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Brief Published: 18 Sep 2020

Starbucks’ Traceable Coffee Highlights Provenance


Starbucks’ farmers and customers can now trace the journey of its coffee beans using blockchain technology. The launch marks a wider shift towards consumers seeking environmental and ethical transparency from food brands. 

The Starbucks Digital Traceability tool uses blockchain technology powered by Microsoft to trace the production process for both farmer and customer. Users go to traceability.starbucks.com on their mobile or laptop to scan a QR code printed on bags of coffee bought in US stores. The mobile web app then shows where their coffee was grown, and introduces them to the farmer growing coffee in that region. The blockchain technology also allows customers to learn how the coffee was roasted, and virtually meet a roasting plant partner.   

A reverse numerical code is given to the farmers, allowing them to track the same movement of the coffee beans via Starbucks’ traceability website without requiring a smartphone or needing to download an app. 

“We have been able to trace every coffee we buy from every farm for almost two decades,” said Starbucks’ senior vice-president Michelle Burns in an interview. “That allowed us to have the foundation to now build a user-friendly, consumer-driven tool that certainly provides that trust and confidence to our customers that we know where all our coffee comes from.” 

The introduction of blockchain by the coffee giant is indicative of heightened consumer interest in food provenance and ethical ingredient sourcing, as covered in Post-Pandemic Food Labelling. For more on the coffee industry at large using this technology to clean up its supply chain, see Coffee’s Next Chapter