Connecting Food is a startup in the supply chain transparency space (specifically in food as the name would imply). They have developed a platform powered by blockchain to provide real-time traceability of food products, and have several large customers in the agri-food space, including Herta.
To discuss this initiative, I invited Connecting Food co-founder and Managing Director Maxine Roper, and Herta Supply Chain Director Daniel Amaro to come on the podcast.
We had an excellent conversation and, as is often the case, I learned loads, I hope you do too...
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Within a year, with the support of all the teams of connecting food and the commitment of our partners, we succeeded to launch this blockchain on one SKU. And then with the learnings we have from this pilot, we have recently launched, nine months later, six SKU's with the blockchain certified by Connecting Food, which was quite nice results in such a limited period of time.Tom Raftery:
Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening wherever you are in the world. This is the digital supply chain podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain. And I'm your host, global Vice President at SAP. Tom Raftery. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the digital supply chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery with SAP and you'll have to excuse my voice today. It's a little bit hoarse. Apologies for that, but we'll we'll muddle through. My two very special guests on the podcast this morning are Daniel and Maxine, Daniel and Maxine. Would you like to introduce yourselves with maybe Maxine going first?Maxine Roper:
Yeah. Hi, everybody. My name is Maxine Roper. I'm co founder of Connecting Food. And I come from the food industry. And I created connecting food in 2016 with Stefano and very pleased to be here with you today.Tom Raftery:
supurb and Daniel.Daniel Amaro:
Good morning, Tom. And sorry for my French accent, on my side and French. Good morning, everyone. Happy to be here with you today. My name is Daniel Amaro. I'm the supply chain director for Herta in France. Would you like me to introduce a little bit Herta?Tom Raftery:
Please? Please do?Daniel Amaro:
Yes. So Herta is the first fmcg brand purchased in France from the ninth consecutive year as per the annual KANTAR brand footprint survey. So it's a huge brand in France, actually. We're operating in the chilled food business. Okay, well, our products are present nine fridges out of 10. And we have achieved more or less 1 billion euro consumer sales in 2020. So while we are the leading brand in charcuterie and in rolled dough in France, and so we are investing a lot more than 85 million Euro in the next three years, we'll invest in our factories in our supply chain, to support our growth, to innovate. And also, like we did on the product with a preservation without nitrite, for instance, on the ham brand, and recently with our blockchain project we'll discuss this morning. So to conclude, has been a Nestle brand during 34 years. And now, we are a joint venture 60/40 between Casa Taradellas based in Spain. It is the Spanish leader for charcuterie and chilled pizzas and Nestle and myself have more than 25 years at Nestle in various supply chain roles at French and international level.Tom Raftery:
tremendous tremendous, very good. Thank you, Daniel. And Maxine. Tell us a little bit about connecting food.Maxine Roper:
Yes, with pleasure. So connecting food. So we're providing b2b tech solutions, we're using blockchain technology, but also a smart module, which we call live audit. And we're enabling agri food industry actors to carry out end to end traceability from the farm right down to fork and also to digitally audit those products at batch level to check that quality, safety and sustainability criteria are in line with specifications. So basically, we're enabling brands to showcase information and prove to consumers that the promises of that brand are kept in every single product batch.Tom Raftery:
Okay, tremendous. And I'm assuming that the reason that you aren't are on the podcast together is because you've gone on a joint project together, correct?Maxine Roper:
Yes, indeed, we've been we've been working together for over two years, specifically with Daniel and his team. And in fact, it started with our co founder, Stephen oval, p who he met with our new dibawa, the president of efter. In in a big agricultural event in Paris two years ago, it all started from there. And the last two years we've been working together on on several different projects. So it's been going very well. Maybe I'll let Daniel, talk a little bit about that.Daniel Amaro:
Yeah, sure. After this initial contact that Arnaud had got with Maxine and Stefano, we quickly received Maxine and Stefano, you know, in our offices, and we wanted to share our thoughts on the new consumer expectations, especially on end to end traceability and transparency. There was a growing trend on the on this side, and they wanted, we know that the consumer wanted to know more about our practices, and we'd like to respond to the challenges as a leading brand. And we know that we will have some challenges to face the complexity that we have on the upstream supply chain, and also in our internal processes that are quite complex. So Maxine and Stefano shared with us the different business cases that they've developed and the projects that they've already achieved previously, they have a deep knowledge on the agriculture world that was very interesting to us, and also of the blockchain technology. Ultimately, they shared a lot about this live audit concept that Maxine just talked about. And they also had very smart web app. So all in all, with that, indeed, Connecting Food was the partner we're looking from for our project.Tom Raftery:
