Within the vast scale of the grocery retail industry, it is sometimes inevitable that there will be errors with product labelling relating to ingredients.
This issue is a lot more common than I initially realised. In fact, in 2015 there were over 1,500 food alerts with 159 leading to product recalls. In January 2017 alone there were 10 product recalls for incorrect labelling relating to allergies. You can read more about the impact of product recalls in my colleague's blog: Product Recall – suppliers are key to reducing negative impact on brand.
At S4RB we believe education and Supplier Engagement can help in reducing these errors.
If you are new to the idea of Supplier Engagement you can read my introductory blog Supplier Engagement for first timers.
I believe there are two key ways that Supplier Engagement can help address the issues that surround compliance such as product labelling and legislation:
- Supplier education
- Supplier support
Regulations that govern our food are constantly changing. For example, the Food Information Regulation (FIR) legislation which was introduced in 2011 was updated as recently as December 2016. Changes to legislation such as this are often relatively minor and can be easily missed by suppliers. This of course leaves products sitting on the shelves which are not compliant with UK food regulations. This poses a risk to the retailer – even more so when it is their private brand products which are affected.
One of the simplest ways to ensure that private brand suppliers remain compliant is to educate them. Here at S4RB we’ve developed several ways to do this. We have found one of the best (and most cost effective) tools to use is an online knowledgebase.
A knowledgebase acts as a self-help facility for suppliers. Self-help tools are vital in the retail world when people forever come and go, making training a supplier virtually impossible and ongoing education an absolute necessity. Retailers can include any information, articles or video tutorials that they think would help a supplier to do their job. This information can range from covering the retailer’s brand values to specific issues such as food regulations.
Not only does a well-constructed knowledgebase allow a supplier to gain the information that they need to do their job, it facilitates engagement between themselves and the private brand team. At S4RB we believe, and indeed have demonstrated, that there is a direct correlation between a supplier’s engagement and their compliance.
To get the best out of suppliers, I believe that education alone is not enough. Suppliers still need help and support to complete a given task especially when people move on and swap roles so regularly. You cannot just train ‘the supplier’ - a retailer must provide ongoing support for the supplier as an entity.
Supplier Engagement is not just about giving suppliers the tools to succeed, it is about supporting them in the use of these tools. Retailers can provide extra supporting materials such as webinars or workshops all of which allow suppliers to gain access to in-depth knowledge that they would need to become compliant with legislation like FIR. Alongside this, the supplier is all the while gaining a better and deeper understanding of a private brand’s values.
Any retailer that thinks they can relax because ‘FIR is behind us’, should probably think again. There is always new legislation being brought in which directly affects their private brand portfolio. It is not long until the current FIR standards for alcohol related terms such as ‘low alcohol’, ‘dealcoholised’ etc end in 2018. This may or may not bring more changes to the regulations which suppliers must be compliant with.
The key to getting ahead of the game on all things ‘regulation’ is to get suppliers engaged. Get them involved in the conversation, interacting with a knowledgebase and in turn, adhering to brand values. Supplier Engagement will drive compliance and stop drastic action such as product recalls. This all helps to keep products on the shelves, maintain a private brand’s reputation and strengthen relationships with suppliers.
Don’t just take my word for it, read our case study about our work with one of the UK’s top retailers. S4RB have worked very hard with Waitrose to make sure all their 500+ local and regional suppliers were FIR compliant in just six months. Due to great Supplier Engagement and working together as one team with suppliers, the goal of full compliance was reached alongside a very healthy ROI of £100k. Win-win, suppliers are engaged, products stay on the shelves, reputations are upheld and the retailer gets a great return on investment.