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Firms must have clear sight across entire supply chains, says Crimson & Co

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By Joe Whitworth+

Last updated on 12-Aug-2014 at 11:15 GMT

Nick Miller on supply chain responsibility
Nick Miller on supply chain responsibility

Retailers need to take more responsibility over their supply chains or face regulation, according to the section head of a supply chain consultancy firm.

Nick Miller, head of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) at Crimson & Co, said the focus must be to have clear sight across their entire supply chains.

“Progress is being made, my argument is there is a way to go and if the pace does not step up greater regulations will be needed, not just at national level but around the EU,” he told

“Retailers must take more responsibility around traceability and transparency issues or regulation will be needed to assess food suppliers.

“They must gain the trust and confidence of consumers, if retailers don’t act they will lose their competitive edge and consumers will go elsewhere.”

Pharma benchmark

Miller cited the pharmaceutical industry as a good example to follow.

A directive was passed in 2012 (Falsified Medicines Directive) which meant it became a legal requirement for all manufacturers to apply European auditing standards to their manufacturers and the ingredients they use.

“The consumer goods industry is more relaxed as retailers can buy what they want as there are not many regulations in place to assess and audit suppliers,” said Miller.

“There needs to be a shift in attitude from buying what is the best deal to ensuring supplier relationships so they know their suppliers and the supply chain of ingredients.

“Food firms source ingredients globally so there is a certain complexity in the process, different retailers have a large range of different products, like apples from France and prawns from Thailand. They have many different product lines with different product characteristics.”

Clients for the firm have included Arla, Carlsberg, Diageo, Rexam, Siemens and Tetra Pak since starting in 2003.

Supply chain transparency

Miller said that suppliers must show that they meet the standards and document how so it can be checked and any non-compliance can be demonstrated and corrected quickly.

“Retailers need to go as far back in the supply chain as practical, it is a balance, but further than now to work with suppliers in a collaborative way, which is more positive for both,” he said.

“It is best that a relationship is long term to maximise benefits, good information and links to show what is happening at each stage and check that all is well logistically and from a transparency, traceability and food safety point of view.

“It is important that retailers work with and trust suppliers, as products can be developed with them and new suppliers or products focus attention in terms of time, effort and money to meet standards.

“For the big players the supply chain is more complex because there are more products, it is the scale to take on more responsibility, the smaller firms devolve that more and rely on an agency as there is only so much they can take on.” 

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