Buyers warned over price threat to anti-obesity drive

31 March 2004
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01 April 2004 | David Arminas

Local authority purchasers will have to re-examine their evaluation processes when buying food services if the government's anti-obesity campaign is to succeed, says an industry leader.

Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), called on purchasers to work with caterers to improve their products.

He told delegates at the annual Food and Service Management (FSM) conference that there is a hang-over from the days of compulsory competitive tendering for lowest prices and the message of best value has not got through.

"If local authorities are serious about improving the health of the nation, they have it within their power," he told SM. "But authority purchasers must allow sufficient margins and look seriously at the risk element to improve service, rather than go for lowest price."

Calum Ross, managing director of UBF Foodsolutions, the new name for the foodservice divisions of Unilever Bestfoods, said caterers were happy to invest in their businesses.

However, the innovation required by suppliers to keep up with government or the public's demands "comes at a price and demands time".

Cotton agreed, adding: "If the government wants us to be at the forefront of reducing salt in foods and the fight against obesity, are catering companies going to be compensated for this?"

But Phil Marshal, senior marketing manager at Woodward Foodservice, said the public sector was starting to understand the message of quality over price.

"The contracts we are getting now are very much looking at added value over price because of the increased concern over what we feed our children, the elderly and the infirm."

Marshal said that there are ways to reduce cost such as through packaging and preparation without harming quality.

However, this year's FSM survey, the 15th, showed an increase in the percentage of the most risky contracts: profit-and-loss concession contracts where the client and caterer share profit and loss, and total-risk contacts where the caterer invests in the facility and earns all the profits.

These rose from 18 per cent of all contracts in 2001 to 20.5 per cent in 2003.





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