On Tuesday (Sept. 1), Starbucks Corp. is set to begin offering public access to an unprecedented level of data about the bags of coffee it sells, right down to the identity of the farm where it was grown and the roaster where it was prepared.
On the other side of the supply chain, farmers will have near-instant access to sales and market data related to the beans they produce under the newly opened system.
The Seattle-based company says it is using blockchain technology to maintain and serve up the data.
“We have been able to trace every coffee we buy from every farm for almost two decades,” Michelle Burns, senior vice president of coffee, tea and cocoa at Starbucks, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “That allowed us to have the foundation to now build a user-friendly, consumer-driven tool that certainly provides that trust and confidence to our customers that we know where all of our coffee comes from."
For coffee blends, Starbucks will provide information about the country or region of origin, since beans from multiple farms are likely to have been combined, Bloomberg reports.
One reason Starbucks is opening the data for public examination is that significant numbers of young customers are passing over Starbucks locations in favor of the farms where they were grown, the report noted. And the company is giving farmers access to the ultimate destination of the beans they grow because some have expressed interest in learning more, Burns said.
Blockchain systems work by distributing copies of databases among multiple users. Updates to databases are sent across the network of users, and each copy is modified to reflect the new information. This decentralization provides many users with heightened confidence in the integrity of the data on the whole.
For retailers, one key advantage can be the ability to focus only on specific data of interest, according to blockchain experts.
Starbucks developed the new blockchain system to track coffee with Microsoft Corp. The two companies announced the effort more than a year ago.