Safety, 2) Food Quality and 3) Food Circularity. EAL sees track 2 as the most relevant in our sector and will collaborate with other participants to improve consumer trust in this area.

Food quality track at Strike Two Summit’s Consumer Trust conference

The aim of this track was to answer this main question: Do consumers have  full transparency regarding food production provenance, and the impact of their purchases, to be able to make fully independent product choices?

To answer this question, participants had to look for a technology in the Solution Market (found in the start-up village) that will address this issue of consumer trust at three levels:

  • Scalability: the issue here is that supply chains are mostly local, and information is not often available. So, how do we include farmers and others to participate in the blockchain? Thus, how do we motivate others to participate?
  • Customer engagement: the uptake of QR codes (a machine-readable code like the barcode of a product at the supermarket) is limited. How can we increase customer interaction with packaging that has QR codes?
  • Data quality: How do we ensure credible food quality data?

To answer the three challenges above, the following must be taken into consideration when choosing the technology that will address these issues:

  • Incentive for customers to participate.
  • Cost of implementation of a technology like the QR code.
  • Private, as opposed to public, blockchain to instil trust.

Unilever and ScanTrust presented how they work together to instil consumer trust in the Knorr production – from their ‘clean pork’ farm to food on the table in the consumer’s home. The feedback loop of the QR code they used helps them to improve their production process and provides a better insight into consumer behaviour. Using the latest technologies and innovations, EAL and other participants were able to create a roadmap of a business ecosystem model for 2020 and 2021, which was later presented to the panel.

Moreover, Food quality track participants worked on assessing the impact of #Blockchain technology in this area. Participants working on the other tracks also assessed the impact of blockchain on food safety and food circularity; Guess What?  Food quality won the challenge!

EAL takeaways from this conference

  • It was interesting to discover and known more about innovative solutions deployed along the supply chain to make our food supply more sustainable, secure and authentic, which all gains consumer trust. This is worth sharing with EAL African smallholder farmers, especially women, and to pilot one of these ideas to develop a framework for agriproduct sourcing traceability in Europe (buyers) and Africa (Smallholders sellers).
  • Understanding what EU consumers want, and how to gain their trust, will help African smallholder farmers. In this way they can add value to their products, both in terms of quality and price, which at the end of the day, is what producers are striving for- having more money in their pockets.
  • Installing technologies and innovations that are easy to use, involve less human interaction and that are adaptable in the African context, will go a long way in motivating African producers to engage blockchain in their businesses.
  • More importantly, educating the public and smallholder farmers, cooperatives, SMEs and Common Initiative Groups, about the advantages of using blockchain in their businesses and the value it will add to their products, will help to increase the uptake of the technology and its impact in the community.

Technologies and innovations are there to instore trust in our food system. It is not 100 percent there yet since this technology is not deployed in all geographical locations. However, it is moving in the right direction. Only time will tell!

For more pictures about this event, please click here.

Author: Patience Chindong, co-founder of EAL.

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