Okay, so can you tell me a little bit about the project? What I mean, you've talked in broad strokes, what the project is, but can you give me a little more of a practical example? What does it do for me, the consumer, and what does it do for you, Daniel, the company?Daniel Amaro:
Yes, sure. So internal traceability within our walls was something we were mastering very well, because we're using for a long time as SAP as a being in the Nestle world, it was a global project that has been starting years ago. So all what was inside our walls was very well mastered and there was no issue on that. But the rest I mean, there's the outside world was more challenging, and new. And we needed this strong collaboration with our external partners, mainly informing, and wanting to get helped by startups, like connecting food, of course. So we decided to go for a pilot, it was in a very agile way. And like test and learn mode, the idea was to make it very simple to make it successful and in very limited period of time to think about deploying, further on. So we choose, we elected a product, This was the ham called "Tendre Noix", without antibiotic so it was like "sans antibiotique" in French, we embarked in the project three animal feed producers, one group of farmers, one slaughterhouse, and one of our factories. So this was a simplest so that we could do, but it was already quite complex. And within a year, with the support of all the teams of connecting food and the commitment of our partners, we succeeded to launch this blockchain on one SKU. And then with the learnings we have from this pilot, we have recently launched, nine months later, six SKU's with the blockchain certified by Connecting Food, which was quite nice results in such a limited period of time.Tom Raftery:
Superb, superb. And Maxine, can you maybe walk me back a bit? First of all, tell me why is connecting food in this space? And then talk to me a little bit more from your side? What do you think you're providing for Herta? From from a consumers perspective, and you know, from your own perspective,Maxine Roper:
yeah. And well, actually, both Stefano and myself, both the co founders, we, we have a agri food background, we work for over 20 years in the in the in the industry in Les les miles, then own Sara Lee, but also working in the upstream agricultural side, supplying these companies. And when we were working there, we saw the opportunity to bring more transparency into supply chains, and actually to use that transparency for brands and different actors along the supply chain, to be able to collaborate and to use technology to do that, and also to connect with the consumer, because we saw that the marketing side was changing as well. Whereas traditionally, brands were doing storytelling towards consumers. Whereas consumers are looking more into, you know, the actual proof, where does the food come from, how was it made, and who made it, which is quite a basic story, but which is actually really interesting. And by using technology, we were able to connect the different actors along the supply chain, and to connect the brands to the consumer, or the consumer with their food. And that's what we really saw this opportunity in 2016. We saw the opportunity of blockchain to be doing that which was not currently really used in 2016 in food. And that's really where we left our jobs to create connecting food because we saw this amazing opportunity and working with the healthcare brand. We thought that was really interesting as well because of the openness of the teams and also the their objective, which was in line with what we were really doing to really show the great work which is being done By the half, two partners all the way along the supply chain, animal feed producers, the farm, the slaughterhouse and the plant, because that's the real story. And there are a lot of people in that real story that are doing tremendous things. And so what we were really doing is using technology to be able to prove what was really happening in the supply chain. And consumers are really interested in that true story and what we call the marketing of proof in as much as if it's written, no antibiotics on the pack, then you can actually say, look, there's no antibiotics in there because of all of this great stuff that's happening in the supply chain. And I also think there's a lot of pride of those actors and the on the on the farm side, but also in the abattoir or the slaughterhouse. I mean, they're, I think, being really honest, and sharing what's really happening is what consumers are looking for as well. So that was our objective and creating connecting food. And that's what we're managing to be doing with, with partners like my catheter.Tom Raftery:
So you're selling essentially, credibility, you're a kind of a seal of approval.Maxine Roper:
