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IBM blockchain connects Folgers drinkers to the origin of their brew

Folger 1850 Coffee and Farmer Connect use the tech to help encourage traceability, efficiency, and fairness in the coffee supply chain.

J.M. Smucker's 1850 Coffee aims for traceability through IBM's blockchain

Folger 1850 Coffee brand, under J.M. Smucker Company, has partnered with Farmer Connect to increase transparency via its 100% Colombian Coffee bagged blend. Using IBM blockchain technology, the companies announced on Wednesday that customers can trace their coffee back to its region of origin. 

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By scanning a QR code on the coffee bag, the consumer's device will route them to the Thank My Farmer website, which details information about where the coffee was grown, processed, exported, as well as the location of its roast, said Paul Chang, global blockchain industry leader at IBM. 

"The idea is...that the consumers can see the complete journey of the coffee bean from the farm to their package. And there are programs that [Farmer Connect] has launched to help the villages," Chang said. "The programs might be clean drinking water, putting up new schools, or coffee seedlings, or clean stoves, there's lots of programs.

"It enables the consumers to directly make a difference in the livelihood of the farmers. We can actually make a donation using our smartphones, and the donation will go directly to the village that's grown the coffee beans," Chang added.

Importance of transparency 

The main goal of this initiative is to increase transparency within the coffee supply chain, according to the release. 

The coffee industry is complicated: More than 25 million smallholder farms produce green coffee rather than the larger farms that are associated with providing the majority of other commodities.

"Farmer Connect was established to create a neutral data platform where the farmers, the traders, the roasters, and even the consumers can all extract data and extract value together," Chang said. "We partnered with Farmer Connect and Smucker's and Folgers brands, to enable this particular use case." 

SEE: How IBM uses blockchain to connect coffee drinkers and farmers (TechRepublic) 

Through the blockchain tool, consumers can be active participants in a global circular economy, wherein consumers can directly involve themselves in the agricultural communities through donations to farmers and communities, Chang said. 

The transparency is achieved via the blockchain tech by recording data associated with the coffee's journey. This tracking creates optimized accountability for coffee producers and supply chain partners and helps ensure the products are accurate compared to what is advertised, according to Chang.  

"Our blockchain has always been designed to orchestrate data from multiple different parties in a long supply chain. And we get together these different events to tell a full end-to-end traceability story," Chang noted. "Our technology is essentially providing that information."

Customers are valuing sustainability and contribution. The IBM Institute for Business Value Found that for those who say sustainability is important, 71% said they are willing to pay a premium for sustainable and environmentally responsible brands. 

"More and more consumers are becoming purpose driven [in their] approach to shopping. They want to support brands that align with their views," Chang said. "And here, Folgers is trying to create a more equitable circular economy, being able to support the farmers who are primarily in the emerging nations. This is an easy, frictionless way.

"The consumers could actively participate in contributing to [the farmers'] livelihood. There's a sort of feelgood nature of being able to contribute, but you can also trust the sourcing of the product--that it is actually coming from that village, that it's 100% Colombian, Arabica beans," Chang said. "There's a wealth of information that would make any consumer feel more confidence in purchasing these products." 

The 1850 coffee is available at Amazon, Meijer, and other retailers throughout the US and Canada.

Also see

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Farmer Connect mobile app

Image: Farmer Connect