Tag Archives: private label food retailers

Traceability in food manufacturing, Honeywell

Traceability Not a Trend. It’s a Reality.

By Maria Fontanazza
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Traceability in food manufacturing, Honeywell

Businesses throughout the food supply chain are using a variety of traceability tools to capture critical information during the path from the field to the consumer. Traceability has always been viewed as an important capability within the supply chain, but FSMA, coupled with retailer and consumer demand, is pushing it to the highest levels yet.

Technology solutions that provide continuous identification and verification include mobile computers, scanners, RFID and mobile printers. While growers, packers, wholesalers, distribution centers and retailers involved in the fresh produce, poultry, meat, and seafood segments are using these technologies, speculation continues about adequate adoption levels.

The larger food providers are embracing track and trace technologies, while smaller business have been much slower to adopt, according to Bruce Stubbs, director of industry marketing at Honeywell Sensing & Productivity Solutions. “It’s going to be difficult to convince the smaller growers to invest in the technology—a lot of them see it as a cost,” he says. “What’s helping is that the retailers are starting to push back and say they are going to require their suppliers to be compliant with [traceability] mandates and if not, they won’t do business with them.”

Out in the field, companies are leveraging scanning and printing technologies, including smart printing technology (essentially a PC with printing capability). The printer hosts data capture and traceability software, providing the tasks and traceability through the software to the scanning devices. It can capture and print the food traceability label, which contains the discreet information, at the point of harvest. At the transportation level, businesses are using mobile computers to scan and capture product information that tracks down to the details from what part of a field, or even which tree in an orchard, a product has been harvested. Traceability technologies are including sensors throughout the cold chain to monitor temperature and humidity as the product is transported from point A to B. All information moves forward into the production facility and the retailer’s distribution center. Once at the retail store level, grocers will be able to pinpoint, within potentially thousands of stores, the specific batches and lots, a key capability in the instance of product issues and recalls.

Traceability is a holistic process, and the potential for its continued growth within the food industry is high. “I see it becoming more prevalent as consumers demand it, and retailers and manufacturers must adapt. I also see them moving away from paper,” says Stubbs. “We’re close; it’s almost like there’s a trickle in the dam right now, but I really believe that over the next couple years, the dam will break and most [companies] will need to adopt [traceability solutions] or they won’t be able to effectively do business with a lot of the food retailers.”

Stubbs also anticipates an increased adoption of 2-D barcodes versus 1-D linear laser barcodes, as 2-D barcodes can contain far more information. “We are at the tip of those technologies—they exist. It’s just the integration of these systems and providing the information in a format at the supplier or food manufacturer level,” he says.

How is your company implementing traceability solutions? What challenges and benefits are occurring as a result?

Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B
Retail Food Safety Forum

The Impact of FSMA on Private Label Food Retailers

By Dan Okenu, Ph.D.
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Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B

When fully implemented, possibly by the spring of 2016, the new U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will raise the bar on food safety regulatory compliance both in the United States and around the world. The key provisions of FSMA will shift emphasis from the current reactive approach to food safety and food security, towards a more proactive science-based risk mitigation and prevention strategy. The impact will be felt across the entire global food supply delivery system from farm to fork including private label foods manufacturers, processors, suppliers, importers and retailers.

It has been projected that the sales of private label groceries in the United States alone will grow by 36 percent from $98 billion in 2011 to $133 billion in 2016. This impressive growth may be as a result of the competitive pricing of private label foods and the comparable quality with major brand products, as well as the convenience and customer trust in these in-store retail brands by today’s savvy shoppers. The consumer-friendly collaboration of private label manufacturers and retailers, or retailers that own their own private label manufacturing facilities is known to reduce the unnecessary supply chain costs by improving supply chain efficiency, enhances processes and systems, and improves the overall customer experience. These great value-proposition attributes will continue to make in-store private label products popular among consumers and profitable for businesses.

An important question however is how the new FSMA regulatory climate will impact these private label food products amid this growing popularity and in the context of the core business benefits of active management control, competitive prices, considerable return-on-investment and consumer satisfaction. On top of this list is the FSMA requirement for risk-based foreign supplier verification. This is to ensure that imported foods manufactured by foreign third party vendors or by US companies running their own facilities overseas are in compliance with the new FDA requirements, and that the food products are not adulterated or misbranded. Retailers of private label foods will be required to provide documented evidence from an accredited certification entity that shows that their foreign-supplied food products are in compliance. Frequent inspections of these foreign-based facilities and foods imported into the United States will be mandated under the new rule.

FSMA also sets the bar higher for retailers of private label foods in the key areas of food safety record keeping and documentation, traceability/recall programs, upgrading from ordinary HACCP to the more advanced Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC), and implementing a verifiable supply chain management program. These provisions have the potential of making it more profitable for companies to manufacture their private label foods here in the United States instead of overseas where they lack active managerial control to ensure full compliance. Although domestic US-based manufacturers and suppliers are already covered under FSMA, retailers of private label food products manufactured in the United States are still advised to consistently verify that their suppliers are compliant, since retailers will also be liable for any infringement or negative outcome from such products.

For private label retailers that have proactively pursued industry benchmarking standards by insisting on GFSI certified facilities and who have an effective verifiable food safety management system in place, the impact of FSMA will be minimal. They will only need to re-examine their processes and systems to identify any gaps within the provisions of the new rule and put corrective actions in place. For others hoping to play catch-up, implementing the new FSMA requirements may become so overwhelming that the obvious business benefits of in-store private label foods like competitive prices and comparable quality with major brands may become severely undermined. The relationship of private label food manufacturers and processors with their retail partners could be impacted, as retailers would need to collaborate to profitably deliver what their customers want, namely, safe quality competitively priced mix of private label and brand food products.

Although the production and sale of safe quality food is mandatory to all food companies, under FSMA, small companies with less than $500k in annual sales and who sell directly to consumers within 275 miles radius of their facility may be exempt from some of the rigorous requirements of the preventive control rule. However, when large companies patronize these small local businesses, they must ensure that they are in full compliance since liability extends to retailers. National food service chains that manufacture their own private label ingredients and condiments or obtain these supplies from third party vendors are also expected to comply with the new rules. Overall, companies will be better off taking proactive steps in evaluating their suppliers’ food safety management system in line with the preventative control provisions under FSMA.

In conclusion, FSMA brings with it, a complete paradigm shift that will impact the entire global food supply chain. Retailers of private label foods must continue to assure their customers that their favorite in-store brands were produced, processed, stored and handled in a safe manner every step of the way. Thus, FSMA readiness and preparedness must include a comprehensive gap analysis to identify provisions of the new rules that must be implemented to stay ahead of the curve by next year when these regulations will potentially come into effect.