CHO, one of the largest olive oil producers in the southern Mediterranean, announced on Jan. 14 that it is using IBM’s blockchain technology to provide traceability for its Terra Delyssa extra virgin olive oil. The company is the latest major food provider to join IBM’S Food Trust Network.

Utilizing blockchain allows CHO to track Terra Delyssa across eight quality assurance checkpoints, including the orchard where the olives were grown, the mill where olives were crushed, and the facilities where the oil was filtered, bottled and distributed.

Vice president of IBM Blockchain Supply Chain Solutions Ramesh Gopinath told Cointelegraph that using blockchain technology creates a verifiable record of where each bottle of CHO olive oil was produced, along with keeping track of the methods used. Gopinath explained:

“The best part of the IBM Food Trust network is its ability to connect members of the supply chain together, like the end consumer with the farmer. CHO has done just this, as every entity involved can share data, which not only provides traceability and food information, but also shows where food trust is heading in general.”

Blockchain provides an extra layer of transparency

CHO America’s CEO Wajih Rekik told Cointelegraph that CHO olive oil is made by Tunisian farmers, which is stated on each bottle’s label. Although the company has been successful in creating transparency by telling consumers where their olive oil comes from, CHO wanted to add a layer of trust to its products.

IBM’s blockchain technology, which is powered by Hyperledger Fabric, lets Terra Delyssa retailers scan a QR-code on each bottle’s label to see a product’s provenance record.

Rekik explained that Terra Delyssa's fully traceable extra virgin olive oil is currently being bottled and expected to reach store shelves at major retailers in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Denmark and Japan by March.

Paying extra for piece of mind verified by the blockchain

According to Rekik, olive oil mislabeling, particularly for higher grade designations like “extra virgin” is incredibly common. Tests performed by the National Consumers League in 2015 and 2019 show that half of all olive oils found on store shelves contained misleading labels, going beyond issues relating to flavor profiles. The CEO of the National Consumers League, Sally Greenberg, told Food & Wine magazine:

“You can't be sure unless you're a very well informed consumer that a bottle labeled ‘extra virgin olive oil' is actually that very high quality. [...] The value of having extra virgin olive oil is that it's actually good for you. It has some very specific healthful properties that are positive for consumers and their families. So you lose out on those. You lose out on the good flavor that you get from really wonderful extra virgin olive oil. And you pay top dollar for substandard olive oil."

A recent IBM Institute for Business Value study found that 73% of consumers will pay a premium for full transparency into the products they buy.

Gopinath also noted that as food fraud continues to increase, the IBM Food Trust Network becomes larger.

“The number of Food Trust clients is growing. By the end of this year, we will be much bigger than we are currently. We are linking together the entire food ecosystem to provide transparency and greater consumer trust.”