What is the most important job of your food supply chain: getting items quickly, cheaply or safely? If you compromise speed or cost, you may lose some customers over pricing. However, if you compromise on the quality of goods for the sake of driving down price points, you risk losing everything — consumer perception, trust and loyalty. When considering new supply chain partners or assessing the suitability of existing ones, quality control checks should be a mandatory component of your supply chain logistics. If they slip up, you're also on the hook for every aspect of that mistake going forward, and those ripples can have a major impact.
Know Where Your Supply Chain Is Vulnerable
Your company’s supply chain, and reputation, is only as strong as the weakest link.
While fresh and frozen foods have obvious vulnerabilities to spoiling, ambient temperature problems during transport and poor storage practices, canning is often looked to as the most durable method of storing edibles. Bumblebee and Chicken of the Sea, however, have been beset by recall-severity issues for the last several years. These two canned fish companies, which unsuccessfully attempted to merge in 2013, both experienced recalls — first for faulty lid sealing procedures in 2013, and, more recently, for improperly cooked can contents in March of 2016. In both cases, similar equipment and procedures were used, and both companies shared certain facilities along their supply chains.
The scrutiny of two companies could have identified and mitigated these issues and triggered better examination for the future. The takeaway from these tuna woes is clear: your suppliers need to be invested in the security and safety of their packaging plants.
You Need Deep Insights Into Your Food Distribution Supply Chain
The edible portion of a products isn't the only thing that can become compromised within your food supply chain. A simple labeling mistake can have a major impact on your bottom line — especially when dietary considerations like gluten sensitivity are driving consumer buying decisions. In 2011, Chef's Requested was forced to issue a recall when over 800 pounds of turkey filets were mislabeled as bacon-wrapped beef steaks. The unusual point of this recall was that Chef's Requested actually had no turkey products among their product offerings at the time, leading to even greater consumer confusion and mistrust.
If you don’t have clear insight into the packaging (for your store-brand goods) and distribution sectors of your supply chain, the same type of issue could potentially befall your brand. Frequent QC checks are even more important if packaging, labeling and shipping are executed in a shared facility.
Your Suppliers’ Vulnerabilities Have an Impact on Your Brand
Your suppliers should be in the business of serving their clients’ clients. The strength of your supply chain depends on the quality of the information and products they supply. If these products aren't trustworthy, or they're delivered with inconsistent packaging, labeling or volume, the best supply chain logistics in the world won't restore your customer’s confidence if a distributor has mishandled products or bungled an order. Shoppers aren’t just price-conscious; they are definitely sensitive to the overall variety and quality of your offerings. Providing products as efficiently and cheaply as possible isn’t your only job. Quality should always be a primary concern — and one that’s apparent to any shopper.
Your food supply chain is as much a representative of your brand as the displays, layout and pricing in your stores. It is far more than a means to an end. Ask yourself if the companies and 3PL service providers you work with are solid representations of what your brand stands for. If they're muddying the waters, it may be time to consider a replacement. It takes months or even years to build a brand-loyal customer, and only one careless mistake to not only lose them, but the business of their friends and family as well. Control your supply chain and the quality of the products you stock, and you'll never have to worry about damaging your brand.