Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

SAP deploys blockchain to track popcorn supply chain

Steve Rogerson
March 19, 2019



With blockchain-as-a-service from German software company SAP, STMS is helping French popcorn producer Nataïs digitalise its supply chain and provide transparency to consumers.
 
When the screen comes to life, most cinema-goers won’t pay much thought to the popcorn they’re munching as long as it’s fresh. But as food safety becomes increasingly important to consumers, they may become interested in the exact route their food took before they bought it.
 
French popcorn producer Nataïs has answered this awareness by providing transparency into its supply chain. Collaborating with SAP partner STMS, Nataïs chose to leverage blockchain to add traceability of its produce to the project of digitalising its supply chain.
 
“Launching a project on blockchain technology would have been a big challenge without SAP Co-Innovation Lab,” said Xavier Ayral, managing director at STMS. “The team really helped us approach blockchain and made it easier for us.”
 
SAP Co-Innovation Lab supports SAP partners such as STMS with know-how in technologies such as blockchain. By bringing the right people to the table, SAP Co-Innovation Lab helps partners provide a solid proof of value and implement the service they created together.
 
“Nataïs, STMS, and SAP Co-Innovation Lab have been working together on the same target: to deliver popcorn traceability from farmer to consumer,” says Sébastien Faure, innovation director at STMS. “All of us were fully engaged on the project to make it happen.”
 
Joey Bronner, blockchain engineer with SAP Co-Innovation Lab, added: “Food safety is important. But sustainable agriculture is also becoming increasingly relevant to consumers. As a matter of fact, many consumers would like to know more about the farmers that grew their popcorn and the region where it comes from. They are also keen to understand if agroecological farming principles are guiding their practices and what it really means for them, as farmers.”
 
Blockchain as a distributed technology allows the secure sharing of trusted information across companies without one of the partners being able to manipulate the information.
 
“Blockchain technology from SAP lets us digitalise customers’ trust in our products with traceability information gathered from corn field to end customer,” said Michael Ehmann, founder and president of Nataïs.
 
Cinemas are not the only final customer of products from Nataïs; most of its corn is sold in supermarkets all over the world as microwaveable popcorn. Different varieties of maize are developed and cultivated to answer a diverse range of quality requirements and characteristics from Nataïs’ customers and farmers.
 
“The digitalisation all along the supply chain makes the work of our farmers, employees and transporters easier and reduces the risk of logistic errors,” said Ehmann. “Farmers will receive all the logistic information necessary to identify their corn delivery though a QR code. This same QR code will be used by the transporters when they deliver the truckloads at Nataïs’ storage site. Corn quality, variety, weight delivery, originating field: All this information will be available through this QR code.”
 
Blockchain allows the corn from the cinema to be traced all the way back to the farmer’s field, from harvest, transport and factory processing to final delivery in cinemas and stores.
 
“Our customers will give the possibility to their consumers, by printing a QR code on their popcorn servings, to learn more about the origin of the popcorn, its quality characteristics as well as Nataïs’s corporate values,” said Emilie de Marchi, head of development at Nataïs.
 
As a regional employer, Nataïs has been repeatedly recognised by FrenchFab, an initiative in France that honours home-grown companies that make an effort to keep jobs in the regions of France or bring them back there. Today, Nataïs provides 130 employees with jobs in the countryside of southwest France.
 
There are 250 farms within a 200km radius that make up the corporation. As a popcorn producer, Nataïs is ranked first in Europe and third in the world, as it exports to other continents. The corn is sold under Nataïs’ own brand, Maison Popcorn, as well as under private labels or A-brands. But, the QR code works the same for all consumers.
 
“Our distributors recognised the significant impact on our product offering and now ask to join the blockchain,” said de Marchi.
 
Ayral added: “It has been a great journey for Nataïs and the STMS team to explore blockchain technology with SAP Co-Innovation Lab. Now our customer knows they can lean on STMS to approach their innovation beyond ERP through SAP technologies.”