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Smart businesses are taking proactive steps to share detailed product information with consumers and establish corporate initiatives for transparency and responsible sourcing. But thinking big needs to start small. Meeting large-scale goals begins with a single project, which can then be expanded to include batch lot traceability and other initiatives.

Consumers today want to know where their food comes from. They are concerned about the safety of their food, its provenance, and its impact on the planet. The ability to provide this information is a key growth driver for food brands and retailers.

Smart food businesses are taking proactive steps to share detailed product information with consumers, such as ingredient origins, product journey, and farmer stories, with the end goal of scaling across the entire business. This involves ambitious corporate initiatives for supply chain transparency and responsible sourcing, such as those established by Unilever and Danone.

But thinking big needs to start small. To meet consumer expectations, most food companies aim to achieve complete product traceability. But today, simply gaining visibility of indirect suppliers and managing compliance at multiple levels can pose a real challenge. Meeting corporate goals for transparency and responsible sourcing begins with a single project, which can then be expanded to include batch lot traceability and other initiatives.

Start with a single project

Traceability, the ability to track specific lots throughout the supply chain, is a good end goal, but it is difficult (if not impossible) to achieve without laying the initial groundwork.

Before tackling traceability, it is best to focus on supply chain transparency by mapping and identifying suppliers for a specific ingredient, product, or product range. By doing so, you gain a better understanding of your supply chains, namely who is involved and where your suppliers and facilities are located. This forms the foundation of any supply chain initiative.

With greater transparency, you can then collect critical data such as GFSI-recognised certificates, organic certificates, questionnaires, or chemical analyses. You can also assess the status of your supply chains by using the data collected to analyse supplier compliance, supply chain risks, and other KPIs important to your business.

Achieving transparency on a small scale serves as a pilot that can help you identify areas of improvement, such as reallocating internal resources, adjusting messaging towards your suppliers, or reevaluating requirements. Once a pilot is complete, you can then scale up and begin tackling other ingredient or product ranges, or dive deeper into a specific SKU.

Next steps

Once you have mapped your supply chains, you can take one of several next steps depending on the needs of your business.

  • Achieve batch lot traceability: Trace specific batch lots throughout the supply chain, in real-time. Traceability enables more focused risk management and analysis, faster reactions to crisis, and supports consumer engagement campaigns. Transparency is essential before tackling traceability, as knowledge of the suppliers and facilities involved in the supply chain is necessary to gather more specific, granular traceability data.
  • Improve compliance and efficiency: Establish or reassess your inspection plans based on the information uncovered during the mapping phase. For example, some facilities may have been unable to provide certifications or respond to questionnaires required by your business. You can use this information to inform your action plan and/or reallocate audits to optimise business operations.
  • Use the data: Leverage supply chain findings to benefit other departments such as Marketing or Sustainability. Marketing can develop consumer-facing campaigns that promote product origins, farmer stories, product journey, or other information gathered during the initial project. Sustainability can analyse the data to identify areas of improvement to help achieve large-scale corporate initiatives.

Innovative and ambitious objectives are key for meeting expectations of the new consumer. But these big plans need to start with a single step. Supply chain mapping and transparency for a limited ingredient or product range establishes the necessary foundation upon which further initiatives can be built, whether this means expanding transparency to other product ranges, increasing batch lot traceability, or working with other departments to create consumer-centric campaigns.

This post was written and contributed by:

KellyAnn Tsai

Director of Marketing


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