– CONTRIBUTED Opinion –
By Francine L. Shaw
Blockchain technology is not a new concept to the foodservice industry. Before the pandemic, those of us in the industry discussed blockchain technology, traceability, transparency, sustainability, digital technology, and food safety and its impact on the green revolution every day. Then COVID happened, and some of these discussions and movements seemed to take a back seat or even stop. Conferences came to a halt. Collaborations were complex — in the beginning.
Behind the scenes, many dreamers and developers continued to move forward. The average person’s typical day-to-day life had changed so much it gave those in the digital space more time to research, test, and develop new technology. And that is what they did.
Over the next few years, we will see technology trends emerge that we once thought were decades away. Digital technology is no longer an option. It is a necessity.
Software as a service (SaaS) allows users to connect to and use cloud-based apps over the internet. The most common of these are email, calendar services, and bulk email providers. SaaS products offer a complete software solution purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis from a cloud service provider. This service is the most prevalent way for most companies to do business today. We could say it is the hottest new trend of the past few years and it certainly is convenient. Before SaaS, obtaining information quickly and efficiently was much more difficult. The thing with digital technology is, there is always a history. You can’t erase it. Even if you hit “delete,” the information remains, and regulators will find it.
Wireless monitoring sensors that can control temperature and humidity will be a big trend in the upcoming year, saving companies significant money on food and energy waste. The supply chain has many moving parts, each with its own impact on the environment. The cold chain is no exception. The cold chain is estimated to be responsible for 3 percent to 3.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Considering 40 percent of all food requires refrigeration and 15 percent of the electricity used worldwide is for refrigeration, this should not come as a surprise. Cold chain emissions come from three sources: food waste, electricity, and of course refrigerants. BCG conducted a study that found a staggering $120 billion in food supplies is wasted each year because of poor storage and handling.
Blockchain technologies, something we have been discussing for a few years, are closer than we think. Transparency, traceability, and sustainability are vital to everyone in the industry. The FDA has outlined four core elements in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, and the first of these elements is tech-enabled traceability.
Traceability processes are critical to ensure all food items are traced and tracked throughout the supply chain. Traceability is essential for food safety as well as operational efficiency. With a solid traceability program, it is possible to locate a product at any stage of the food chain within the supply chain — literally from farm to table. For this technology to work well, it must be user-friendly and affordable to all — small businesses and large corporations alike. When it is available and widely used, it will minimize foodborne illness outbreaks and assist significantly with speeding up the process of finding the source if an outbreak does occur.
Affordable digital technology connecting buyers with validated verified sellers is at the forefront. This technology will reduce research time for buyers and assist with social and environmental sourcing, helping more companies buy locally with confidence.
SaaS restaurant assessment and inspection apps have become much more user-friendly and affordable. These apps can transfer valuable information to supervisors in real-time. In a critical infraction, the supervisor can follow up to ensure corrective action was taken, avoiding a possible crisis.
SaaS products have been a digital blessing to the foodservice industry. Data pipelines will continue to be an essential part of business and become even more commonplace as the digital world continues to explode. A few years ago, many people didn’t even know what data integration was. Now, I am part of the trend, assisting with the development of SaaS products that must have the ability to integrate.
Data integration has already become the backbone for many businesses because they allow excessive amounts of data to integrate from various sources. This data can then be extracted at different points to gather information and conduct analysis. This process is crucial because it means businesses can question data that has been processed to a specific point in various ways without starting over from the beginning.
And none of these trends would be anything without data analytics. I don’t know anyone in this industry who doesn’t love a beautiful pie chart or graph. Nearly every app developed has at least minimal analytics as part of the system.
Today, analytics and integration are key components of most foodservice products.
About the author: Francine L. Shaw is CEO of Savvy Food Safety & TracSavvy, co-founder of My Food Source, and a food safety expert. Shaw’s diverse background includes spending more than 20 years in the food service industry. Shaw is an international speaker who serves as an advisor for corporations and has been featured as a food safety expert in numerous media outlets, including the BBC World Series Radio, the Huffington Post, iHeartRadio, Food Safety News, Food Management Magazine, Food Fanatics, Food Service Consultants Society International, and more. She has authored more than 200 published articles about food safety.
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