Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and plays an important role in international food commerce. However, olive oil is an ancient food and is probably the most studied oil and owns its right to the accolade in daily health and well-being. However, in order to secure the healthful properties provenance and sustainability practices are noted by consumers and can form part of the processes or the story in obtaining the oil.
Since the wave of fake oils and low-quality messages have rippled through to consumers to beware of fraud has now led to a wave of other types of vegetable oils claiming ‘be as healthy as olive oil’ and consumer buying habits have backed this up. The average household in Australia buys $25 per year of Olive Oil.
True traceability brings with it the ability to follow the movement of a product through the differing phases of harvesting, production, processing, and distribution. However, backward traceability is the process to allow a backtrace of its processes with the critical steps. So what tools can be used to identify the origin and guarantee traceability and transparency of a product to give consumers the confidence to buy your product?
In a recent study published in Foods Journal 2019, researchers from Italy aims to investigate the economic sustainability and the consumers preference with three proposed technological systems to support traceability.
The study looked at various labels that provide innovative electronic traceability & transparency:
- NFC (near field communication) – Label placed underneath the external label and activated via a smartphone antenna to read traceability information.
- DAB (tamper-proof device for bottles) – Tamper-proof device composed of a bottle cap, containing an RFID (radio frequency identification) adhesive label, which externally covers the traditional one.
- QR-B (quick response blockchain) – QR code tag on the external label and protected by a ‘scratch and win’ system to allow the consumer to obtain the reward implemented with blockchains.
Researchers noted “EVOO represents the one of the excellence’s of Italian products; it is a basic ingredient of the Mediterranean diet; for this reason, it must be protected from fraud and sophistication that could damage “made in Italy” and have repercussions both for producers and consumers. This study showed some interesting and surprising outcomes. First of all, the unexpectedly high willingness to pay (+17.8%) by Italian consumers for the implementation of traceability information on EVOO mediated by smart technologies. Among the three proposed technologies for traceability, consumers greatly prefer the QR-B system, despite the different advantages linkable to the other systems.”.
The researchers also noted that results show that 94% of the consumer respondents are interested in the implementation of such technologies, and among them 45% chose QR-code protected by a“scratch-and-win” system with a blockchain info tracing-platform (QR-B). Although blockchains are not yet very widespread in EVOO traceability, their use may be an excellent solution to ensure reliability, transparency, and security, especially for those commodities susceptible to fraud such as EVOO to preserve its integrity.
Blockchain is making its way into the bigger retailers like Walmart and it will not be long before Australia starts to see this trend.
It was also found in the survey, that the age composition revealed different spending behavior patterns. The respondents less than 35 years old (19.9% of the respondents) were less available to pay additional costs for the implementation of information regarding traceability.
This research is interesting because it highlights different ways of moving with the age of technology and enhancing messages to customers in terms of authenticity, sustainability and transparency. The costs to implement a change of packaging can have further impact so changes should be investigated thoroughly to ensure it is worth the move and whether such changes will be popular with consumers. However, making a simple QR code may be a step in the right direction to telling your provenance story with the various messages of sustainability, in-grove practices production techniques, distribution and care instructions for the product.
Are the Innovative Electronic Labels for Extra Virgin Olive Oil Sustainable, Traceable, and Accepted by Consumers?
Traceability is the ability to follow the displacement of food through its entire chain. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) represents Italian excellence, with consumers’ increased awareness for traceability. The aim of this work is to propose and analyze the economic sustainability and consumers’ preference of three technological systems supporting traceability: Near Field Communication (NFC) based; tamper-proof device plus Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and app; QR code tag plus “scratch and win” system and blockchain. An anonymous questionnaire to Italian consumers (n = 1120) was made to acquire consumers’ acceptability of the systems and estimating their willingness to pay additional premium prices for these. An economic analysis estimated and compared the technology costs at different production levels. Results show that 94% of the consumer respondents are interested in the implementation of such technologies, and among them 45% chose QR-code protected by a “scratch-and-win” system with a blockchain infotracing-platform (QR-B). The consumers interested are willing to pay a mean premium price of 17.8% and economic analysis reported evidenced an incidence always lower than mid-/high-production levels. The success of the QR-B could be ascribed to different aspects: the cutting-edge fashion trend of blockchain in the food sector, the use of incentives, the easy-to-use QR-code, and the gamification strategy
1 Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria (CREA) – Centro di ricerca Ingegneria e Trasformazioni agroalimentari, Via della Pascolare 16, 00015 Monterotondo (Rome), Italy
2 Istituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT) – Direzione centrale per le statistiche sociali e il censimento della popolazione (DCSS) – Servizio registro della popolazione, statistiche demografiche e condizioni di vita (SSA), Viale Liegi 13, 00198 Rome, Italy
3 Maticom S.r.l.-Via Carlo Spinola 5, 00154 Rome, Italy * Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Read the full study at Foods 2019