Improved transparency in the supply chain is a byproduct of our ability to access more accurate and relevant data about our shipments.  This is made possible by the integration of the internet of things (IOT) into supply chain infrastructure, which has in many cases, revolutionized the supply chain and logistics.  

However, there have always been difficulties in creating a transparent food supply chain.  This is largely because of the speed at which food perishes and the amount of complex information that is monitored with regard to food transportation.   

With the help of the IOT, the hospitality industry should see this as an opportunity to improve upon the poor sourcing of food that currently exists.  This is an opportunity because of the increasing demands of consumers to have more information about food quality, where it comes from, and how it was processed.  

What the Food Supply Chain Looks Like Now

Today, we have the ability to accurately track shipments worldwide with greater accuracy than ever before, but this is not at all the case with how we ship, track, and source our food.  Jonathan Lukens wrote an article for The Atlantic that defines food traceability:

Traceability does for food what FedEx or UPS package tracking software does for freight: using a unique tracking number, you are able to determine where something has been, what conditions it has encountered, and where it is going next.

The problem however, is that there is no uniform method of communicating relevant information to consumers.  There are many requirements and documenting steps for farms, food processors and food storage facilities, but they all vary drastically.  While this is understandable, it makes it incredibly difficult for the consumer to decipher the information provided.  Lukens goes on to say this about the data shared about food:

Data about “food objects” is recorded and analyzed within meat, dairy and produce supply chains to assist with product recalls. This can make it easier, for example, to trace E. coli infested meat back to its point of contamination. As I dug deeper, it became clear that consumer-facing food traceability services were just an attempt to repackage that data and present it in a way that contradicted about a hundred years of food marketing practices.

It’s obvious that this method of information packaging doesn’t consistently communicate information that consumers want to see, and in certain cases, it confuses and disconcerts them (Tweet).  

So, the data sets surrounding the transportation and sourcing of our food now hold incredible value, especially after the 2013 horse meat scandal.

Avoiding Anonymity in the Supply Chain

The increased ability to connect in today’s world has made many aspects of business easier, but this has also allowed suppliers to be locally and internationally based.  In many cases this is convenient because it allows for greater competition and lower prices, but it doesn’t always facilitate our ability to effectively source products.  

With the already opaque nature of food traceability in the supply chain, this anonymity can quickly become a problem.  Karen Klansek of Pinnacle foods even expressed concern over this in an interview with foodsafetytech.com:

When I first started, I could drive to all of the suppliers. You sourced locally and you trucked locally, with the exception of large ingredients that came by rail. Now it is not only across the entire continent, but it is international. It has changed from a system where everyone knew everyone, to a system that is fairly anonymous, with brokers, traders and importers managing the business of individual manufacturers.

Another difference today is the ever-changing landscape of regulations. It was a long time coming. It used to be, “Hey, that’s not my problem. That’s the way the material came in to us.” Now it’s not only about the suppliers — their quality, and their food-safety effectiveness — but I also have to vet my suppliers’ suppliers’ programs, to ensure that two steps back the right things are being done.

For larger organizations with complex supply chains it is often times impossible to avoid working with foreign suppliers.  This may never change, but the way that imported products are sourced will have to.

Why Millennials and Baby Boomers Agree Here

Poor food quality and its effects on health and wellness aren’t new subjects at all.  Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle (1906) poignantly described the horrors of the Chicago meat packing industry to the world.  Almost one-hundred years later, Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, SuperSize Me (2004) illustrated the awful quality of food being sold by the world’s largest food chain, McDonald’s.  

Millennials and Baby Boomers may not agree on much, but both generations actively participate in the health and wellness movement, which supports traceable, sustainable, and healthy food (Tweet).

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers have seen the rise of fast food and corporate food companies.  Where they may have not spent time in their youth concerned with the quality of the food they ate, they do now.  Their interests are not always aligned with that of Millennials, but they understand and value improved food quality, and are actively seeking providers of sustainable and healthy food.  

Also, a lot of what Millennials currently enjoy as being sustainable and traceable food was pioneered by concerned Boomers (Tweet).  Farmer’s markets, for example, grew rapidly in popularity in the last thirty years.  Names like Julia Child and Alice Walters have been active voices among Boomers to move toward more traceable and sustainable food.

Millennials

A majority of Millennials came of age during the height of fast food skepticism and are now openly suspicious of food quality, which is bad news for companies in this sector.  In response to a glut of poor food quality, Millennials have been pushing for greater social responsibility from companies in the food supply chain industry in an effort to make higher quality food more accessible.   

Building off of this skepticism of fast food, Millennials have found other, more sustainable businesses to support.  The rise of “fast-casual” restaurants like Shake Shack, Panera, Five Guys, and Chipotle are all successful examples of businesses that promote food sourcing and transparency.

Conclusion

Navigating through these disruptive times, it is important to take action on any competitive advantage that is available.  With the amount of valuable information made available from the IOT, and with the help of a hospitality logistics company, accurate food sourcing can quickly become an incredibly valuable asset within the hospitality industry.  

 

 

Axis Worldwide offers a wide spectrum of “Industrial & Hospitality” supply chain logistics/managed freight services for Fortune 500 companies. Our expertise, experience, and buying power allows us to offer the best transportation rates and frequent transit times within the US, Canada, Mexico, Asia and Europe. Through our licensed, US bonded facility in Southern California and other facilities, we provide warehouse and distribution solutions to our clients. Our freight services include air freight, both domestic and international, ocean import/export, less than truckloadfull truckload, and emergency ground expedites. We also provide emergency air freight services 24/7.