How to Plan a Food Traceability Implementation?

Food traceability became a hot topic. As more and more consumers don’t trust the food information on the labels, and 75% of them are even willing to change brand if they get more product information, leading food companies are starting to experiment with traceability applications.

But in most cases they don’t know where to start planning and implementing a traceability system, especially when they plan to use blockchain, as data ledger.

To help them, we collected the basics:

1. What do you want to achieve?

This is the basic question, as the method of implementation depends on the goals you intended to achieve. There are many potential benefits of food traceability:

Differentiate your products from the competition

Consumers appreciate transparent food information, and value tracked products higher. Blockchain has a certain PR value, which can get you headlines in newspapers.

Improve operational efficiency

You can see where the products spend too much time within your supply chain, which enables optimization of the processes, thus, decreasing food waste.

Establish direct communication with consumers

You can directly engage with consumers by using traceability, and collect valuable data about them.

Become compliant to import regulations of target countries

A growing number of countries require traceability information for imported foods (USA, China, EU, Japan, etc.).

Quicker (and targeted) product recalls

Tracing back a product to its origins will take seconds. It makes product recalls quicker, and enables recalling only the products of the specific supplier.

Position your premium products

Provide proofs of your sustainable and ethical production to justify the higher price of your premium products.

2. What products would you like to track and trace?

Each implementation starts with a pilot, where limited number of products and suppliers take part.

For the first pilots, it’s adiseable to choose products, where the supply chain does not contain too many participants. Shorter supply chain enables quicker implementation.

Another important aspect is, that pilot implementations are more successful, if they don’t include interfacing each participant’s legacy system. Customizing interfaces usually requires a lot of tests between various IT departments, which can slow down the process. Using TE-FOOD’s B2B mobile app enables much quicker pilot implementations.

3. What is the desired scope of traceability?

Traceability can be implemented in many ways, depending on your goals.

If your goal is marketing towards consumers, or quicker product recalls, you might need to implement it from farm to table.

Please note, in order to realize this scope successfully, you need to be a retailer or a food producer.

If you are an exporter, and your goal is to comply with import regulations, you need to implement it from farm to export, which needs a different approach.

If you are a producer and your goal is improving operational efficiency, your target scope is farm to production traceability.

In some cases, producers can not convince farms to provide traceability data, in this case you can implement it from production to table.

4. What roles are in the supply chain?

Companies of a supply chain represent one or more roles which perform certain activities. Usual roles of different supply chains:

5. What are the events in the supply chain, where data capture should happen?

There are a lot of events in a supply chain at each role (e.g. farm activities (feeding, harvest, etc.), production (slaughtering, milking, mixing, etc.), packaging, sending and receiving transports, etc.

It’s not necessary for each use case to track all of the activities. You decide in what depth you want to track the events of your processes. The same supply chain can track the activities in different depths.

Examples for the same fruit/vegetable supply chain process tracked with different depths.

The first one is suggested for marketing purposes towards consumers:

The second one is suggested for improving operational efficiency:

Both approaches provide farm-to-table traceability, you need to choose the desired depth according to the goals you want to achieve.

You can also use GS1 EPCIS format to standardize the communication of visibility events. TE-FOOD supports GS1 standards, where EPCIS helps standardizing the events.

6. What data do you want to collect in each step?

We usually discuss this step during consultation workshops. The goal is to define what kind of data should supply chain participants capture during the events we talked about in the previus section.

The minimum requirements for data capture are:

  • What – the identifiers of the items, batches, containers, etc.
  • Where – Location data (e.g. GLN number)
  • When – date/time of the event
  • Why – the type of the event (e.g. sending transport, harvesting, slaughtering, packaging, mixing, etc.)

The types and spectrum of data you capture depend on the goals you want to achieve.

7. How will the supply chain participants capture the data?

Multiple technologies help supply chain companies to collect data, depending on their technology levels. Some companies might already collect necessary data in a legacy system (ERP, Farm management, etc.), others don’t yet capture anything.

These are the main options for data collection:

Mobile app, web app

Easy and quick to implement, enables quick upgrades, but requires training. Implementation takes days.


Quicker to implement than API, but error-prone, and requires some internal development to export data from a legacy system. Implementation takes weeks.


The most automatized way of communication, but requires local development to send data. Implementation may take months.


Enables to send data without human intervention, but requires a staging system, and can’t be used for any kind of data. Implementation may take months.

8. How will the retail products be identified?

To enable consumers to scan the QR codes on the products and see the history of that specific product instance, you need to print/applicate serialized QR codes on the retail products.

9. What information should be displayed to the consumers?

When all information is collected in the supply chain processes, some of these information should be displayed to the consumers (in case your scope is farm-to-table). You need to decide which information is public, and which should be visible only within the supply chain.

It’s also getting more and more important to capture and present rich data to make the consumer experience engaging. Photos about the farming, videos of production, files attached about quality inspections, introduction of suppliers, or descriptions of the processes help consumer engagement.

We hope you found this guide valuable. If you need any details about implementing food traceability in your supply chain, please reach out to us for a presentation on TE-FOOD’s blockchain based food traceability solution!


Do you want to run a pilot?

TE-FOOD Lite is an entry level traceability solution, which can be implemented in days to trial traceability at your organization.