5 Ways to Promote Consumer Trust in the Food Industry

As a series of high-profile food scandals and scares have progressively eroded public confidence in recent years, consumer protection and the interests of the food industry should go hand-in-hand. Building and maintaining consumer trust is hard. But following a food safety incident or revelation of dubious practices, restoring consumer trust is harder still. The implications for missing the mark in terms of how the incident is handled can come at a high cost from both a revenue and brand perspective. 

While more and more manufacturers are explaining how they source and make products, a significant portion of shoppers remain wary. The human brain is wired to be sensitive to potential risks, therefore bad news spreads like wildfire, and the actions of a tiny minority of rogue suppliers can discredit the entire industry. The reality is that companies invest heavily in optimising food safety, yet very few consumers understand the challenges involved:

Accidental or deliberate contamination 

When our pantry is global, so are the chances of contamination. The majority of food recalls stem from operational deficiencies, and come at a high direct and indirect cost to firms. In undifferentiated markets, where consumers can’t distinguish between sellers of good product and contaminated product, this can result in consumer avoidance of the entire category.

Food fraud – when products are deliberately diluted, tampered with, mislabelled or otherwise misrepresented, or substituted with another product – is a highly lucrative business and often integrated with organised crime networks. But when economic times are tough, the opportunities to cut corners become harder to resist, even for otherwise legitimate businesses, as evidenced by the adulteration of food safety records by a major UK poultry supplier which made the headlines in late 2017. Food fraud also impacts on sustainability, nutrition, animal welfare and human rights, which are becoming increasingly important to consumers.

Food labelling

Food labelling is a huge area of contention: on one hand, consumers want more product information to make informed choices; on the other, they often distrust the accuracy of labels or are confused by them due to inconsistency or information overload.

Fundamentally, consumers’ needs are simple: they want to know they’re buying food that’s safe to eat, and doesn’t harm people or nature. In today’s digital world, relevant information needs to be made available to connected consumers at the time of purchase, particularly online where the shopper is at arm’s length from the physical product and packaging.

Greater supply chain complexity

No food safety system is perfect, but the greater the number of links in the supply chain, the more points available for penetration. Food supply chains are becoming longer and more complex, and therefore more prone to potential disruption. Most food retailers know all their first-tier suppliers, or have a good understanding of those suppliers with whom they have the highest spend, but a lack of insight into subsequent tiers or smaller suppliers means many can’t determine where ingredients are sourced from or how those ingredients are processed or handled.

Establishing the vulnerability of suppliers, especially those operating in higher risk jurisdictions, can be time-consuming unless companies implement ways to monitor and manage increased sourcing complexity. But without effective visibility into the supply chain, businesses can have significant blind spots in their enterprise risk management structure, leaving them exposed to potential legal, financial and reputational damage.

Shifting regulatory framework

The food industry has had to contend with a large number of new regulations and standards in recent years, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, together with numerous national programmes and industry initiatives that attempt to address the issue of food integrity and authenticity.

It’s therefore worth looking to the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors, which provide a leading indicator of what’s likely to come in the food industry. Several bills and directives have been introduced across the EU and US dealing with pharmacovigilance, such as the use of serial numbers and track-and-trace technologies to prevent counterfeit drugs entering the legal supply chain.

Given the impact of food on public health, it’s feasible to expect to see greater regulatory focus on implementing similar requirements in the food industry.

Amid this complex landscape, food businesses can respond to these risks and challenges effectively, and help to restore consumer confidence in the industry as a whole, by taking five fundamental steps:

Step #1: Promote a culture of safety and quality from the farm to the shop floor Forward-thinking companies develop a culture of food safety through education and communication to ensure staff are aware of the importance of good practices and the controls to be applied. They are also proactively identifying and managing potential risks by analysing data within and beyond their organisation on leading indicators such as customer complaints and media reports. There is a range of nationally and internationally recognised standards for certification relating to product quality, social and environmental sustainability and system and process certification. Voluntary participation in such schemes can enable organisations to provide various assurances as a competitive differentiator.

Step #2: Lead risk-resilient business culture and best practices from the topThe buck stops in the boardroom. Business leaders need greater over-sight of and engagement with food trust issues, and executive buy-in is essential to developing a culture that is relevant and responsive to both current and emerging concerns. Food businesses need not reinvent the wheel, but should instead look to adopt proven practices from similar, highly-regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, to start building transparency and trace-ability into their processes now, rather than waiting to be forced by evolving regulation.

