In a recent survey of food and beverage executives, nearly half of respondents named product quality as a major risk area and cited product recall capabilities as a priority. However, only about one-third of executives expressed confidence in their companies’ current safety and recall strategies.
“Mitigating [product] risks starts with tone at the top and leadership within a company,” says Cristin Singer, assurance partner with McGladrey, LLP. “Companies have a strong focus on the diligence associated with quality (especially among employees involved in testing) and building long-standing, trusted relationships with suppliers and vendors.” Many companies are also increasing their testing of imported products and making sure that their partners are familiar with the cultures of the regions from which they import goods as part of their risk mitigation strategy.
The Food and Beverage Industry survey, conducted by McGladrey, involved 179 executives, owners, and decision makers from food and beverage companies with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion.
Product Recalls. Some companies are basing their product recall strategy on where they actually fall within the supply chain. “I’ve found that when a company feels that they serve as a middle-man distributor, and depending on the contractual relationship with the co-packer, they look to the processor or co-packer to manage the recall process,” says Singer, who is also a member of McGladrey’s national consumer products team. In addition, Singer sees a focus on due diligence related to co-packers and suppliers to ensure they have proper certification, and processes and procedures in place to manage risks and recalls.
Wage and Labor. Food and beverage companies are also facing a variety of wage and labor issues. Larger companies expressed concern with increased labor costs and attracting technical talent; smaller companies are more worried about minimum wage legislation labor costs, and retaining skilled labor workers on the shop floor. Executives also cited that minimum wage legislation and the Affordable Care Act could pose challenges over the next year.
Data Security. As more companies adopt platforms that store sensitive data, the security of these systems is important. Yet only about 42% of executives are very confident that their data and systems are secure from authorized access (about 50% are “somewhat confident”). Improving employee security protocols and providing training, involving data security consultants, and conducting due diligence on vendor data security are among the actions that companies are taking to enhance the security of their platforms. “If there’s a data breach, a lot of sensitive information could be put out there, including product formulations, intellectual property, and employee data (social security numbers or healthcare data),” says Singer. “Initially a lot of companies on the retail side were focusing on data security. Now we’re educating our clients, especially those on the distribution, processing or manufacturing side. All levels of the supply chain are at risk.”