Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Foods: Hugh F-W and UK Retailer & Producer Waste

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Nov 04, 2015

Good to see chefy type and anagramists dream Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall speaking out about the continuing food waste in UK. After the faceless, expenses-hungry suits in Brussels relaxed the laws some years ago retailers have been allowed to vary their acceptance standards for misshapen fruit and vegetables. This has resulted in horrific food waste as shown by the non-pretty parsnip mountain in Hugh’s link above.

I don’t know about you but if I see a potato that looks like a Telly Tubby or a carrot that looks like a pair of knobbly legs with a fake tan or an onion that looks like a light bulb I buy them straight away; no hesitation. My favourite “ugly food” purchase was a spud (aka potato) that looked like Tony Blair. You could tell by the eyes he was lying, again. How I enjoyed making mashed potatoes that day.

Obviously, if your potato or carrot is so misshapen that there is going to be excessive waste involved in peeling the thing then this is far from cost effective. However, the vast majority of misshapen or “ugly” produce is perfectly fit for cooking and eating and surely having a culinary guffaw at the same time is healthy. Cosmetically defect but nutritionally perfect.

In these difficult economic times are we being too rigorous on FMCG/Drinks product quality? Ok, I accept you cannot take any risks with pharma or perishable food quality but in these difficult economic times are companies being unnecessarily rigorous, particularly with packaging defects? There is no debate necessary concerning usage instructions or safety advice but small blemishes would not be noticed by the vast majority of loyal consumers.

I can hear the QA purists angrily stamping their feet and making comments like "over my dead body". They will argue that brand image is paramount and any packaging defects must be wholly funded by the suppling company. Gaining a refund on any particular faulty batch of packaging materials is not really relevant as the supplier will recover the cost from you one way or another. What is worse? Having a product on the shelf with a minor, insignificant defect or no product on the shelf at all?

What about the contents of the packaging; is there any leeway there? Drinks manufacturers cannot possibly QA each unit of sale and in fact wine producers assume a reject rate of 8% due to ‘corking’ – prior to the introduction of plastic corks and screw caps of course. Yes, I questioned that defect rate too but it is correct so your seasonal celebration case of 12 southern hemisphere bottles has an even chance of one with a foul, musty taste.

I just wonder how much money is being unnecessarily wasted at a time when nobody – private or corporate – can afford to lose a penny. No doubt at quarter and year-ends travel restrictions and the freezing of discretionary spend budgets will be rolled again out as FMCG producers try to meet the numbers they “agreed”.

The hot and possibly ugly potato is that they may be missing easier opportunities to achieve their tough targets.

Image courtesy of feelart at freedigitalphotos.net

Tagss: Brewing & Beverages, FMCG, Dave Jordan, Humour, Performance Improvement