Step #3: Continuously review supply chain risks and benchmark against best practicesBusinesses are held accountable for their supply chain actors’ performance, yet for many, supplier risk management is regarded as something of a tick-box exercise. Regardless of which point in the supply chain may be responsible for a food crisis, customers tend to blame the brand from which it was purchased.

So it’s vital to have end-to-end visibility of the supply chain and carry out regular reviews of suppliers’ food safety and quality standards. Taking a pro-active approach to supplier risk management can pay dividends in terms of product integrity, reducing compliance costs, and minimising the need for product recalls.

Step #4: Make considered investments in technology-enabled solutions – The key to transparency is to capture full and accurate data about product movement. Modern manufacturing, warehousing and traceability solutions are designed to help businesses improve standards, manage risks and provide consumers with better information about food products. Industry-specific solutions are purpose-built to support full compliance with food regulations and guidelines, such as GS1. Real-time visibility enables businesses to pinpoint inventory at any stage of the production or logistics process, and automate quality controls and monitoring from end to end, so any problems can be caught before products make it into consumers’ hands.

Step #5: Focus on consumer transparency and prepare to handle crisis events – If a crisis should occur despite all reasonable endeavours, food companies should be able to support near-surgical recall – getting the minimum amount of product off the shelves at maximum speed. This capability can be developed through scenario analysis, planning and drills, underpinned by robust product recall and crisis procedures. A swift response is also reliant on the availability of data in a suitable reporting format within minutes rather than hours, which can support both the crisis event itself, and open and honest consumer-facing communications after the fact.

As bargaining power in the food industry shifts towards the consumer, we will see the lines becoming increasingly blurred between food safety, health and well-ness, and corporate social responsibility. When risks are well managed, there are opportunities to deepen relationships with today’s connected and demanding consumers, and create the conditions for sustainable, profitable growth in the process.

To understand how Signum Solutions and SAP Business One Food and Beverage edition can support such initiatives as GSI contact us on 01244 676900

Signum Solutions awarded CompuTec, Partner Excellence Award 2017

Signum Solutions are proud to announce today that we are the proud recipients of the CompuTec Partner Excellence Award 2017.

The Inaugural ProcessForce Special Interest Group met at the Daresbury Park Hotel last week and the day was productive and full of information.

Our hopes for the day were to bring together those customers who utilise the ProcessForce solution and to develop a support network of peers. We opened the channels of communication between our customers and the software authors, CompuTec and learned quite a bit about what CompuTec has planned for the next year. We believe that this will allow our customers to maximise ProcessForce functionality for their specific requirement and provides a platform to maximise their investment in the software.

At the conclusion of the conference, CompuTec CEO, Lukasz Chomin, presented the coveted Partner Excellence Award 2017 to Signum’s Managing Director, Lindsay Pointon, given in recognition of the long standing partnership, excellence in quality of ProcessForce implementations and exceptional customer satisfaction.

Adam Lebkowski – CompuTec Channel Manager said “During the last 5 years CompuTec have established a very strong and successful relationship with Signum Solutions. Signum are a very experienced SAP Business One partner, highly specialized in the field of CompuTec ProcessForce software. Our strong bond comes from the fact that both – CompuTec and Signum are very focused in delivering specific solutions enhancing the standard SAP products for food and chemical process manufacturing. Together with Signum Solutions, we succeeded and helped many clients to be effective in the businesses that they run. Signum is a key partner in CompuTec’s business strategy, and we are proud to be able to develop industry specific functionalities for such a strong and dedicated partner. We are continually moving forward in our common journey to build the successful products are focused on happy, referral customers.”

Signum MD, Lindsay Pointon commented, “We are proud to have been named as one of CompuTec’s top UK partners. This award is testament to the dedication of the whole Signum team to deliver the right solution for process manufacturers. We understand the challenges faced in this industry and together with CompuTec, we look forward to continuing to support manufacturers by delivering a solution that adds real business value.”

“Thank you! We appreciate the recognition and look forward to a successful 2018!”

About CompuTec

CompuTec S.A, is a growing privately owned business comprising of over 50 employees, with 4 offices located across Poland. We are recognized as one of the top SAP Business One Gold partners within the region, as well as one of the country’s leading providers of IT business solutions and related services. We have formed strategic partnerships with innovators and leaders of industry such as SAP, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and EMC to name but a few. Our business practice comprises of  a customer focused team of certified consultants and engineers who  deliver value based solutions, addressing the needs of our customers and partners.With over a decade of experience we have the knowhow to implement end-to-end solutions ranging from network infrastructure, to desktop productivity tools, to ERP and customer specific software solutions.

