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Last week saw the GFSi’s annual conference, uniting figures from the retail and manufacturing communities. While many topics were discussed, there was an overarching focus on how increasing consumer demands and supply chain complexity are driving the need to ensure food safety. Some of the key topics discussed this year included:
From supplier compliance to supply chain compliance – Consumers need more than the bare minimum of information conveyed to them on product packaging: they need to completely believe in the labels they read and trust the brands they buy. Examples from retailers such as Carrefour highlighted how the ‘savvy shopper’ now makes purchases in line with their values, and demands access to information on food products in real time. When navigating the complex journey to deliver on these expectations, transparency will be a linchpin for retailers wanting to know their supply chains intimately. These retailers can then react in a crisis, protect reputation and retain consumer trust.
Increased supply chain risk – Another issue highlighted at the conference was globalisation, and how it exposes the food industry to a greater level of risk. Disruptions to the supply chain such as unpredictable weather patterns; contamination by chemicals and pathogens; and increasing demands on the industry from competitors and regulators require closer collaboration between all parties in the value chain. Understanding the risk of multiple supply chains will require retailers, manufacturers and raw material suppliers to form a social network to accurately identify ingredient origins and share information transparently across the whole supply chain, from ‘farm to fork’, to manage these challenges.
Sharing responsibility – A main theme from the conference was that the industry now has a shared responsibility to address multiple demands. This includes addressing consumer demands for more ethical products; environmental concerns; pressure from regulators; and internal drivers to meet corporate social responsibility objectives. As supply chain complexity now means “food chains” are increasingly transforming into “food webs”, transparency will be even more key to managing this complexity and enabling the industry to better meet its shared responsibility in the years ahead.
This year’s Global Food Safety Conference made clear both that transparency spans every part of the supply chain, and that the industry has its eyes set firmly on the future.