The main foodservice companies will expect their manufacturing suppliers to adopt common product information standards to meet growing customer expectations.
That was the message from a panel discussion at the launch of The Food Service Information Challenge report. It found the foodservice sector was lagging behind retail when it came to giving customers information about nutrition, provenance, traceability and allergy advice.
The report, published by the not-for-profit supply chain membership group GS1, was written for its Food Service Directors’ Group (FSDG). Its members include: Unilever, Brakes, Mitchells & Butlers and Whitbread.
Tracey Rodgers, md of Unilever Food Solutions, said the current system of different foodservice businesses and manufacturers having their own processes for recording product information had to change.
‘Vote with their feet’
“Whether the industry likes it or not, customers want more information about provenance and traceability and so on, and if we don’t provide it in a standardised format, people will vote with their feet. This may even be about survival in the long term,” she said.
“We almost have a situation where people have too much information when they go the supermarket, but hardly any information when they are eating out of the home.”
The report states that, at present, the ingredient information for the tens of thousands of products handled by foodservice businesses was often “buried within a maze of spreadsheets” or “simply missing”.
GS1 and its FSDG is advocating that the supply chain follows its roadmap to a standard system by adopting global product and location identification numbers and standard product information.
Andrew Stinchcombe-Gillies, from GS1, denied this would be an extra financial and bureaucratic burden for manufacturers.
He said they were already providing pages of product information, in different formats, to scores of different customers, something that could be removed if a standard system was adopted.
The report added that most manufacturers already used barcoding for retail clients, which could also be used for foodservice.
Benefits for suppliers
“There are many benefits for suppliers in adopting this because every business will eventually be wanting more information to meet consumer and legislation requirements,” said Stinchcombe-Gillies.
He added that GS1 was able to provide a one-stop advice shop for manufacturers who were keen to get on board.
The FSDG acknowledged the system would only be successful if the entire supply chain adopted it, but said the major players would expect suppliers to follow suit.
“We now need to engage with businesses, small and large, to get them involved in this process,” said FSDG member Dennis Deare, director of food trading at Mitchells & Butlers.