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Route to Market & Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Drinks & ugly vegetables Quality Assurance (QA) opportunities

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Feb 14, 2013

I note that the faceless suits in Brussels relaxed the laws on misshapen fruit and vegetables in 2009. The soaking the UK has received last “summer” has now seen supermarket chains further relax their standards on how fresh produce should appear.

I don’t know about you but if I see a potato that looks like a Tellytubby 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 that looked like Tony Blair. How I enjoyed making mashed potatoes that day.

Obviously, if your potato is as misshapen as in the BBC link above then there is going to be excessive waste involved and this is far from cost effective. However, the vast majority of “ugly” produce is perfectly fit for cooking and eating and surely having a culinary guffaw at the same time is healthy.

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 or the source of "beef" 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 a majority of loyal consumers.

I can hear the QA purists stamping their feet and making comments like "over my dead body". They will argue that brand image is paramount and any defects must be wholly funded by the supplier itself. Gaining a refund on any particular faulty batch 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 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 plastic corks and screw caps of course. Yes, I questioned that defect rate too but it is correct so your celebration case of 12 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 out as producers try to meet the numbers they “agreed”.

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

Tags: Brewing & Beverages, FMCG, Dave Jordan, Performance Improvement, Pharma, Supply Chain

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