About Signum Solutions

Signum are long-standing SAP Business Partners that specialize solely on the Business One solution for small to medium sized businesses. Industry sectors where the business offers a unique and proven solution are: food and beverage,chemicals, food service and wholesale. With offices based in the North of England and in the Midlands, Signum Solutions has over 50 customers and focuses on providing industry leading, affordable ERP Solutions alongside expert knowledge and implementation experience, to SMEs in all of its chosen key industry sectors.

Discover why Signum are SAP’s fastest growing partner for Business One in the UK and find out what our customers say by visiting our case studies section.

10 Reasons your business needs SAP Business One

Signum Solutions understands as a growing business you are one step closer to selecting a business management software for your company’s changing needs. We know this is an important step in your company’s path and one not to be taken lightly.

To aid you in your journey we have listed the top 10 reasons why your business needs to move to SAP Business One. So you can see first-hand how you can significantly improve the way you manage your business.

  1. SAP Business One is affordable
  2. Specifically developed for small to medium enterprises (SME’s)
  3. SAP Business One is designed to grow with your business and can easily adapt to your changing needs
  4. Provides real time analytics ensuring you have full visibility of the data you need to make better business decisions.
  5. SAP Business One offers a wide range of industry specific solutions
  6. ERP solution that is fast to implement, easy to use and needs minimal IT support
  7. Gain fully integrated functionality across your entire business with SAP Business One
  8. SAP Business One gives you a fast return on your investment
  9. SAP Business one is from the word leaderin business applications – SAP
  10. It’s supported by Signum Solutions, Gold partner with SAP Business One Recognised Expertise and industry expert for Food and Drink, Food Service, Chemicals, Wholesale and Distribution and Manufacturing.

 

Your business has a lot of distinctive features. It’s time to make the move and find the perfect software fit for your business, contact your SAP Business One Industry experts, Signum Solutions on 01244 676900 for more information.

Batch Traceability – Looking for a needle in a haystack

If your business produces products within a regulated industry, batch traceability is of the utmost importance. The reality of “Batch Traceability” is that it is a highly complex multi-dimension issue that touches all parts of the enterprise.

The problem arises, when you have to find the cause to understand the effect, regardless if you’re undertaking a real life or simulated product analysis and recall. Searching through your batch record Big Data, is like “looking for a needle in a haystack”. Visualisation is the optimum way to sift through the data haystack to find the information needle point to increase visibility, reduce the time and cost of analysis to make timely and informed decisions.

Using our SAP Business One – Industry Edition with ProcessForce, provides such a solution for regulated industries, allowing users to quickly understand the batch path (both forwards and backwards) and batch status through the inventory and production flow process and to then drill down to understand the transactional effects and implications across the enterprise.

If you want to know more about how can help, call 01244 676900 or fill in the form below.

 

Another Product Recall. Could Your Business Cope?

This week Sainsbury’s have issued a recall of one of their chicken products, due to a packaging error. Over the past year there have been numerous recalls by all the major supermarkets. Despite regulations and precautionary measures put in place, recalls continue on a regular basis.

Managing a product recall is an extremely difficult and challenging process.  However, having the right Business Systems in place will help you minimise the risk and allow you respond quickly and effectively should your business be faced with this situation.

At Signum we work closely with food companies looking to maintain a robust reliable solution to compliance and traceability. Our SAP Business One Industry Edition for Food and Beverage Manufacturing  is a powerful solution, simple to use and affordable. Moreover, over half of Signum Solutions’ customers operate within the food manufacturing industry, which means that we have a great deal of knowledge and expertise not only in food manufacturing system (MRP and ERP) implementation, but also in relation to the latest requirements of food manufacturing businesses.

Full Story: Food recall

To find out more about how we could help your business call 01244 676900, or click the button below.

The food & drink supply chain: the threats from food fraud

Guest Blog by Food Journalist Paul Gander

Unless yours is a vertically-integrated food & drink business which runs the entirety of its own ingredients sourcing operation from field to fork-lift, there will always be doubts and concerns about the supply chain.

Periodically, scares and scandals about upstream criminal adulteration – from melamine in milk powder to horse meat – do a particularly good job of eroding consumer and retailer confidence. Out of the 2013 horse meat debacle came the Elliott report and its key recommendation that a National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) be set up in the UK. But, given the Government’s response to that report, is this the best way to shore up downstream confidence, both among manufacturers and their customers?

Apparently in ‘listening mode’, the Government did indeed establish the NFCU under the auspices of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and last year appointed the experienced Andy Morling as its head.

