Q&A: Building Trust and Transparency in the Supply Chain

February 2024

Do you know where the ingredients in your favorite restaurant meal, morning oats, or on-the-go beverage come from? In recent years, customers have increasingly been asking the same question in order to better understand the history and supply chain travels of the food they consume. Whether it is about safety and avoiding foodborne illnesses or product recalls to better support their local growers, businesses are being asked more than ever to share the background of the ingredients they use and the partners they work with.

We spoke with Matt Hill, (former) Group Head of Technical and Quality Operations, at Chaucer Foods to learn more about the importance of ingredient and product traceability and why we might be hearing more than ever before from customers needing to be in the know.

Q: What does traceability mean to consumers and what does it mean for an ingredient to be traceable?

Consumers expect that all food products should be fully traceable, meaning that a company selling any food ingredient should clearly be able to demonstrate the origins of this material upstream. For an ingredient to be traceable we could look at a number of different levels. Farm to fork, every step of the chain is visible, and the finished goods can be traced through each processing step to the initial batch number. It could also mean that the upstream traceback is as far as the factory gate of our upstream supplier. During approvals, suppliers can be expected to verify their traceability system ensuring that their suppliers and process steps are all included and recorded.

Q: What are the main drivers encouraging the growing interest in traceability?

Safe food and ethical sourcing. People want to know where their food comes from and what impact that may have either socially or environmentally. These factors influence customer buying preferences as consumers are more conscious than ever before regarding all of the above.

Q: How can a brand increase food or beverage product traceability?

Having a complete record of all inputs, timings, and quality inspections from the time an ingredient enters your site to when it leaves is the first step. Next, work upstream with suppliers to validate their traceability system and supplier approval process. Ensuring all parties are capable and competent in this aspect of their business is essential in product integrity.

Q: Why is it a positive benefit to the future of food and beverage production that the general public has increased visibility into the growing process?

I am not sure if the public want increased visibility into the growing process. I think that it is perhaps more important for the public to have confidence in the food industry. We have seen how some food-related scandals can damage consumer trust and have seen how easy it can be for food fraud to take place. Visibility into the growing process is what many would consider a pre-requisite for any business in the food industry. Where do you source your RM and how is it managed? What pesticides, if any, are used? The general public might not want all of this detail but they certainly expect brands to demonstrate that they manage, monitor, and take it seriously.

Q: What’s one thing that a business can do to help improve its capacity to be a leader in supply chain and product transparency?

Understand and map their supply chain. Set clear CSR goals and a mission statement in order to meet these needs.

Q: What are the main challenges associated with maintaining a transparent supply chain or product? What advice do you have for helping to solve or address those challenges?

Supplier approval may be pressured for shortcuts due to market demands or commercial KPI’s. Ensuring all pillars of a business are aligned and that proper approvals remain an integral piece of business will help your business to maintain a transparent supply chain even under pressure.

Q: How does working with Chaucer and its ingredients help brands create a traceable final product?

Our supplier approval process is very robust and we pride ourselves in taking careful selection when it comes to raw material suppliers. All of our processing sites are BRC-certified at a minimum and thus are fully capable of tracing material throughout the process.

Looking for more information on the rising interest in traceable food and beverages? Contact our team at customer.services@chaucerfoods.com to expert insights on traceability.

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