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Managing Private Brand Food in Uncertain Times

Doug Macdonald
Oracle Retail Brand Compliance Business Development Manager

Grocery is experiencing an unexpected and unprecedented spike in demand across all channels. This presents a new set of challenges. While the quantity of products is dependent on suppliers, holding those suppliers accountable for the quality and safety of the products is up to you.

Suppliers, like everyone else, have also been disrupted. So how do you rapidly mobilize and expand your network to identify alternate suppliers as borders close and out of stocks persist? 

Here are five common questions we are hearing from our customers:

1) How can I protect my private brand supply chain?

Since production volumes could become impacted if workers at manufacturers or their suppliers are unable to work, steps for protecting your supply chain are vital. 

Grocers should communicate directly with their manufacturers/suppliers to ensure they are implementing FDA-recommended enhanced practices for the correct and safe handling of products and the welfare of operatives. They should document the process and conduct follow-ups with audit checklists to ensure compliance at each of the critical delivery control points.

2) How can I find alternative sources if there is a product supply issue?

When there are disruptions – such as a locked-down location or an infected workforce – the impact can be substantial.

Grocers should review manufacturers of similar products they already work with to see if they can cover the demand. Otherwise, an alternative source of the product must be found and onboarded quickly.

3) What if certain ingredients are no longer available? 

The loss of critical ingredients or a significant reduction in volume will impact many products, manufacturers, and suppliers. 

Grocers should first review the recipes of all of their private brand products to understand which may be affected. Then they should communicate with the relevant manufacturing partners/ suppliers to agree on a course of action. One action could include substituting the ingredient to a suitable alternative or temporarily suspending the manufacture of the impacted products.

4) How can I maintain consumer trust at this time? 

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the food they eat and want to know more about ingredients and their origins. With the current health crisis, consumers are demanding even more assurances of a safe workplace. 

Grocers should increase their efforts to ensure labeling accuracy and provide additional sources of information that consumers can refer to, such as Smart Label. They should also maintain their commitment to ethically-sourced products and sustainable packaging. 

5) How can I manage the on-going risk of food contamination?

Grocers need to maintain focus to track contamination incidents. Leverage automation to identify products impacted by tainted ingredients, alert suppliers, and trigger mitigating actions including shelf withdrawal and product recall at scale.

Preparing for the New Next

When a food safety incident occurs, knowing all the ingredients in products, verifying supplier safety practices, and finding alternate supply sources can be overwhelming, especially when dealing with hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of products. The current situation has emphasized the importance of managing all information that helps ensure food safety. 

To be ready for “the new next,” grocers must focus on the following:

  • Crisis management and brand protection
  • Compliance with current and upcoming regulations. The FDA has delayed the roll-out of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, but it is still coming
  • Consumer transparency and labeling accuracy – expectations continue to rise
  • Business growth and agility – a rapid and flexible response is necessary

By adopting an integrated approach to managing private brands, grocers can take advantage of improved efficiencies, and responsiveness to consumer tastes, while ensuring food quality and safety and preparedness are a number one priority.

Learn more by registering for the on-demand webinar on the Secrets to Developing Transparent Private Brands.

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