Arla is the 5th largest dairy company in the world. Owned by 12,500 farmers across seven countries, they have an ambition to become the most transparent value chain in dairy.

In today’s episode, we discuss this ambition with Tomi Sirén who is the head of Digital and Technological Innovations at Arla. Based in Finalnd, he’s spearheading a variety of projects focused on moving their sustainability agenda forward with emerging technologies including the Arla Milkchain. Listen in as we talk about:

  • 5:30 Arla’s digital transformation
  • 9:00 Arla Milkchain – how they are using blockchain to trace their products and animal welfare (see video)
  • 21:00 Collaborations Arla is looking for and what obstacles they are facing to scale
  • 26:00 Other sustainability projects at Arla
  • 28:40 Vision for the future and what we’re missing to get there

Want more corporate interviews?

Check out more Nordic FoodTech Podcast interviews on how big corporations like Chr. Hansen, Arla, Maersk, Paulig, K Group and more are innovating and collaborating to create the future of food here.

Key Minutes and Show Notes

3:40 What is Arla?

4:15 What is your role?

I look at how we can use technology to solve business problems.

4:40 What is happening in Arla digital.

There is a transformation happening in the fast moving consumer goods space.

5:30 What was Arla like before you kicked off the digital transformation work?

When I came 4 years ago, technological innovation was not a part of the strategic conversation in driving sustainability.

7:00 Where are you piloting your digital projects?

Finland has positioned itself as a pilot market for new innovations. It’s small and progressive.

8:20 What is Arla digital’s vision?

To be the most transparent supply chain in retail.

9:00 What data are you tracking for the Arla Milkchain?

We started by auditing the value chain from a structural data perspective. When we shared it with consumers, they wanted to know more points about animal welfare.

12:00 What data points surprised you?

13:30 There is a lot of skepticism around Blockchain, how are you using the technology?

The idea is for us to build the foundation so that in the future we can do something much more disruptive. Right now, we’re working with Ethereum.

16:00 How are you making the data accessible to the consumer?

No QR codes. We wanted to keep it as simple as possible so it looks at the packaging data of the project.

16:40 What is the future of blockchain in retail?

Value chain transparency is going to be the new normal. Companies will need to provide data from their value chain like they do with nutritional information.

17:45 How is your Milkchain project different from other food blockchain projects?

There are a lot of enterprise solutions popping up. We are working with some startups.

19:15 What approach do other blockchain solutions in the market take?

There is not one plug and play solution. I would love to see the food industry come together and form a consortium. 

20:15 How far along is blockchain technology today in terms of really creating value in the market? 

21:00 What obstacles are standing in your way now?

For us there are a lot of challenges to scale without serious infrastructure investment.

22:30 What would make your life easier? What collaborations are you looking for?

I would love for us to come together as an industry. We need to work together. Our challenges are great.

23:50 What are we missing to reach that vision?

We need to share more data with each other. Co-opetition is new.

23:40 Who are you competitors in this space?

I try not to benchmark the food industry because disruption can come from anywhere. People benchmark experiences. Which industry you come from irrelevant.

26:00 What other sustainability project does Arla have going?

27:20 What kind of technology do you think is coming that we haven’t seen in the market yet?

28:40 What is your vision for the food ecosystem in 10-15 years?

In 10 years, we will eat food that is based on our DNA, gut health, and is heavily personalized for us. It’s also sustainable.

29:25 What are we missing to get there?

You could do it today already.

29:50 Is there anything else that is important to mention that I haven’t asked you?

I think it’s time for Scandinavia to come together and form a larger ecosystem to solve the big problems we are facing in this world.

30:20 What do we have to talk about or how should we gather people to really move forward?

We’re trying to take the lead in Finland on transparency and traceability. It starts by setting the long-term vision that others can join and vote for. It’s about stating progressive visions and actively gathering partners to your ecosystem. The future of food will be built together.

31:25 How do you work with politicians?

I think politics will always be behind my work. I think we need to showcase as an industry what is possible for the future of food in order to see legislation passed.

32:15 What’s the best way for someone to get in touch?