The current state of the food producer in the supply chain
As a food producer, you have to deal with customers, suppliers, legislation and standards. When you supply retail in the Netherlands there are really only 3 large players left: AH, Jumbo and the Superunie. This has created a playing field in which one party is much larger and more powerful than the other, with all the associated issues. As a food producer, you are naturally most concerned with making even more beautiful products for even more consumers, so you may have less time to see that the rest of the world around you is also changing.
Dutch Food Safety Authority
Concerning legislation, the Dutch Food Safety Authority has started to apply new techniques, whereby the EDP (electronic data processing) audit has become a new tool, in which your entire ERP system and financial administration are included and analyzed. Not everything is usually structurally recorded in an ERP system, even though the correctly labelled products are delivered. In this case, you get several questions about administrative issues that ultimately did not lead to a legal violation at the time of delivery, although it appears that way in the database. This method of control does require attention to improve data management in the company.
Furthermore, standards, in this case, much is changing for these parties. Venture Capital has been focussing on the TIC (Testing, Inspections and Certification) lately, resulting in the merger of several certifying bodies, such as KIWA and Isacert, as well as LRQA has been bought by Goldman Sachs. KIWA was first a part of NPM Capital, the investment branch of SVH Holding, however, they were added to the SVH group itself last year, which means it is a ” fine business” in a market that is growing 4.5% annually.
In the early 2000s, certifying bodies were prohibited to do consulting as well to avoid conflicts of interest with certification. Now we are back in the same waters. As part of optimizing the profitability of the certification bodies, a large pool of freelance auditors has emerged, often providing consulting services in addition to audits. Because these auditors have the “power of the certification bodies” for which they work part-time, a separate playing field is created again, with all its attendant issues. The above-mentioned certification bodies are also currently looking for freelance auditors.
Merging of suppliers
Concerning suppliers, much has as well changed in recent years. Suppliers are merging and new global players have emerged into the fields of raw materials, packaging, cold stores, pest control, cleaning agents, and greenhouse construction. As a result, much larger market players, even global players, have emerged. These large companies use sophisticated monitoring tools and keep a close eye on which food producer is busy when in the customer portal, allowing them to efficiently anticipate a customer that might need more attention. This all sounds very utopian, but it also means that -supposedly- as a Food company you will only get the purchased service if you monitor the service properly. Service providers make most of their money on services that you don't provide but have contracted for.
The TIC (Testing, Inspection, Certification) market has changed dramatically. Not only certifiers have become part of Venture Capital, but also laboratories and consulting firms. In the Netherlands TNO and NEN have been taken over by foreign parties and recently Delphi (global crop advice) was also taken over by a Canadian company. By the name of Normec, local Food Safety consultancies in the Netherlands and Belgium have been merged with also acquired local laboratories. One of the largest global laboratories and a global pharmaceutical player BioMerieux has acquired another major Food Safety player, KTBA.
The Food Safety consultants draw up the examination schedules that can ultimately be carried out by the laboratory. In the 2073 Regulation, all legally required studies are neatly reported. The HACCP study further determines which additional analyses must be performed, and who performs this study? Exactly the Food Safety advisors who work for the laboratories. Then, of course, according to Infosheets 64, 65 and 85 (Dutch Guidelines for Research), a considerable amount of research must be carried out, while the possible food safety risk may also be safeguarded with a company visit or requested certificate of analysis.
Closely working together
To further complicate the playing field, the above-mentioned parties also collaborate with each other. A food company can protect itself well against these new trends. By having real-time knowledge of changes in legislation, standards and food hazards, you can better defend yourself against imposed laboratory testing schemes, findings of the Dutch Food Safety Authority (NVWA) and certification issues. By recording all Food Safety processes in the company on a daily basis and reporting this to the client and consumer, you are working with honesty and integrity and the consumer will ultimately ask for your product. (Zie Leugens op mijn Bord, pagina 6 en 46, Velzeboer, 2022). Ultimately, consumer demand will ensure that you -as the smallest player in the field- still win, as many family-owned businesses have done for over 100 years.
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