Mérieux is taking a 14% stake in French group Crystalchain. The two companies will work together, sharing technical and business knowledge. However, “for now” each company will retain its commercial functions, Philippe Sans, president and CEO of Mérieux NutriSciences, told FoodNavigator.
Blockchain is an encrypted digital register, powered by its users. It was initially developed as financial instrument, allowing the creation of bitcoin. It has since been applied to the food chain to provide full farm-to-fork traceability.
The collaboration will address some of the most pressing concerns facing the food sector today. Jointly, the companies will be able to provide enhanced services with regard to verifying product origin and authenticity, supply management and faster reaction time in case of food safety alerts and recalls.
“Food traceability is a growing issue for consumers and manufacturers that Mérieux NutriSciences wants to respond to, in line with its mission to help agri-food stakeholders protect the health of consumers,” Sans explained.
A ‘young company’ with a value proposition
Sans said that Mérieux chose to partner with Crystalchain because the start-up has demonstrated its strong value proposition. This is important given the proliferation of new blockchain service providers working to tap into growing demand for full traceability.
French retailer Carrefour began to invest in blockchain solutions in 2017. The group worked in partnership with two specialists: Crystalchain and Connecting Food.
As part of its 'Act for Food' strategy, Carrefour believes the use of blockchain tech can help reassure consumers about the safety, quality and origin of the foods they buy.
The supermarket and hypermarket operator first rolled out the tech for its free-range Quality Line Auvergne chickens and has since applied blockchain traceability to eight more product lines, including eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, salmon and ground beefsteak.
“Crystalchain has developed a solid approach to address the issues of corporate traceability. With customers such as Carrefour and Chargeur, this young company has demonstrated its value proposition. Good knowledge of agribusiness leaders is also a point of differentiation. Finally, the involvement of its founders in the blockchain standardization initiative at European level is an important asset,” he said.
Crystalchain and Mérieux NutriSciences each bring something different to the table and, in combination, Sans said that he expects to see an increase in Crystalchain’s growth rate.
“The partnership with Crystalchain provides us with technical expertise and the necessary skills to enrich our offer in this area. Crystalchain will bring its mastery of blockchain technologies, its experience and its blockchain deployment methodology to agro-food chains and its ability to mobilise players for the adoption of this cutting-edge technology.
“Mérieux NutriSciences will bring its perfect knowledge of food security issues, its knowledge of agri-food sectors, its expertise in analysis, audits and certifications.”
These qualities will make Mérieux a valuable partner in the delivery of enhanced food safety and quality to its food industry customers, Sans predicted.
“We will be able to provide our customers with a global offer to guarantee both the quality and safety of the products they market, with reliable information provided in real time.”
Crystalchain intends to leverage Mérieux NutriSciences’ global footprint. The company has a presence in 22 countries worldwide. Meanwhile, the addition of global capabilities in traceability will be an important addition to Mérieux’s capabilities.
Sans commented: “Mérieux NutriSciences has activities in 22 countries and more than 120 laboratories. Traceability issues are by definition global and we are committed to effectively supporting our customers in their various markets. Logically, the introduction of an international traceability offer is a [good] way of working.”
As part of the deal, Mérieux NutriSciences will take a seat on the Crystalchain board.