By Paul Damaren, Executive Vice President, Business Development at RizePoint
Did you know that a single contaminated product could ruin your brand’s reputation and harm your customers? It’s a terrifying thought, but one that food brands must be prepared for. That’s where supply chain transparency comes in. By prioritizing transparency, brands can identify and reduce risks, improve supplier relationships, and meet stakeholder demand. In this article, we’ll explore the many benefits of prioritizing supply chain transparency for food brands.
In the food industry, transparency is key. Consumers want to know where their food is coming from, how it’s sourced, and whether it’s safe to eat. That’s why supply chain transparency is so important – it allows food brands to track their products from the point of origin to the point of consumption, ensuring safety and quality every step of the way.
Multiple food brands have successfully implemented supply chain transparency and benefited from doing so. For instance, in 2015, Chipotle suffered a series of foodborne illness outbreaks that sickened hundreds of customers and led to a decline in sales. In response, the company launched a transparency initiative to improve the safety and quality of its food. As part of this initiative, Chipotle began using software to track ingredients from farm to restaurant, implemented new food safety protocols, and provided more information to customers about the sourcing and preparation of its food. The initiative helped restore customer confidence in the brand and led to a rebound in sales.
Walmart also announced a new initiative to improve supply chain transparency for its food suppliers. As part of this initiative, the company began requiring suppliers to provide more information about the origins and production methods of their products, and to adhere to stricter food safety and animal welfare standards. The initiative helped Walmart identify and address potential risks in its supply chain, improve the quality and safety of its products, and meet the demands of its customers for more sustainable and ethical food.
Improving supply chain transparency is a smart business move that can help food brands:
- Identify and reduce risk. Accepting food deliveries comes with risks, but you can reduce these risks with more transparency all along your supply chain. Since just one contaminated product could sicken your customers and ruin your brand’s reputation, improving your supply chain visibility can provide critical insights into potential risk factors. For instance, if there are product recalls, you’ll want accurate information about whether your deliveries were impacted. Better visibility can tell you whether your suppliers experienced transportation delays, which could result in perishable foods spoiling. Even weather-related events, like storms or flooding, could contaminate products with more bacterial growth and migration increasing foodborne illness risks. And if your suppliers don’t prioritize food safety and quality, their carelessness around food safety protocols – such as cross-contaminating, not holding foods at proper temps, etc. – could potentially harm your customers (and your business). Improving visibility can help protect your products, customers, and business.
- Make smarter, data-driven decisions. In the past, food brands have relied on manual systems – such as paper files and Excel spreadsheets – to manage their food safety and quality programs. Using these outdated systems means that food brands can’t get a holistic, real-time look at their data across their organization and throughout their supply chain. Instead, brands should pivot and use tech solutions, which are improving food safety and quality exponentially. Tech tools allow food brands to centralize data for a single source of truth, and provide valuable, real-time analytics to help brand leaders make smarter, more informed decisions. Brands can use these insights to reduce risks, solve problems, anticipate disruptions, select vendors, optimize operations, and maximize safety.
- Prioritize ESG initiatives. More food brands are prioritizing ESG efforts, partly due to customer, employee, and investor demands, and partly because it’s the right thing to do. A growing number of organizations are wisely reducing their environmental impact, prioritizing sustainability, committing to DEI efforts, and buying responsibly sourced products. Organizations can’t say they’re prioritizing ESG if they’re working with vendors that don’t, so brands are gravitating towards suppliers with ESG values that align with their own. Another positive change is that food brands are using tech tools to determine whether their suppliers are properly certified. This helps ensure that brands are only working with suppliers that prioritize ESG initiatives – as well as safety, quality, transparency, and compliance.
- Improve KPIs. Increasing supply chain transparency can significantly improve key performance indicators (KPIs), including sales, profits, investments, and customer loyalty. As more consumers gravitate towards brands that operate safely, sustainably, and ethically, sharing information about your supply chain can help you improve important metrics, such as increasing profits 2% to 10%.
- Maximize performance. Tech tools provide a clear view of inventory, potential disruptors, and activity through every step of the supply chain, which allows brands to be more agile, flexible, responsive, and resilient. Collecting and analyzing real-time data from the point of origin to the point of consumption can help brands boost safety and quality, improve compliance, and maximize performance. Supply chain transparency also helps create more resilient operations. Armed with critical insights and data, brands can make strategic decisions, such as switching to different suppliers when their regular suppliers are impacted by transportation delays, weather events, or other disruptors.
- Meet consumer demands. Recently, consumers have become more concerned about social issues. They want to know where their food is coming from, how it’s been sourced, how sustainable companies are, and if the animals are being treated humanely. Additionally, they want to support organizations that are committed to fair labor practices and DEI. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a whopping 94% of consumers said they’d be more loyal to brands that offer supply chain transparency.
- Communicate more effectively with suppliers. Food brands must communicate regularly with each of their many suppliers. Consider, for instance, a global fast food brand. There are so many different suppliers necessary to supply every component of every meal around the world that trying to track their supply chain manually would be overwhelming and time-consuming. However, using tech tools to improve supply chain transparency provides key insights about potential disruptors that could negatively impact incoming products. You’ll need to know about supply chain disruptions, potential weather events that could limit products (and/or cause prices to spike), and food safety breaches (such as a farm being contaminated by bacteria or chemicals). Therefore, ongoing communication – and collaboration – with your suppliers is essential. Tech tools – like the cloud, quality management software, artificial intelligence, etc. – are revolutionizing food brands’ ability to communicate with their suppliers across the supply chain to ensure that everyone’s working together to maximize safety and quality.
- Drive positive industry-wide change. You’ve likely heard the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The same could be said for food safety efforts. If food brands continue to do the same thing over and over (e.g., try to manage food safety efforts with paper files and Excel spreadsheets), we’ll never improve safety, quality, and compliance industry wide. On the other hand, when your organization (and suppliers) use tech solutions to improve visibility across the supply chain, you’ll drive positive changes not only within your company, but throughout the industry. And that’s a major win.
Key stakeholders – including customers, employees, and investors – want to work with responsible organizations. They’re more likely to support brands that provide safe food, of course, but who are also concerned about the greater good: sustainability, fair business practices, ethical treatment of people and animals, ESG, and DEI. It’s no longer enough for your brand to commit to these things – it’s also essential that you align with suppliers that do, as well. Prove your commitment by embracing transparency across your supply chain.
Paul Damaren is Executive Vice President, Business Development at RizePoint a technology leader in the food safety, quality management, compliance, and social responsibility space. RizePoint’s quality management software solutions help companies, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, Marriott, and more, keep brand promises through their quality, safety, and compliance efforts. Customers gather better data, see necessary actions earlier, and act faster to correct issues before they become costly liabilities. Check out RizePoint’s new website to learn how these solutions can help your company.