The rapidly emerging discipline of traceability has begun to establish a foothold within a growing number of food and beverage companies. So on Tuesday afternoon in a presentation on the IFT Central stage, two of its practitioners discussed the importance of establishing expertise in this area in a session titled “Why You Should Become the Traceability Guru at Your Organization.”
Thomas Burke, a food traceability and safety scientist with IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center, laid the groundwork, citing statistics that predict that the traceability and traceability services field will represent a $14 billion market by 2024. It’s a growing area along with the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, said Burke. It’s no longer just a niche within the food industry, Burke observed, adding that the discipline has evolved as the excitement around blockchain has helped to enhance awareness of traceability. “There’s a lot of conversation about traceability, and being well versed in that can enhance your career,” Burke continued.
Because it is still so new, there’s no clear-cut path for moving into this discipline, agreed Burke and the session co-presenter, Riccardo Accolla, director of digital food science at Ripe.io, a supplier of blockchain services. “There’s no wrong or right path to get into traceability,” said Accolla, a flavor scientist by training who stumbled into his role at Ripe.io. after embarking on a project to identify great-tasting tomatoes by tracing their path from farm to fork.
Accolla predicted that traceability’s star will continue to shine brightly as more and more companies realize its potential to yield a strong return on investment (ROI). To date, companies’ interest in traceability programs and systems tends to be related to risk mitigation, Accolla said. He cited the example of a company that achieved a $46 million ROI on its traceability program investment over a five-year period thanks to its ability to facilitate identification of the source of product contamination.
Burke noted that in addition to risk mitigation, traceability programs deliver value in areas such as supply chain efficiencies and market differentiation. “Having the traceability skill set allows you to conceptualize so many areas of business,” he observed.