Starbucks Launches Blockchain-Enabled Traceability

Customers can scan a bag of band to better understand their origin and the farmers that produced them.

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Need to Know

  • The new tool gives Starbucks customers the opportunity to trace their purchase “from bean to cup.”
  • Customers can digitally “meet” the farmers who grow Starbucks’ raw coffee by scanning a code on their bag of beans.
  • Starbucks began developing the traceability feature in 2019; it is now accessible via browser and the Starbucks app.

Analysis

Starbucks is giving consumers the chance to get closer to the farmers that grow the chain’s coffee—at least virtually—with a new traceability tool that traces products “from bean to cup.”

The tool, which leverages blockchain technology, was unveiled this week and allows consumers to scan a code on the back of a bag of coffee beans, which will then give them access to information about the country, specific farm or farms, and farmers who produced the product. Those who have not purchased Starbucks coffee beans can still explore the site: a pared-down version offers information about where Starbucks beans are grown and roasted, and gives an overview of Starbuck’s coffee product offerings.

The new traceability tool in action.

“Every coffee has a story to tell, and I could not be more excited for people to be more connected to the whole coffee experience, from bean to cup, and meet the many people whose hard work, time and attention makes coffee possible,” said Michelle Burns, Starbucks’ senior vice president, Global Coffee, Tea and Cocoa.

Starbucks’ traceability tool is just the latest in a long series of initiatives from the chain that aim to emphasize its commitment to sustainability and transparency, which the chain has leveraged into more personal connections with its customers. Earlier this year, the chain announced a renewed focus on sustainability, which included the goal of sourcing 99% of its coffee sustainably using C.A.F.E. (Coffee And Farmer Equity) practices. The development of the traceability tool, meanwhile, was first announced in 2019; at that time, Starbucks also revealed changes to its app that would provide personalized recommendations to users.

Starbucks is just the latest coffee company to employ blockchain tech to give customers a closer look at their coffee’s journey from farm to cup. In January, Folger’s unveiled Farmer Connect, a traceability platform that gives customers the opportunity to use an interactive map to see where their coffee was sourced, plus provides information about growers, importing practises, and roasting techniques.

In addition to the new traceability tool, Starbucks has unveiled a number of new digital tools to date, including expanded payment and rewards options in its app. The digital investment has paid off: Starbucks reported record Q1 earnings of $7.1 billion earlier this year, largely owing to customers’ digital loyalty.

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