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We’re eating on the go. We’re ordering in. We’re demanding “fresh,” “organic,” “local,” “healthy” foods. We care how our foods are grown, processed and prepared. And we have a world of information at our fingertips informing and influencing our food choices.

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The restaurants, supermarkets and food processing plants that Ecolab serves recognize these trends – and they’re working to accommodate them. All the while, though, they know one thing is not changing: Food must continue to be safe.

That’s where Ecolab and organizations like GFSI are helping; organizations need the support of suppliers and partners to tailor their food safety expertise to address emerging food safety problems. Partners in the 2018 Global Food Safety Conference (GFSC), Ecolab and GFSI are supporting food safety efforts through shifts in consumer preferences, evolving trends and new technologies which will be a running theme throughout this year’s conference.

Five global trends

  1. Convenience: Online ordering and delivery from restaurants and grocery stores; meal ingredients delivered in meal kits; fully prepared meals ready to eat from the local grocery store. In China, for example, an estimated 346 million people will go online this year to order delivery of a restaurant-prepared meal. Online grocery shopping is predicted to become a $100 billion business globally.
  2. On-the-go eating for on-the-go lifestyles: Around the world, 30 percent of meals are eaten on the go.
  3. Fresh, local ingredients: Two-thirds of 4,600 diners surveyed in nine countries said fresh, local food is the most important factor in their choice of restaurant. More than half wanted food free of artificial ingredients.
  4. Health and wellness: In a survey, more than 90 percent said healthy options were at least “somewhat important” in where and what to eat.
  5. Information and transparency: Consumers expect clear labeling. What ingredients are in the product? How was it grown and processed?

Online ordering is exploding in China, delivering larger possible food safety implications

No place in the world has adopted online food ordering as enthusiastically as China. The convenience – and the discounts available to online shoppers – are helping drive the trend. This year, more than 346 million people are expected to log on to place food orders.

Meituan-Dianping is China’s largest e-platform for online food orders. An early pioneer in connecting offline businesses with online consumers in need of a meal, movie tickets or reservations, it currently links 240 million active users with two million restaurants. Each day, its 500,000-member delivery staff makes 16 million home deliveries, most of them restaurant-prepared meals.

With food safety a topic of intense concern, China in October 2016 established regulations that made e-businesses, like Meituan-Dianping, responsible for the safety of the food they deliver, even though they don’t prepare it. Delivery companies who fail to properly manage the safety of foods they deliver can face serious penalties and possible shut down.

Faced with this challenge, Meituan-Dianping executives met with Ecolab to develop a management system to ensure food safety. Learn more from the food safety leader at Meituan-Dianping, Mr. Zhong at the 2018 GFSC breakout session titled Redrawing the Lines in Food Service & Hospitality as well as other fascinating regional insights to be gleaned from this year’s conference in Tokyo.

Meituan-Dianping asked us first to help address contamination that could occur during food delivery,” said Tim Wang, Ecolab executive vice president and president, Greater China. “Many deliveries are made by moped. Our challenge was to convert the hygiene and cleaning and sanitizing solutions we normally supply to restaurants to a package that was compact, portable, easy to use and required no personal protective equipment.

To meet Meituan-Dianping’s unique specifications, the Ecolab team developed a kit containing three easy-to-carry items: hand-hygiene sanitizer for the delivery staff and non-corrosive formulas for cleaning and sanitizing the delivery box. Then training on how to use the kit was provided as it rolled out to some 40,000-delivery people in Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Shenzen and Guangshou in 2017.

With a program in place for its delivery team, Meituan-Dianping’s next challenge – one in which Ecolab also is a partner – is to help improve food safety at the small-to-medium-sized restaurants listed on its network. A joint innovation lab and project team are researching and developing right-sized cleaning and sanitation and pest control programs. And the team is combining its food safety expertise and digital technology to educate millions of restaurant operators in good food safety practices.

Troy Hou, an Ecolab associate who serves Meituan-Dianping, sees the importance of his work. “I really enjoy what we do to help improve the food safety standard in the online food delivery market,” he said. “Plus, I am a loyal user of Meituan-Dianping’s platform. I now feel peace of mind when I use it to order food for my family and friends.

As grocery stores become “grocerants,” food safety grows more complex

The grocery scene is evolving and, as it changes, Bill Pattison, director of Marketing for Ecolab’s Food Retail Services (FRS) division, is watching closely.

To meet consumer demand for convenience and compete with online orders, grocers are increasingly offering more walk-up-ready food like pizza, sushi and sandwiches, meal kits measured and packaged for preparation at home – and an engaging shopping experience, according to Bill. The result, in some stores, is what the industry calls “grocerants,” a blend of grocery store and restaurant – a place where you might be as likely to join friends for lunch as shop for tonight’s dinner ingredients.

But as these evolving food emporiums prepare increasingly complex menu items, the risk rises for both food safety and quality, Bill said. These issues will be addressed at the 2018 GFSC by Costco Wholesale in the session titled Redrawing the Lines in Food Service & Hospitality

Ecolab has long met grocers’ needs when it comes to food safety and provides easier, quicker solutions that save costly labor, regular food safety audits – FRS conducts 343,000 per year! – have helped stores identify food safety flaws, fix them and guide staff training to help prevent future risks and MARKETGUARD™ 365, a digital app that collects and consolidates a store’s food safety data for real-time insights about how well food safety protocols are being followed.

To learn more about Ecolab’s food safety innovations, visit us at www.ecolab.com/foodsafety or in our booth at the Global Food Safety Conference, March 5-8 in Tokyo.

Ruth Petran

This post was written and contributed by:

Ruth Petran
Vice President, Food Safety & Public Health

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