Yes, in fact, we can say it's like a window of transparency, that we're opening into the food chain, just to show what's actually going on and using the existing information and using what what is actually happening. And what we're actually doing is, we saw that, if you have to change the way things are being done, to be able to adapt the supply chain to the technology, that just won't happen. I mean, obviously, food is complex, and there are a lot of actors doing other things. And then using technology. If you're on a farm level, or if you're in a plant, you're not going to be wanting to change what you're doing to be able to send information into a system. So taking that information in its current format, and translating that into a digital format, and be able to use that to showcase what is happening. That's what we started by doing, saying, you know, we're not going to make, we're not gonna make things more complex, we're actually going to try and simplify things, and use what is actually really going on. And in its existing format. So that's one of the reasons I think that we get feedback saying why people way upstream, suppliers use connecting food as well as because we we know the food supply chain, and because we're actually simplifying things and not making them adapt to technology.Tom Raftery:
Very good. Very good. Daniel, any additional comments, there?Daniel Amaro:
Yes, because I think it was very strategic to herta this project, because there was transparency. But the the objective of this transparency is really to bring confidence or bring back confidence to the consumers in the food products, I would say, everyone wants to know what is in the plate? No, I think it's something that we are all seeking for, we are all questions about. And with the solution that we have with connecting food, it was a very good way an ideal way to bring back to make this communication as explained Maxine was a consumer to say, look, we were promising a lot of things, and now we can prove it. And with that we can communicate together with an app for whatever it is. And then you're bringing back a different relation and different confidence, which is tremendously important at this stage where, you know, with all the digital media information flow very quickly. So we need to have this contact and close contact with our consumers and this confidence It was clear that we had a roadmap on innovation as the number one brand. And we wanted to have this collaboration externally, we startups with with farming partners wanted to create like an ecosystem, because we know that with that, we will be stronger and will be really able to develop what has been done, which is giving at each step of the process. And even before that we with our partners, bringing the evidence that our best practices are in place are delivering value to the consumer. So as an example, if you want an example, we have been able to really prove this antibiotic free breeding, the GMO free animal feed, etc, etc.Tom Raftery:
So, yeah, I was gonna say can you speak to some of the benefits you've seen from this,Daniel Amaro:
the clear benefit is that we have some commitments that were done since 2013 that are called after "Herta's Engage", which is kind of our specifications that we have with our suppliers, but who knows about in deep on our consumers about these specifications except if you go on our website, but if you're not going to our website, we know that now everyone's got a smartphone, I mean, nobody's going to use a computer to get information, you go to the smartphone. And with this app, we have all our commitments that are in the app and can go to the consumer more easily. It's flowing very nicely to the people. And then we can have the feedback. And for us collecting the feedback and this cycle of continuous improvement is very important. Okay.Maxine Roper:
Yeah, I can also maybe add something. Sure. I think, just to build on what Daniel was saying, I think there's also the fact that packaging is becoming smaller and smaller, because of environmental restraints, constraints, but also, there, there are a huge amount of things going on, you know, behind that product, and to have the QR code on the pack can actually extend that packaging for the consumer. And the brand says, you know, find out what's going on behind this pack. And, you know, you look it out, look at all our different commitments that the brand has taken. And the consumer can scan that QR code with the phone on the on the smartphone, sorry, the camera on the smartphone, which opens up a web app, which would just so show some information, information, which is quite simple, saying this is the journey, the product has been through that this particular batch. And so that's what's interesting is it the information is batch specific showing it's the true story and not just general story that can show what date that can show the specific dates that the the pigs were bred in that particular batch was, so the all the different actions that are on that product. And then obviously, consumers can look at whatever they're interested in. Because there's not enough room to be talking about that on on tax. And also the digital side of things means that it's real time. So if you're on a farm level, and if I talk about a different product, for example, if you talk about milk, you can actually show the farms where the milk was collected in that particular bottle. So it's very batch specific. And it's the true story behind what's happened in this ham brand, or in this milk bottle. And that's what's bringing the marketing of truth and the marketing of proof on to back into the marketing for different food products today,Tom Raftery:
