In his speech, ‘Safety of food packaging from a retailer’s perspective’, Paul Earnshaw, packaging manager, Tesco, told the audience of 100 attendees packaging is important to the company but it wants to learn and collaborate with other academia and trade associations to understand what the thinking is.
“How often does the customer actually touch and interact with the packaging, they just put it into a basket then put in the fridge or cupboard when they get home. It’s like a ‘Cinderella syndrome’,” he said.
Earnshaw said the main problems at Tesco were any message it has across the supply chain gets diluted; the company is known for its robust style of negotiating and retail now runs at a faster pace than ever.
“Messages and sign offs get lost and it’s a problem. The packaging supply chain is interlinked. We relaunched our ‘finest’ range with silver foil blocking on it, we briefed all our suppliers who in turn briefed the primary pack people and they briefed it to their suppliers,” he said.
“In the end, two or three silver foil suppliers received over 1,000 requests from our various suppliers - it would have been better if we’d contacted them ourselves and spoke to them direct.”
He said another problem was Tesco has a reputation for its robust negotiating style.
“Some information may get lost and we are not as open as we should be which is recognized within the industry but I won’t say any more on that,” he added.
“Another issue is retail works fast. We have a window where we launch a product once every 20 weeks. The psychology of that means suppliers only focus on what’s coming through at that time, it’s a short timescale and we recognise we have an issue as we are running at a faster pace. We need to find out how do we have a good conversation at the right speed given the timeframe involved.”
Moving to a partnership model
As a result, Earnshaw told FoodProductionDaily.com it is looking at changing the way it works with its packaging suppliers.
“We are looking to move to a partnership model and longer contracts with key suppliers re-tendering once every three years not every year,” he said.
“The behavior of the supply chain with our fast turn-over has meant things aren’t developed as well as we would like them to be because as the message comes down through the supply chain it is getting lost or distorted. “
Earnshaw said one way to counter that was working with the Grocery Supplier Code of Practice legislation to ensure everything is fair on price negotiations and launching its Food Academy last year.
“I’ve been in the packaging industry for 26 years. The packaging supply chain is hugely complicated and the number of people involved is huge,” he added.
Tesco Food Academy
“The Tesco Food Academy makes sure we are networking with the right person. It points us in the right direction for talking about things.
“We want to start getting outside of the industry and start talking to the academia and trade associations to apply some of our pull. We want to know where science is taking us and what we should be doing and take a pragmatic approach.”
The Tesco Food Academy is designed to provide greater focus on food and packaging research for the company and to stimulate innovation through links with R&D specialists and academia.
Its remit will range from macro food trends to ingredient/packaging technologies. Consisting of a team of food and packaging experts, the Academy’s mission is to support Tesco’s business by driving new developments.