ON THE TABLE 36 FOOD & BEVERAGE ASIA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 FROM FARM TO FORK From a consumer perspective, what is the level of demand that you are currently seeing for food traceability? Mark Toohey: Perhaps the main lesson from the COVID-19 crisis is the vital importance of good health. All of us have witnessed both the importance and the fragility of our supply chains. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this sharp jolt has shifted consumer perceptions and awakened a renewed interest in not just the quality of food, but also certainty about its source. Indications are that this trend will only increase as we all work to rebuild our supply chains in a post-COVID world. And from food growers, suppliers and manufacturers’ perspective, tracking food through all stages – from harvesting through to production, processing and distribution, and ultimately to consumer’s plate – present many challenges, including the complexity and cost of putting together an open end-to-end system. What are the key business drivers for food businesses to embrace such transparent track-and-trace process, and what other challenges businesses will have to overcome? Toohey: Inertia – the tendency to do nothing and change nothing – is something that the food and beverage industry is struggling with. Adopting new processes or concepts is often more about our reluctance to change our settled ways, than it is about anything else. But this needs to change. Implementing a cost- effective tracing platform is far more than adopting a new, innovative technology. When a restaurant can prove the origin of a product served to a customer, it opens a world of marketing opportunities. Brands can embrace the changing consumer sentiment and meet these new expectations. People want to know where their food comes from. We all do and most of us are quite willing to pay a premium to get good food, but we are also reluctant to be conned. How many of us have looked at the free range of products and wondered if the claims are genuine and worth the extra cost? So, the solution is revitalised marketing and communicating to the consumers that a product is safe and authentic. New campaigns can answer these key questions that flit through a consumer’s mind at the time of the purchase decision. If we win that marketing moment, the technology is the easy part. One objective of encouraging food traceability is to minimise food fraud. Which food groups are particularly affected by food fraud, and what health risks does food fraud involve? More crucially, how can food manufacturers and consumers protect themselves against food fraud? Toohey: As a fellow consumer, I would like to be able to provide a short list of at-risk products. The grim reality is that industry after industry is finding its quality products substituted or faked. With global losses to food fraud totally US$40-50 billion annually, it is a worldwide plague. There are credible reports that a large percentage of the supposed “exports” from leading European countries into the FIGHTING FOOD FRAUD WITH GREATER TRACEABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global awareness of supply chain systems, and consumers are beginning to question the origin of their product sources. Food and Beverage Asia speaks with Mark Toohey, managing director at Aglive, on how technology can empower food traceability, and enable farmers with greater control over their products to ultimately increase consumer confidence.