Why supplier engagement is key to collecting data about GMOs in own brand products


GMO - Noooooo!

The Vermont Act 120 & Consumer Protection Rule 121, has recently been passed and comes into force on July 1st 2016.

The Act mandates organizations to make “clear and conspicuous” labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food and prohibits manufacturers from describing GE products as “natural”.

This is about giving consumers transparency of food produced with genetic engineering, enabling them to make informed choices when shopping.

Incorrect labels or claims are liable to fines of $1,000 per day, per product.

Retailers understandably look set to de-list products which do not comply with the new legislation.

The waiting game…

Some retailers have sat and waited for the Act to go away, either because they were hoping the legislation would be over-ruled or at least that there would be a consistent ruling across all states. The GMA remains vocal on the failure of congress to stop a patchwork of state labeling laws and there are initiatives such as SmartLabel which hope to help a consistent approach.

In the meantime the Vermont legislation will progress and therefore unfortunately for these retailers, the ruling has gathered momentum and as we welcome 2016 it’s not long now until the implementation date of July 1st is upon us. Lots of ground work needs to be done to collate, analyze, understand and manage the information before even putting in a program to implement the changes!

Retailers must therefore act now to: 

  • Understand the risk implications at a granular level; which products are impacted?
  • Implement a user-friendly, auditable, transparent process to capture the required information
  • Put in place a program that will leverage cost and time efficiencies that will prove costly by delaying

None of the above can be understood and achieved without getting suppliers on board. For those retailers who don’t subscribe to the benefits of supplier engagement, this will prove a wholly difficult task, especially when coupled with how little suppliers know and understand about the ruling and what it means for them in practical terms.

Ignorance is bliss?

At S4RB we firmly believe in fostering positive supplier relationships with retailers to ensure suppliers are mobilized to prioritize the retailer’s requests and are ultimately working towards shared goals as ‘one team’; this is especially true for private brand suppliers.

We help retailers foster positive relationships in three distinct stages:

  1. Initiation - The process leading up to the request, whereby we educate, motivate and set expectations of what is required from suppliers; the what, the when and importantly the why.
  2. Implementation - The first experiences of the request and the retailer. Here we support and drive positive behaviours which lead to results
  3. Continuation - The change in behaviours and relationship is embedded by giving back to the suppliers through various methods but most significantly by maintaining a relationship between the retailer and supplier to manage any further request efficiently

Having successfully implemented a GMO data gathering project recently, I was very surprised at how many suppliers were either oblivious to what the ruling meant for them or were dragging their heels on providing the required information.

What should have been a fairly straight-forward campaign with an upfront focus at the Initiation stage, turned into a more complicated educate and motivate exercise throughout all stages.

Four things quickly became apparent:

  • If retailers don’t currently speak to their suppliers regularly, don’t have a great relationship with them or haven’t spoken to them about GMO labeling, they must think about how quickly they will be able to get suppliers to move on requests in order to have all the information required back in time to understand its implications.
  • Just because retailers are now facing this head on, it doesn’t mean suppliers are at the same stage in their journey and understanding; the need for education and risk or impact assessment is now.
  • Of those suppliers that are aware of the ruling and what they need to do, most of them will be carrying out this exercise for multiple retailers and are likely to prioritize the request from those retailers that foster better working relationships with them. The better the communication and support, the more successful the retailer will be.
  • Without suppliers, retailers can’t easily access the information they need.


Educate, Educate, Educate: or it will cost your business

If you are a retailer sitting here thinking “Six weeks? Is that all it take to understand the impact of the ruling on my business, I have plenty of time!” You are mistaken as you have between now and July 2016 to:

  • Engage, inform, collate, understand, analyze and implement the information you get back. This is why we are helping retailers with their impact and risk assessments now.
  • Put in place a cost-efficient program that takes in to consideration print cycles, labeling types and departmental nuances.  For example, we collect information on the packaging type because the time to amend a printed rigid container will take longer than a simple pressure sensitive  material.
  • To implement everything so it is live!

With something so high profile and with hefty fines in place for non-compliance, can your brand really afford to not act on this now?

More importantly, thinking longer term, can you afford to not have your suppliers prioritize your future requests?

For further information or guidance on how to execute your GMO labeling implications assessment, take a look at our offering or email Steven Howell or call +1 866 740 3895.

Further reading: What’s the formula to guarantee success of a data collection campaign?

Tags: Supplier engagement, Sustainability, Consumer trust

Team S4RB

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