Brands and blockchain: How Walmart, Burger King and De Beers are snuggling up to decentralization
We often talk about blockchain in a speculative way, but brands like Walmart, Amazon and Burger King are already embracing the technology. Diamond powerhouse De Beers even has plans for its own industry blockchain.
Is Bitcoin the future of money? Has the cryptocurrency bubble already popped? It depends who you ask. The topic of Bitcoin is just as polarizing as it is hot. But no matter how volatile Bitcoin stocks may be, its underlying technology, blockchain, has huge potential to transform our industry.
Blockchain has the power to increase transparency not only in advertising, but in food. Every year, contaminated food kills 400,000 people. The lack of traceability from farm to fridge makes it difficult for companies to identify the perpetrator, resulting in more people getting sick.
Applying blockchain to a package of mangoes, Walmart traced the fruit to its original source in two seconds, something that could otherwise take weeks. The world’s largest retailer will use IBM’s Blockchain Platform to track food throughout the entire supply chain to ensure quality in an efficient manner. Similarly, the two companies formed a consortium over the summer with several other major players in the grocery and consumer packaged goods (CPG) spaces—Unilever, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Kroger, Dole, Driscoll’s, McLane, McCormick and Golden State Foods—to identify areas of improvement and ultimately make the food supply chain safer.
More recently, IBM and Walmart took their mission to China, forming a Blockchain Food Safety Alliance with Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com and the Tsinghua University National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technologies.
De Beers will begin its pilot project later this month, aiming to launch the diamond blockchain this year.
Discount ecommerce site Overstock.com got in on the ground floor. The company was the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin payments—four years ago. Today, Overstock.com accepts more than 40 different digital currencies as tender, including Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero and Dash. Eventually, CEO Patrick Byrne plans to accept all forms of cryptocurrency.
Byrne has already taken it further, launching a trading platform and token, tZero, in December. The company is advising Kodak on its KODAKCoin, which will soon be the first third-party token on tZERO’s upcoming security token platform.
KFC is another brand that accepted cryptocurrency… kind of. Canadian customers could pay with Bitcoin, provided they ordered the Bitcoin Bucket. A combination of chicken tenders, waffle fries and a side dish, the meal cost the Bitcoin equivalent of 20 Canadian dollars.
Bitcoin’s long processing times—they average 10 minutes, according to Coin Central—aren’t well suited for fast food. It’s more likely that KFC was pulling a PR stunt than evolving its attitude toward tender. (Get it? “Tender?”) Still, it was a good stunt that helped the brand go viral by riding the popularity of blockchain.
5. Burger King
Bitcoin may not be a perfect match for fast food, which is better suited for Whoppercoin. Over the summer, Burger King Russia created its own form of currency that ties in with its loyalty program. Hosted on Waves, a platform where users swap blockchain tokens of a determined value, Whoppercoins are each worth one ruble and stored in a digital wallet. After 1,700 Whoppercoins (equal to about $30) customers get a free burger.
Whoppercoin has the trappings of a PR stunt, but Waves Business Development Director Maxim Pertsovskiy’s comments say otherwise. “We are confident that this decision will promote the popularization of blockchain technology in Russia,” he said in a statement. Burger King also announced plans for a Whoppercoin app.