Flexible procurement is the key to food security

30 October 2020

Food companies need to be more flexible with recipes and supply chains to increase food security, a conference was told.

During a panel discussion on food security at the CIPS Virtual Conference 2020, Antonia Wanner, group head of procurement at Nestlé, said more flexibility was needed in the food sector to meet challenges from crises and rapidly changing trends, including switching between recipe formulas and viable suppliers.

Wanner said: “I think we need to get better at flexibility. Having choice has proven to be super important and a key success factor to still be able to supply and deliver the product.” 

She said companies needed to become more flexible with recipe formulas, enabling easy adaptations to alternative ingredients when necessary. 

“So if strawberries are not out there, then let's flip to raspberry, just to give an example. This has often been a no-go, but this is what we need now.”

Wanner also emphasised working with the suppliers to ensure a good level of flexibility along their supply chain, and the ability to flip from one supplier to another when one falls down.

She said some categories posed more challenges when it came to flexibility, including packaging.

In response to more people grocery shopping online, Patrick Dunne, director of group property, procurement and cost transformation at Sainsbury’s, said “the real challenges include building a more flexible delivery model with digitally-led grocery online”. 

“Our grocery online has gone from 7% participation in the grocery sector to almost 25%. So, almost a quarter of our food is now being digitally ordered and delivered to people's homes or they're collecting. They're not actually coming into the supermarket.

“Those are the adjustments we're making, around how we get the food in a safe and fast and economical way to the consumer.”

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