It’s not just Australian people who enjoy our lucky country. Take the average Australian cow – large open spaces for low-stress grazing, great weather, some of the world’s highest standards for animal treatment and protection from disease by ocean-sized moats.
Qualities such as this have made Australian beef some of the most desirable in the world, as well as other produce such as cherries, olive oil and honey. The quality of our produce is world renowned, and that means there are legions of international consumers willing to pay a premium.
But what happens to that brand when consumers try counterfeited versions of Australian products and find the quality lacking? Or worse, what happens when someone gets ill after consuming fake Australian produce? Reputations built over decades can be ruined overnight.
Globally, food fraud is estimated to cost somewhere between $40-50 billion a year. The cost to Australia alone could be $2-3 billion. To put that into perspective, Australia’s total food and agriculture exports sit at around $45 billion.
At best, international consumers are being duped into buying a substandard product; at worst lives are being put at risk. Horse meat has been sold as beef in the UK and Ireland, fake Parmesan blended with wood pulp was sold at a US supermarket, and toxic infant formula was sold in China with devastating consequences.
Up until now, counterfeit food has been difficult to identify. PwC national agribusiness leader Craig Heraghty says that “most jurisdictions rely on low-tech anti-counterfeiting solutions, which have been ineffective in exposing food fraud.”.
Most of the better known examples of fraud were ultimately uncovered using DNA testing, which came only after customers had been consuming the products for a significant period of time.
One of the biggest problems for Australian producers when it comes to food counterfeiting is the lack of control they have over their supply chain. Once their products leave our shores, they are largely out of their control.
For example, before a kernel of Western Australian wheat can become part of a loaf of bread in Egypt, it has to undergo a cross-jurisdictional journey involving an estimated 200 interventions from a variety of partners. At every step of the way (at least once it leaves Australia) there is an opportunity for fraud and tampering.
That is the crux of the challenge facing Australia: how to ensure end consumers, whether they are in China or the UK, are able to verify that the product they have in their hands is genuine Queensland beef or Victorian olive oil. The PwC Food Trust Platform is designed to meet this problem head-on, illuminating every step of the supply chain for consumers.
Craig Heraghty, Partner, PwC
The Food Trust Platform combines microscale scannable tags with verifiable data ledger trillian technology, along with Google cloud platforms, to empower consumers to track the provenance of a product using only their smartphone.
Under this system, products are marked using covert tags that the consumer can scan to follow it back through the supply chain to its original source.
“By having the tag on the product in multiple locations in multiple-form factors, the consumer at the very end, wherever they are, can scan that product as it goes through the supply chain and track it back to where it came from.
“It's essentially the brand owner sending a direct message to the person who's buying it,” he said.
Mr Heraghty says the TruTag technology is designed to be as frictionless as possible for producers and businesses along the supply chain. The tags can be applied quickly and easily and will not add significantly to production or processing costs.
“Also it’s a brilliant way for the brand owner to reach out directly and connect to a consumer who's buying a product, and also reinforces the exclusivity of that product,” he said.
The benefits could be huge, ultimately preserving the premium Australian products receive overseas.
“The premium is vital to protect, and the premium is only as good as our ability to deliver against it,” he says.
Agribusiness Leader, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 (2) 8266 1458
Senior Manager, Ventures, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 (2) 8266 5878