A Transparency App to Empower Consumers
Why the StoryBird App is a Game Changer
The time has come to shift power back to the consumer, and we can do this through a transparency app.
This is the moment of dawn, when the sky turns from pitch dark to light—when all of a sudden we are able to see our surroundings.
Our entire lives, we’ve been blind, or perhaps asleep, to the source, story, and impact of most of the products we see at the supermarket (and beyond). For those of us who can’t shop at farmers’ markets or order CSA boxes, this modern system of supply chains has kept us dependent and disconnected.
People are asking for more transparency, but they haven’t received it—yet.
Why? Because the old guard brands that control our products and information don’t want you to know what you don’t know, don’t want to pay the cost of transparency, or are concerned that if they reveal one value chain to you, then you will start inquiring about all the other value chains too.
For a system that has been built without transparency and traceability, a sudden shift toward these values requires a seismic redesign and rethinking of value chain functionality. The change starts with supply chain data capture from the source and ends with proficient marketing and sharing of information to the end consumer.
Corporations are simply not ready for this scale of transformation. Groups run on margins; asking questions and sharing information may also impact profitability. This risk creates a fundamental conflict when businesses define profitability as, “low input costs, sell high.”
When the objective validation of information—around ecological impact, community impact, farmworker welfare, nutritional levels, and accuracy of certifications—becomes technologically and logistically possible on a wide scale, this will surely make for an ugly scene. It will be a rude awakening for brands and consumers alike, many of whom prefer not to know, or simply don’t realize or think about where their food and products come from and what impact they have.
The old guard, which is currently profiting from the status quo, is certainly not going to drive this process. There is no initiative to adapt or change, as that will require fundamental shifts in value.
Walmart and Costco are two of the largest organic retailers in the world, not because they are passionate about organic products, but simply because that is what consumers demanded. These brands understood that if they didn’t move strongly into organic, they would quickly become irrelevant to passionate and affluent consumers willing to pay premiums for products (i.e. the highest profit margins for retailers and brands).
Walmart and Costco’s shift has little to do with investment into making global organic agriculture flourish. Rather, it is about the commercial availability of outputs, these retailers’ control over the sites where most consumers purchase, and thus their ability to purchase from suppliers in large quantities.
In my opinion, the next wave that will eclipse even the organic movement is the validated traceability and storytelling movement.
Once a critical mass of consumers becomes aware that the technology already exists to make their products transparent, and then votes with their dollars by purchasing products from brands and retailers that have adopted validated transparency and storytelling, the change will become inevitable.
Those brands that shift will win the premium, educated consumer. Those that don’t will have to fight over the unaware consumer that simply wants the cheapest product—a race to the bottom in which margins dwindle alongside profitability.
So, where does StoryBird fit in?
StoryBird is important because it is a transparency app that reaches the consumer directly. It provides a scalable model to engage consumers with validated information about their products and producers.
As data capture improves through smartphone digitization of post-harvest information, the integration of IoT devices across the value chain, and widespread free instant testing of chemicals and nutrients, that information will become more detailed and accurate. AI will start to organize the available information to best match our desires and needs.
And suddenly instead of the first moments of dawn, we will be looking at our products at 2 p.m. on a cloudless summer day in the desert. There is no place to hide from the light.
StoryBird is just one of the brands that will be leading this movement. There will be many others, all around the world. Will it capture the greatest market share? We certainly hope so. But that is beside the point.
StoryBird is a microcosm. It represents a new reality where we have to face the reality of our impact. It signals a new era of empowered consumers who can no longer plead ignorance, who can no longer live in the false bliss of not knowing the consequences of—and, most importantly, who no longer want to.