Blockchain and Walmart

Nov 29, 2018

The extremely complex food supply chain for any major grocer is handled most of the time by suppliers. Walmart, however, has recently required that its providers adopt its blockchain system by September 2019. The new system will help stop delivery of bacteria-tainted veggies, such as the E. coli-infested lettuce that made its way around the country last year. Customers will buy  fresh foods coming from known sources. So, how difficult will the transition be for a company as large as Walmart?


From seven days to 2.2 seconds, faster food tracking means healthier consumers. (Source: IBM)

Walmart has been testing its new digital food supply chain, developed by IBM, for more than a year. The IBM Food Trust system promises to make the world’s food “safer, more efficient, and more sustainable.” This sounds great, but how do you implement it when most suppliers track their foods with pen and paper and complicated Excel sheets? IBM has compared the implementation process to getting a new iPhone: “The instructions are easy to understand and you’re quickly up and running.”

Earlier this year, it took roughly seven days to trace a food source. With the blockchain technology, a food source trace takes 2.2 seconds, significantly lowering the risk of contaminated food shipments. If there’s a problem once the product is in the store, Walmart can flag the food within seconds to prevent the spread of illness.

Suppliers need a smartphone and an internet connection. They upload their supply data, and Walmart handles the rest. When we hear the word “blockchain,” most of us think of Bitcoin or other digital currency, but any process that requires tracking lots of small elements can benefit. The system makes tracking sales and recalls quick and easy. Walmart can tell exactly how much money it made from those $8 salad kits within seconds!

Anything that improves food safety is welcomed. Walmart spent quite a bit of money developing the system but should save dollars and its reputation with the ability to halt delivery of recalled foods quickly. With this type of blockchain, everybody wins!