Several months into his new job, Morling admitted to me that there were serious gaps in the unit’s understanding of the threat from food crime in Britain. That is to be expected, at this stage. Less easy to accept has been the suggestion by the FSA that the NFCU may never have full investigatory powers.

If there is an episode of the Keystone Cops where the cops themselves – rather than the criminals – are handcuffed, this sounds like it. Coincidentally, one insider who worked on the Elliott report did confide that he saw the whole thing as a ‘classic Whitehall farce’ designed to kick the question of food fraud into touch. Let’s hope the drama does not shift from comedy to tragedy.

On a practical note, Morling wondered whether the principles of situational crime prevention (SCP) could be applied to the food arena. For anyone not familiar with it, SCP is defined by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology as any strategy aiming to reduce criminal opportunities rooted in everyday routines.

The institute cites CCTV as a prime example of SCP in action. But what would the equivalent be in a food fraud setting?

If we cannot literally ‘watch’ our suppliers every minute of every day, we can collect, collate and access data about them; and data, it could be argued, is the ‘CCTV’ of supply-chain security.

Manufacturers will have to judge how much testing of ingredient consignments (and what sort of testing) should be carried out. At the same time, they are likely to be extremely reliant on third-party auditing and certification at source. Diligent data collection may throw up worrying trends and anomalies among suppliers or their ingredient specifications. This in turn may allow businesses to step in early to avert more serious consequences.

Of course, neither frequent testing nor auditing is likely to produce direct evidence of wrongdoing. That is beside the point. The primary role of a speed camera, for example, and its role from an SCP perspective, is to deter speeding.

It has been said that the food industry supply chain operates on the basis of quality assurance rather than quality control. But ‘assurance’ can (and in many cases should) be improved. Going beyond the legal minimum with overt test procedures and the active use of third-party certification must help to deter fraud, while also reassuring customers.

On this last point, as with the creation of the NFCU (a cynic might say), it would be difficult to separate out the tangible and practical benefits from the ‘soft’ – and, in the case of the NFCU, political – benefit of simply being seen to be doing something.

To find out how Signum can help your business call 01244 676 900, or click the button below.

 

 

 

The Need For 360° Traceabilty

360 Tracability

If you’re part of a regulated industry supply chain whether it’s pharmaceutical, chemicals or food, traceability is a necessary evil. Governing bodies and codes of practice regulate the industry to ensure standards are implemented for consumers, examples include FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 (CFR) and Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) http://1.usa.gov/1mh3QfJ , FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) http://1.usa.gov/1mh36ay  and the BRC Global Standards http://bit.ly/1mh4Vo2

Just saying “Batch Traceability” sounds really easy, but in reality it’s a complex multi-dimension business issue which touches all parts of the enterprise, and should be managed in a holistic manner.

We all hear the term Big Data and its loose definition of large volumes of data, and its related problems with data capture, storage, search, analysis and visualisation to name but a few. But depending on the industry, product, customer and user, Big Data problems tend to be specific to you!

Searching through batch records and other related data can take time, with input from different departments, when trying to understand the cause and effect, when undertaking a real life recall or a BRC audit. But with the paradigm shift created by SAP HANA, data visualization and predictive analytics totally changes the way users consume data and analyse business problems.

Visualisation is the optimum way to view data, dramatically increasing visibility to help hotspots, while predictive analytics can provide early warning of problems before they arrive, thus reducing time and cost to make timely and informed decisions.

An example of Visualisation would be a traceability dashboard or plotting customers with the defective batch on a google map. While for predictive analysis trending customer complaints indicating a potential product re-call.

ProcessForce  provides relationship map visualisation to tackle the topic of batch traceability. For example, it has helped one of our customers, UK food and beverage producer Evolution Foods support their BRC requirements, ensuring  timely compliance within the reporting timelines.

Visit our case studies page and read the Evolution story.

 

Batch Control – Anytime, Anywhere, Instantly

In any ERP system, searching through your item batch records and other related data can take time. You’ll find input from different departments, and it will take time to try and understand the cause and effect of a batch problem – time that, in real life, with BRC audit compliance in mind, you just don’t normally have!

In SAP Business One, and with the paradigm shift created by the game-changing HANA platform that powers the system, , data visualization and predictive analytics totally change the way you consume data and analyse business problems.

Our focus on Food and Beverage, along with Chemicals, have given us a great understanding of the needs of companies operating in a batch controlled environment, where traceability is a fundamental business need. Our SAP Business One – Industry Edition, delivers this next generation, 360 degree view of traceability and makes it simple for you to achieve compliance.

To find out how Signum and SAP Business One can help your business call 01244 676 900, or click the button below.