Food & Drink

Jessi Baker’s Provenance: Scan your food to see its story

By Kitty Knowles 10 January 2018

Provenance has already partnered with Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Unilever.

Packaging can be deceiving.

There might be an idyllic British cottage printed on your six-pack of sausages, but they could still be made from the 300,000 tonnes of pork imported into the UK each year.

The brand ‘Happy Eggs’ sounds like its products come from free-roaming chickens, but these companies also keep 4.3m hens in cages.

And remember, in the biggest food scandal of a generation, no one realised they were eating horse meat in their beef burgers until it was too late.

It’s no wonder that today many of us are concerned about the lack of trusted information on food packets – whether you want to know about animal welfare, workers rights, or a product’s impact on the environment.

Meet Provenance

Fortunately, a company called Provenance is using blockchain technology to make it clearer where the food you buy comes from.

That could mean simply scanning your apple label with your smartphone to see its journey from farm to store.

“We pay over cost price for products every day because we believe in brands and the stories that advertising agencies make up,” founder and CEO Jessi Baker tells The Memo.  

“People want to buy into the true stories behind products – they just need an easy way to make the choices they want to make.”

Building Provenance

Jessi Baker founded Provenance in 2014 after her environmentally conscious mother asked for a better way to track the journey of her groceries.

It works like this: first, food suppliers choose to be open and upload their company data; then the Provenance team then helps them verify any claims about their product; finally, these claims are permanently recorded on the blockchain in a way that can allow every item to be individually tracked.

Provenance has already worked with the Soil Association to make sure businesses can easily prove if they’ve got an ‘organic’ certification.

Other businesses might want to prove and log their location, that they’re independent, that they’re fair trade, that they’re female-owned, or what their carbon footprint is.

Coming to a supermarket near you

Over 2,000 brands have already chosen to use Provenance, pulling their proven claims into one shareable source that can be plugged into online shops (a number of British businesses are using the Provenance plugin in closed trials).

The business has also already tracked tuna with the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF), and coconuts with Fairfood.

Now, Baker’s focus is working with big supermarkets, who can invite suppliers to share their data on scale, bringing Provenance information to shoppers around the world.

Last year Baker started trials with As Nature Intended and the Co-op – which has already expressed interest in building the technology into its own app.

And, a new partnership with Sainsbury’s, Unilever, and banks including Barclays and Standard Chartered, will offer financial incentives for even more suppliers to embrace food transparency.

(The idea is that those who use Provenance should be seen as lower risk, and as a reward, receive access to finance at a cheaper rate).

Having raised an impressive $800K last year, Baker also plans to build a shopper-facing Provenance app, and to continue to experiment with smart tags and product labels in stores.  

“People will be able to scan products and browse products that have good Provenance through us,” she explains.

Right now it’s up to supermarkets and brands to pay for Provenance, but if you’re a small independent butcher, you could purchase a whole suite of tools for as little as £29 a month (Baker wants to keep the service as accessible as possible).

So whether it’s a Co-op or a Sainsbury’s, your local supermarket looks set to give you more information than ever before.

The big question is: What will you do with it?