Manufacturers should be particularly vigilant over the festive season, warned food safety and brand protection firm Qadex. The firm’s operations manager Tracey Cranney said: “Having to compete with successful low-price retailers is tough, especially heading into the festive season when food budgets will be cut to allow spending in other areas.
“However, placing the loyalty of customers at risk by compromising quality, turning a blind eye to standards and potentially sacrificing credibility is not a choice taken lightly. The pressure is on for suppliers to deliver the same products cheaper, which makes the food chain highly vulnerable to fraud.”
While food retailers obviously wanted to offer affordable food and drink, it was essential not to jeopardise the quality and authenticity of products in the name of competition, she added. Lower prices may seem to benefit customers, but compromising on quality is not in their best interests.
‘Food fraud is on the rise’
“The industry must ask itself: if we are now offering an identical product at a much lower price than last year, how has that been possible,” said Cranney? “Affordability is not the only pressing factor that food businesses need to consider, as we are still recovering from horsegate and food fraud is on the rise.”
The latest warning about the impact of falling food prices on quality and traceability followed a caution from the boss of one of Europe’s largest food companies that constantly pushing down prices made the supply chain susceptible to fraud, as price is prioritised ahead of quality and security.
“There has been a race to [the] bottom in terms of pricing”, Elio Leoni Sceti, chief executive of Birds Eye owner Iglo, told The Times.
“There is a point at which this becomes detrimental to the quality and the certainty and the security of output,” he said. “If you push down in terms of price, somebody along the chain might decide to take a short cut and break the law.”
‘Break the law’
Qadex claimed to offer a simple software solution that integrated every stage of the food chain – including retailers, processors, suppliers and manufacturers – enabling every link to be accounted for. The firm’s supplier risk assessments, audits and specification management helped reduce the risk of food fraud and brand damage, it claimed.
Meanwhile, leading City analyst Shore Capital said that while the UK supermarket sector currently resembled “a motorway car crash for investors”, there were signs of improvement.
“While the sector may be coming closer to its nadir, especially if 2015 results in stronger UK consumer demand, aided by favourable comparatives, lower motor fuel prices and robust employment, we view greater visibility on earnings as a pre-condition for us to become more positive and we have not reached that point yet,” said analysts Clive Black and Darren Shirley.