The first pilot orders of Alibaba’s blockchain-based food tracking service have launched from New Zealand. The orders are on their way to China to demonstrate the potential of blockchain technology to track the supply chain process of food products and ensure food authenticity.

Alibaba Group, PwC, Blackmores and Australia Post launched the Food Trust Framework last year in an effort to combat “food fraud” — counterfeit or low quality food products being sold into China via Alibaba’s online shopping platform, Tmall.

New Zealand Post and Fonterra also joined he initiative last year.

As Which-50 reported earlier this year, ensuring the provenance of food products is a key concern for Chinese ecommerce businesses where consumers are increasingly focused on product authenticity and safety. In March, and InterAgri launched a similar initiative to track the origin of beef sold into China.

Food fraud costs the global food industry $US40 billion each year, according to research from Michigan State University. PWC, which will provide services to the framework’s participants, says 40 per cent of food companies currently find food fraud difficult to detect.

“Food fraud is a significant global challenge, particularly with the growing complexity of supply chains,” said Alibaba Group’s Alvin Liu, General Manager of Tmall Import & Export.

“In response, we have created a coordinated, world-leading and robust framework that involves stakeholders from across the supply chain to improve visibility and enhance the confidence of both end consumers and merchants.”

Blockchain-based dairy

Blackmores and Fonterra are the first companies to trial Alibaba’s Food Trust Framework. Blackmores is shipping Odorless Fish Oil while Fonterra is shipping Anchor dairy products to consumers who purchased them on Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform.

According to Alibaba, if the trials are successful the Framework could form the basis of a global supply chain model applied across all of Alibaba Group’s e-commerce markets.

“The Framework represents the next step in Alibaba’s vision to build the future infrastructure of commerce and will help give confidence to producers, merchants, logistics providers and consumers alike,” an Alibaba company statement said.

For one of the initiative’s pilot companies, Blackmores, it is an opportunity to increase transparency for its customers.

“Blackmores goes to extraordinary lengths to have visibility over our supply chain and each of our products passes 30 tests and checks before it is released for sale. So we’re exploring ways to leverage the technology and data that can provide our consumers with assurance that their trust in our products is well-placed,” said Richard Henfrey, Blackmores Chief Executive Officer.

Blackmores is one of the Australian companies taking advantage of the ‘Alibaba Opportunity’ and selling natural products into china via the ecommerce giant’s platform.

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