Retailer Carrefour using blockchain to improve checks on food products

* To expand blockchain food traceability to 8 other products

* Blockchain already used on tracing chicken production

* Nestle, Unilever and others also using blockchain

* Carrefour eyeing organic food sales boost in 5-year plan

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS, March 6 (Reuters) - Retailer Carrefour is hoping blockchain-based technology will improve checks on the standards of its food products, as it prepares a major overhaul to tackle competition from Amazon, Leclerc and others.

Carrefour is among several leading companies tapping into the growing use of blockchain in order to track where products come from, as consumers increasingly look to ensure that products meet standards regarding ethics and general safety.

Carrefour, Europe’s largest retailer, said on Tuesday that the use of blockchain would enable shoppers in France to trace where certain food products are sourced, and added it was extending its use of such technology in this capacity.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system underpinning the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, is a shared record of data kept by a network of computers, rather than a trusted third party.

Last year, Nestle, Unilever, Tyson Foods and other large food and retail companies joined an IBM project to explore how blockchain technology can help track food supply chains and improve safety.

BMW and a London-based start-up company also said this week they would use blockchain to prove batteries for its electric vehicles only contain clean cobalt.

Carrefour will extend the use of blockchain to honey, eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, salmon and hamburgers by end-2018. It currently uses the blockchain programme to trace the production of free-range chicken in the Auvergne region in central France.

Consumers can use a smartphone to scan a code on the package to obtain information at each stage of production, including where and how the chickens were raised and what they were fed as well as where the meat was processed, added the French company.

Carrefour is also currently conducting blockchain tests to improve tracing the source of food products in China and could expand it to other countries.

Alexandre Bompard, who took over as Carrefour’s CEO in July, unveiled in January a five-year plan to boost profits and sales.

The plan entails overhauling Carrefour’s French hypermarkets and expanding online operations, with a pledge to invest 2.8 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in digital commerce by 2022.

The group, which has struggled for years to become less reliant on its French hypermarkets, has promised to revamp its range of food, as customers demand healthier products.

Carrefour is targeting 5 billion euros in organic food sales by 2022, compared to 1 billion euros generated at present.