The INSIDER’s point of view
- In terms of initial labor and investment, blockchain technology could be seen as overkill.
- Proper end point analysis can provide the data many consumers want about ingredients.
- A brand with proven values and investments in branding provides its own quality assurances.
The industry is currently focusing much of its attention on supply chain transparency, possibly with the use of blockchain technology. While implementing blockchain every step of the way from retailer to farmer in the field is a great story and an admirable effort, installing such a system is a huge project. Examining the initial reason for blockchain adoption might help find a better solution.
If a brand is looking to prove the content of their product here and now, choosing to test it before use or release may currently be the much more viable option, providing a preview of the product at the end, rather than trying to track it down. whole chain each movement up to this point. It is also much more economically efficient and achieves the same goal of ensuring that the interested party receives the promised amounts of active ingredients and nothing more.
By some industry observers and from a certain point of view, the implementation of a project as huge as the global monitoring with blockchain is overkill, an incomparable amount of work and investment with an effect similar to that of the analysis of the end point. By focusing on efficiency, one wonders who will bear the additional costs of such a project? No part of the supply chain ever welcomes a price increase, so it is very likely to end up on the shoulders of consumers. The question is, is this really something that consumers want… to have access to vast amounts of information about every step of the supply chain? They probably won’t even be presented with all of this information, but a little snapshot of it. What the consumer needs is not more noise, nor access to lots of data, but clarity: short and unique information, a guarantee of safety and effectiveness of the product. And this can be delivered by analyzes of the finished product, presented by a mark of confidence.
Consumers concerned with transparency may also want ingredients to be produced in a sustainable manner and without worker exploitation. In an undesirable scenario, this may end up being a single image and name of an originally happy farmer who may very well have nothing to do with the integrity of the product. A consumer is unlikely to dig into actual blockchain data to prove to themselves that the photo or video provided is in fact one of the product’s roots, so the potential for misleading here is too great. While such thinking might be viewed as pessimistic by some, it is the only way responsible brands, with reputations on the line, can and should approach quality. As a scientist would approach any statement with doubt.
More than any mountain of blockchain information that few people will dig into, or any pile of certificates anyone can make, guarantees for consumers and businesses not to be fooled are. brands and trust tests.
Unfortunately, at least nowadays, PharmaLinea does not believe that there is yet complete transparency or trust in the supply chain. As such, we don’t trust any new ingredient without testing it ourselves first. Credible and responsible actors perform analyzes of incoming materials, regardless of the given Certificate of Analysis (CoA). Our experience has taught us that we are not there yet as an industry. And when choosing suppliers, we think like many consumers: go for the trusted brand. Why choose IBM, for example, over another supplier? Not mainly because its product is so much better, but because the strength of its brand does not allow the company to slip away. The way such a brand is built from scratch, the values it carries, the set of rules and consequences it has in place… simply protect the company from bad practices. From a more monetary point of view: the investments in the brand are too large for it to risk ruining its brand image with small denominations. On the contrary, companies that base their brands on low prices, permanent discounts, flashy communication, and aiming for a short, profitable run have nothing to lose with their brands; the backlash is too low and they are more likely to take shortcuts based on a simple financial decision.
A brand with the correct values and investments in branding is in a way a better guarantee of product quality than any system of supply chain transparency is currently able to offer. While efforts are underway (and maybe blockchain will one day be accessible and financially feasible), for now, it’s the brands and the risk of backlash from test results that speak for themselves. It is also worth considering whether more effort should be directed in a different direction: more stringent endpoint testing instead of full supply chain transparency.
Blaž Gorjup is president and founder of PharmaLinea SA.