Supply Chain

Prime Future 134: “Consumers want to know…”


Every livestock & meat conference the last 15 years:

“cOnSuMeRs want to know wHeRe their food comes FrOm.”

Like it’s the answer to all the questions. Like it’s easy.

What do they want to know?

How do they want info presented?

How much are those they’s willing to pay for this add’l info?

Consider this week’s newsletter the tee-up for a deeper dive into traceability & transparency.

As one does in 2023, we start with ChatGPT:

But zoom in to 29,999 feet or below and it quickly gets complicated & messy:

  • What capabilities <people, processes, systems, technology, pricing, business models> does it take to achieve traceability / transparency?
  • Where are the costs incurred and the value captured?
  • What can we learn from companies doing these things well? What did they learn the hard way?
  • What are the biggest bottlenecks to realizing these aspirations?
  • Are push (regulation) or pull (commercial) dynamics more likely to impact trajectory and long-term outcomes?
  • How much overlap is there between these two ideas and how can that overlap be leveraged? I’m guessing no, but are the ideas ever at odds with one another?
  • How do the dynamics differ across the different proteins?

One reason this whole topic is interesting is that implications span all the way from what happens at the farm to what happens in the board room of major processors/retailers/foodservice companies. And to ignore either end of the spectrum is to likely get it wrong.

Here are my starting hypotheses:

  1. Transparency or traceability? A distinction without a difference.
  2. No one cares until someone is willing to pay. Additional cost only makes sense if it creates additional value that can consistently be captured.
  3. In order for any variation of traceability/transparency to be a long-term sustainable thing, it has to create value for 👏🏽 every 👏🏽 single 👏🏽 part 👏🏽 of the value chain that participates.
  4. As premium brands push the boundaries of supply chain capabilities, there will be halo effects on commodity production.
  5. The limitations are market-based (trust, commercial terms) not tech-based.
  6. The right combo of product, production attributes, business model, supply chain alignment, people, processes, tech, and brand will create some very big winners as a result of transparency. It’s not for everyone tho.

As we explore some of the questions above, let’s see which of those hypotheses hold up.

What insights, hypotheses, or questions, do you have about these topics?

  1. Dan Kaplan 1 week ago

    Great post – and oh so timely! This was exactly the discussion I was having at a meeting with one of our suppliers. I was explaining to the supplier that our customers wanted transparency, and we had a bit of a moment when the discussion turned to “what does the consumer really want to know, specifically.” I’ll admit I don’t know the answer to that….though I sometimes fall back on this wonderful scene from the tv show Portlandia with the couple quizzing the waitress about the chicken they are about to order

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