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Meeting consumer demands for food transparency

5 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

This post is sponsored by LINKFRESH. Consumers continue to ask where their food comes from and if it is sustainably produced. Companies have the opportunity to earn trust and win business by providing answers to these critical questions. In this Spotlight, we’ll share ways food providers can leverage technology to meet changing consumer demands.

Robert Frost (Photo: LINKFRESH)

Robert (Rob) Frost is group chief executive officer for LINKFRESH. Since joining the company in 1998 as finance director, he has worked closely with the Board of Directors in realizing a new vision for the business. In 2010, LINKFRESH began to expand internationally and now has offices in California.  In addition to Europe, USA and Canada, LINKFRESH is also active in Australia and the Middle East.  Robert’s early career was in the finance departments of large organizations, notably the University of Cambridge and BUPA private healthcare provider.

How can an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution help companies grow their business? (Or how quickly can companies see a return for investing in an ERP solution?)

The fresh produce industry is one of the most challenging supply chains due to the short order times and the perishable nature of the products. Fresh produce companies are dealing with tight trading margins, the need to provide full product traceability and meet retailer’s specifications for delivery, price, quality and freshness. Information technology and modern ERP solutions play a key role in helping fresh produce organizations remain competitive, improve efficiencies, drive growth and increase profit.

ERP solutions provide a single view of an organization’s entire supply chain, including forecasting and planning, manufacturing and operations, quality control, fulfillment, and transportation and logistics. Manual paper-based processes and data entry can be replaced with efficient electronic data capture.

Data is electronically recorded once and used many times across the whole organization to give managers the information they need to make critical business decisions. ERPs can also help reduce labor costs, make processes more efficient and remove human error. Because financial reporting is produced quickly, business decisions become proactive instead of reactive. Ultimately customer satisfaction is improved enabling the organization to use its competitive advantage to gain more business and improve their bottom line.

Many consumers are asking for more transparency into where their food originates. In terms of traceability, what should companies make sure they’re monitoring in the supply chain in order to answer questions from regulators and consumers?

Consumers and retailers are demanding easy access to information on how and where food was manufactured, where the ingredients came from, and where the finished item ended up. The use of information technology (IT) and ERP solutions gives produce growers the critical tools they need to accurately monitor produce from field to fork.

Some companies are going a step further and tracking a product’s full life cycle. This can include additional information about their products including crops information, grown location, quality records, photographs, cross-referencable tracking codes and raw material sourcing to name a few.

The ERP system becomes the repository for this library of information and processes will drive the production of this information automatically.

What are some of the challenges companies are facing in complying with the Produce Traceability Initiative?

The reality today is that most food safety monitoring or traceability processes still rely on manual, paper-based checks. These are time consuming and carry a high risk of error and non-compliance.

Replacing manual tracking methods with software specifically designed for this industry ensures that information is available immediately at every step of the process and that is can be shared with the wider workforce to inform a number of business areas.

The ability to understand and comply with government regulations, such as PTI, will require companies to invest in more sophisticated IT solutions to ensure they maintain accurate records. The costs of implementing a solution are outweighed by considerations of public health, consumer confidence and loss of business.

What should companies focus on to increase the sustainability of their supply chain?

Sustainability in the supply chain affects business resilience, reputation and relationships across business segments. In the food and grocery industry the strategic importance of sustainability continues to grow as the industry works to reduce its impact on the environment.

Companies start a supply chain sustainability program for a host of reasons, though primarily to ensure compliance with laws and regulations, and to support international principles for sustainable business conduct.

The United Nations has developed the UN Global Compact, a practical framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of sustainability policies and practices. Get more details on the FAB Principles.

What do you see as the biggest issue for food suppliers in the next three years?

Organizations need to remain competitive and meet the increasing raft of industry regulations and consumer demands, while continuing to make a profit. This is against a backdrop of a growing global demand for food, which is projected to increase 70% by 2050 (Food Agricultural Organization).

Companies using manual and paper processes to manage their businesses will struggle to keep up with their more technologically advanced competitors.

With the adoption of modern ERP and information systems, businesses can both collect and manage enormous stores of data. More importantly, companies can utilize the data not only to meet traceability, compliance, and consumer satisfaction, but also to drive real competitive advantages, profitability and growth. It’s these IT systems that will ensure the success of businesses in our industry and their ability to compete for years to come.


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