Starbucks Supply Chain Is Launching Blockchain Pilot Program

Starbucks is adding what it called “traceability technology,” a blockchain technology, to its supply for chain for coffee, reports Daily Coffee News.

Select producers in Costa Rica, Columbia and Raanda will be involved in the project for a two-year period, according to an announcement made hours before Starbucks’ Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle.

“Over the next two years, we will look to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in the announcement.

Arthur Karuletwa, Director of Traceability at Starbucks, stressed that while many companies claim to take pride in their sustainable sourcing methods, Starbucks has “known the names” of its hundreds of thousands of farmers “since the beginning,” and that with these new digital tools, they will be more directly and openly connected than ever before.

“This could be a seismic change in an industry that hasn’t had much innovation in the way coffee moves across borders and oceans,” Karuletwa said.

Conservation International intends to study the impact of the technology’s enhanced “bean to cup” traceability features on farmers. According to Starbucks, the project’s goals include contributing to financial independence and confidence among farmers while fostering empathy among consumers by creating a visible connection between products and producers.

This is among the higher profile adaptations of blockchain and cryptocurrency tech as it relates to retail. While the announcement by Starbucks made the goals of the project clear, it is not clear what the greater connection to the farmers will look like yet.