Blockchain tool aims to ensure 'quality and authenticity' of vanilla

Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) has launched a blockchain platform for its Madagascan vanilla to ensure sourcing standards.

The beauty company's pilot blockchain programme aims to increase visibility across the supply chain to better “validate the quality and authenticity” of its vanilla. 

It will use traceable vanilla across 125 products in its natural cosmetics brand Aveda, in what it claims to be “one of the largest scale blockchain pilots to be launched in the beauty industry”.

According to ELC, the tracking technology has enabled the company to further verify compliance with sourcing standards in its supplier code of conduct , creating “an immutable chain of record where claims made by each party cannot be undone later”. 

This is part of the company’s plans to “develop robust biodiversity and social action plans for sensitive ingredient supply chains by 2025”, as sourcing vanilla involves complex issues, including price fluctuations, major climate challenges and intensive farming. 

It said: “Digital traceability enables a level of visibility needed to facilitate the management and mitigation of complexities in supply chains arising from unforeseen events such as climate changes or global pandemics.”

The programme has begun with 450 smallholder farmers in Madagascar, the world's biggest producer of vanilla, with the aim to “roll the technology out across other brands and priority ingredients in the future”.

The blockchain technology uses a mobile app and ID card given to farmers to track pods, verifying the source and quality, from the farmer’s sale to the local coop to production facilities in Grasse, France, to Aveda’s manufacturing facility in Minnesota, US. 

It was established through partnerships between ELC, its brand Aveda, producer LMR Naturals, local Madagascan vanilla supplier Biovanilla, non-profit sustainability consultancy BSR, and blockchain solution provider Wholechain.

ELC explained: “For generations, the Madagascan vanilla beans harvested from this group of farmers were traced using a unique stamp called a 'fitomboka', which served as a record-keeping system for the vanilla farmers. 

“To preserve this tradition, the fitomboka was digitised onto a digital card, and data was captured directly from the farmer co-op in Madagascar. Each farmer was given a digital ID card that converted their unique traceability code via a QR reader. From the time the vanilla left the producer's hands to the moment it arrived at Aveda’s campus in Blaine, MN, it was tracked on blockchain to validate its quality and authenticity.”

According to Zion Market Research, the global vanilla market was worth US$510m in 2018 and is expected to reach around US$735m by 2026. Madagascan vanilla is the most widely used vanilla type, accounting for around 70% of the total vanilla market share, with the US and European markets making up the largest demand.

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