'Turn traceability into a marketing tool,' say creators of farm-to-fork smartphone app

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

OriginTrail is the first solution that allows manufacturers to turn their words on traceable supply chains into action, says CEO and co-founder, Tomaž Levak. T© iStock / Anetlanda
OriginTrail is the first solution that allows manufacturers to turn their words on traceable supply chains into action, says CEO and co-founder, Tomaž Levak. T© iStock / Anetlanda
OriginTrail, an app created by Slovenian startup that allows consumers to scan processed products in the supermarket and trace ingredients back to the farm, means manufacturers can turn transparency commitments into action, say its creators, who have set their sights on expanding to other EU countries. 

From mistrust in murky supply chains following the horsemeat scandal of a few years ago to the more recent backlash against UK retailers using fictitious farm names to sell private label products, the spotlight is increasingly on product provenance and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

For OriginTrail this is an opportunity for industry to give consumers exactly what they want.

CEO and co-founder, Tomaž Levak, told FoodNavigator the app is designed to help those producers, companies or brand owners that are confident in their suppliers and proud of provenance of their ​products.

"We allow them to unveil the origin of their products all the way back to every single farm that provided milk, meat, fruit or vegetables that can be found in the final product. Brands and producers are already trying to differentiate themselves on the marketplace based on their provenance with different methods. OriginTrail is the first solution that allows them to turn their words into action.”

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The app can be used for complex formulations with multiple ingredients as well as single ingredient products. The more complex a product formulation, the bigger the challenge to show how robust OriginTrail really is, he said.

Launched in Slovenia in October 2014, OriginTrail quickly tapped the three most important Slovenian food sectors. In the dairy sector, Mlekarna Celeia was the first to join and registered all their products under the brand Zelene doline; Natureta, one of Slovenia’s biggest brands for packaged vegetables signed up; and the region’s largest poultry producer Perutnina Ptuj got involved.

Levak and fellow co-founder, Žiga Drev, have set their sights on a Europe-wide application of the app but are first focusing on Scandinavian countries where they are already in the process of working with some of the larger meat and dairy companies. 

A communication platform

The app also acts as a communication platform, allowing firms to inform consumers of interesting activities through direct push notifications. Meanwhile, shoppers can rate and comment on every single product they scan which helps both producers and consumers gain important insights into consumer preferences.

Producers and manufacturers that sign up to OriginTrail can do so without having to change their production process or IT infrastructure. “We provide a clean way to integrate your data into our system on a daily basis through a simple interface,”​ say the creators, who have worked with companies of various sizes to ensure the data exchange protocol is in line with the enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that most companies use. This means that signing up to the scheme is simple and takes around 14 days. 

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Go beyond a logo

“We strongly believe untraceable food will become a thing of a past,” ​said Levak. “People will no longer be prepared to consume food with unknown origin, such products will become a domain of the ‘grey market’. This is a trend we expect to see throughout the EU, first strides can even be seen at the regulatory level with EU bodies asking producers to provide more information on origin for shoppers.”

The app can allow companies to go beyond quality schemes or provenance stamps, such as the UK’s Red Tractor logo, by allowing consumers to find out immediately, while still in the supermarket, the exact farm that a particular product came from.

But, Levak said the app is not intended to be a competitor to such schemes, adding that it could in fact help such organisations achieve their goals as a tool for them to use.   

Drev said feedback from producers has so far been positive. “The farmers that supply milk, meat or vegetables have been very positive about OriginTrail giving consumers the ability to see where the ingredients in end products come from. [They] are confident that the transparency the system provides will result in higher consumer confidence and shopping preference for their products,” ​he said.

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