this must also have implications in the event of a recall situation knowMaxine Roper:
that there are advantages in their supply chain of bounces. Obviously, when you're working on real time, batch level traceability, you can bring efficiencies and more, you know, reactivity into the supply chain. Definitely, no, no. SoDaniel Amaro:
it's nice that you're talking about it Tom because we see a lot of future developments for the QR code applications, you know that we have the EAN CODE for so many years now in the in the supply chain and on the products. Clearly, embedding this QR code on the packs could open door to lots of new applications that will be very interesting. As you said, for instance, if you have a recall, if you can trace with the code and even do it in the shop, then it will be more safer to be sure that you are not getting any product that are concerned by recall, in your home and even if you're connected with the app, you can get it on your smartphone an alert so there are future developments, but what is really critical is to develop standards. And this is still a moving world and we're working on it. I think you have the GS1 that would work on it. And they are doing that to get a way to collaborating better through this new way of working between the manufacturer, the distributors, and to the benefit of the consumer. For food, this is the future.Tom Raftery:
Fantastic. Fantastic. You mentioned, startups, Daniel, and you know, connecting food is a startup. Although I gotta say Maxine, it's impressive when we go on your website, and we see the list of reference customers you have there, I think you've 26 and most of them are known brands as reference customers on your on your homepage. So kudos to that. But Daniel, can you can you talk a bit about you know, working with startups. I mean, irda is not a startup by any means. You're a massive corporate and you know, massive corporates and startups often find it difficult to work together.Daniel Amaro:
Actually not that much, because, in fact, we have met people that came from big corporations and also there were very well understanding where we can go fast and where are the pain points. In such kind of corporate organizations, so I think it was a very good mix where we've taken the capabilities because there was so much focus on what they were doing on the technology and on the transparency, we had the idea to do that. But it was so difficult for us to allocate maybe budgets or to create the project plan, it could have taken years. So we have saved in many, many years, by adding these startups to to be corporation and I think it is the way to work on innovation more and more today, and this will go on moving that way. Because we know that, we should share the innovation part with the external world. And this is what will happen and we put a lot in our roadmap on innovation, we know that we have to create an ecosystem for startups, we started with connecting food, but there will be more coming to help us to generate new ideas and to find solutions to issues or to answer in a better way to consumer trends and consumer expectations.Maxine Roper:
Yeah, I can I totally agree with that. I think the ecosystem is the key word saying, obviously, everybody is concentrated on something and obviously very specialized and skilled in what they're doing. And to be able to have several companies working together of different sizes, often speeds up innovation, and you can co create something. And I think it's that's the way the world is going today. Obviously, things are going very fast. And what we're seeing is this possibility to be able to do say, okay, maybe it's not going to be 100% perfect when we when we start working on it, but the fact that we're working on it straight away means that in six months time, we'd have learned so much by actually working on something doing a test and learn and then launching it and then improving it, learning stuff and then doing a second, a second project, as we did with after, it means that you are the first in the market. And it means that you're actually doing stuff that nobody else is doing. And leading the way and being a pioneer. And I think that's the really the key word working in an ecosystem, to be able to, to change the way things are doing. And to test and learn and go on an industrial scale quickly, and then bring other implement other projects behind the first pioneering project to be able to change the way things are done and to be able to speed up that process of change.Daniel Amaro:
The very nice thing on it is that while you are going through this process, and you are including, for instance, as we say those partners in farming, you're raising the bar to all the people involved in the part, I think in terms of knowledge on traceability and implications in all the step of the value chain, it has brought a lot even to our partners to us, and we had a much better mutual understanding after the projectTom Raftery:
