Danone on its blockchain ‘first’: ‘Every individual baby formula pack can be traced back’

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages/stevanovicigor
©GettyImages/stevanovicigor

Related tags: Infant formula, Baby food, Danone

For the first time, dairy giant Danone is applying blockchain, serialisation, and aggregation to its infant formula packs, senior VP of operations David Boulanger tells FoodNavigator.

Danone Specialized Nutrition is launching a new Track & Connect service for its infant nutrition brands Aptamil, Nutrilon, Laboratoire Gallia, and Karicare.

The service uses a combination of blockchain, serialisation, and aggregation technology, together with a QR codes, to boost traceability ‘from farm to fork’.

According to David Boulanger, senior VP of operations at Danone Specialized Nutrition, Track & Connect responds to growing demand from consumers who ‘want to know more about the food they eat’.

“They want to know how their food is made and where it comes from. Based on what we hear from our consumers and retail partners, shoppers value information on where, when and how we make our baby formula products,” ​Boulanger told FoodNavigator.

“Since baby formulas are a highly specialised food – and for some babies, the only type of food they can consume, if breastfeeding isn’t an option – we’re keen to provide parents with more information on the journey our baby formulas take before ending up on retailers’ shelves.”

Behind Danone’s ‘unique’ solution

“This will be the first time Danone uses blockchain technology in this way,” ​Boulanger continued.

The Track & Connect service is founded on the dairy giant’s manufacturing strategy. “What’s unique is that Danone carries out this manufacturing process in-house by using a ‘global code repository’. Here, QR codes are created, managed and validated, before being printed onto packs and scanned by consumers,” ​the senior VP explained.

The outer QR code, which can be scanned either before or after purchase, gives access to batch and unit numbers that track the product through the supply chain, providing logistical information.

The inner QR code is placed behind a tamper-resistant seal, and therefore can only be scanned after purchase. “This provides a route through which Danone can ultimately offer shoppers customised after-sale support and services – such as access to health and nutritional mobile apps and information, useful ‘how to’ parenting videos, access to customer helplines or online e-commerce services,” ​we were told.

Protecting against adulteration

Safety concerns regarding infant nutrition have attracted attention in recent years. In 2019, the European Food and Safety Authority

Danone_Baby_Formula_Track__Connect_Service_Press_Photo-White_Background_Aptamil_English[1]
Danone is launching its Track & Connect service in for Aptamil, Nutrilon, Laboratoire Gallia, and Karicare brands ©Danone

(EFSA) suspected baby formula products may have been the source of a Salmonella Poona outbreak in France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The safety of Danone’s products were also called into question in July 2018 when its newly reformulated Aptamil baby milk was suspected of making some infants ill in the UK.

When asked whether food fraud and adulteration is an issue in the infant nutrition category, Boulanger said: “In the past, this has been an issue that industry, together with other partners, has worked on to address."

In addition to Danone’s quality, monitoring, and food safety processes, the tamper-resistant seal connected to its Track & Connect service is designed to add an additional layer of safety.

The inner QR code…can only be scanned after a baby formula has been purchased and opened. When scanned, it will register that pack as purchased and provide a one-off authentication message to the shopper,” ​the senior VP explained.

“Any subsequent scan of the inner QR code will trigger an alert that the product has already been opened.”

Danone will first launch its baby formula Track & Connect service in China for its Aptamil and Nutrilon brands. The company is preparing to roll out the service in France for its Laboratoire Gallia brand later this year, alongside Germany, Australia, and New Zealand launches for Aptamil and Karicare brands.

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