Superb, superb, so a lot of knowledge transfer. That's great. Maxine in full disclosure, I've come across yourself and connecting food through the sap.io program, the kind of accelerator program that SAP has. Do you want to talk a bit briefly about how that has benefited? connecting foods?Maxine Roper:
Yeah, I think it's interesting as well, in this, the the ecosystem I was saying about just before. And obviously, SAP are very good at what they're doing. We believe connecting food is also very complimentary, because of the fact that we come from the food industry, which is a complex industry, which is fairly opaque traditionally, and which is needing to go towards more transparency. So there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done in that industry. So connecting food being in the foundry, what we're seeing is that there is this openness, you know, where SAP is saying, okay, we know how to we're very good at certain parts of the supply chain connecting food is maybe better than SAP in other parts of the supply chain because of the fact that we are a startup and because of the fact that we are bringing new ways of doing things into into that industry. By working together. What we're actually doing is like our CTO is working with the technical team on SAP to join our two systems, if necessary. In some cases, there may be cases where SAP is in certain plants, but can't actually link with the upstream part with the farming side. And that's where Connecting food comes in. Because we're good at getting information in its existing format digitalising it, we can go right down to the consumer, or we can link up with another second provider like SAP, which may be better at, you know, very big worldwide technical needs to be able to be doing huge product recalls, for example, which means that we can be very fast, both of us in the in our own specific area, rather than each company trying to do everything from end to end, we can use the two different ways of doing things. So we're working on the technical side, we're also working with the sap sales teams as well, which are seeing the advantage of working with connecting food, what we're actually doing what we're bringing in to the industry. And I think sometimes we'll work together, sometimes you won't work together. And it's the the CO petition kind of way of working, where we're cooperating. We're also slightly in competition in some places, but going together, I think is is the way the way ahead. And that's what the, what we're seeing in the sap foundries this openness to work together and bring extra value to to our clients and to SAP clients and in general having a better value propositionTom Raftery:
lovely. Okay, folks, we're coming towards the end of the podcast. Now, is there any question I have not asked that you wish I had, or any topic we've not addressed that you think it's important for people to be aware of,Daniel Amaro:
I think if there's one thing I would like to say as a conclusion is the the ecosystem we have created with connecting food and our farming partners. And I want to thank them very much, for their obstinacy, because it has been quite a change for their way of working. But we succeeded at the end of the day in delivering value to our consumers will by bringing more transparency through the data and technology. And we think it was a great common achievement.Tom Raftery:
And I'd like to add one thing as well. And we were really pleased to be working with so with the openness and the way that they actually bring innovation into the food supply chain. We've got a whole load of new innovations in our you know, which are coming up. And we'd love to be working with errata on those as well, because we think it's a pioneer brand. Also, I just like to say to everybody to come and see the demo day in the sap foundry on July the first on six PMC t, where we'll be demonstrating what we've been doing with SAP and how we can be working in the future as well. So and just one last thing, if anybody wants to visit our website connecting food.com there's quite a lot of information on there as well.Tom Raftery:
Super, in fact, isn't it connecting dash food. There is a dash in there. Super, I have the link in the show notes anyway. Okay, folks, that's what that's where I was going to give you the opportunity. In fact, if people want to know more about yourself, Maxine Daniel, or about Herta or Connecting Food, where would you have me direct them?Maxine Roper:
Also, on LinkedIn, we post a huge amount of things on LinkedIn on the Connecting Food address.Tom Raftery:
Okay, and Daniel? Yeah,Daniel Amaro:
we have also an Herta.fr site, so we can be connected this way. And also, I'm on LinkedIn. If any question arises you can, you can put me an email and I will answer with pleasure.Tom Raftery:
Super, super. Okay, folks, thanks, again for coming on the podcast today. That's been really interesting. Thank you very much. Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks, everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chains, head on over to sa p.com slash digital supply chain or, or simply drop me an email to Tom Raftery of sap.com. If you'd like to show, please don't forget to subscribe to it and your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.