Supply chain visibility: A formula for trust
The bottom line is trust. Consumers not knowing whether they can trust the formula they have purchased, whether their particular formula is part of a recalled batch, or whether they can easily find a replacement for their child, has all shaken trust. Simultaneously, brands are searching to find ways to restore this trust – both at the consumer and retail levels. And, in some cases, regulatory bodies may struggle to gain an accurate picture of the situation on the ground, further eroding public trust.
So how can we change this? I remember during an episode when my eldest got sick after consuming formula, my wife agonized about whether it was tainted or possibly a counterfeit product. Once our son’s condition improved and her concerns subsided, she asked me – knowing what I do for a living – why baby formula brands wouldn’t put a QR on the product for parents to check. Any concerned parent could scan the QR and in an instant know where, when, and how the product was manufactured and whether it is subject to a recall.
It turns out that some of them do. I am proud that Kezzler partnered with Rockwell Automation to provide Royal FrieslandCampina a true grass-to-glass traceability solution for its baby formula, FRISO, which enables unique QR-code-based traceability throughout the entire supply chain and provides access to detailed product information. I am not looking to toot our own horn, but simply to highlight that such digitization initiatives exist.
Supporting end-to-end traceability for safe, transparent infant nutritionFor companies trying to (re)build trust with consumers, product digitization initiatives can:
- offer detailed information on the provenance and end-to-end product journey.
- integrate quality assurance and the digital testing certificates that underpin the authenticity and safety of baby milk formula products.
For consumers, gaining access to this kind of detailed, accurate information on formula products, and up-to-date recall information, provides peace of mind while fostering trust and brand loyalty, which in turn generates quantifiable returns to the brand owner.
I would highlight that for regulatory agencies, digitization, and unique product identification will likely need to form the basis of companies’ ability to comply with stricter regulations – should they decide that infant nutrition needs a level of visibility and transparency similar to those associated with medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Supporting item-level serialization can make recall efforts faster and more efficient, giving companies complete supply chain visibility and control, enabling the ability to trace each individual product back to its source. In addition, transitioning to standardized product identification and enhanced supply-chain visibility requirements will allow either the aggregation or querying of distribution data at granular levels on a national scale.
This agenda will require technical solutions for implementing product digitization and traceability to aid in guaranteeing product quality, safety, and authenticity. Full product and supply-chain digitization is not science-fiction: the technology exists today to enable product transparency and neutral, trusted information through serialization and traceability. We, along with our industry friends and regulatory partners, are working to build the framework to make this possible.
I would also be remiss if I did not point out that the FDA is diligently working to inject more technology under the banner of its New Era for Smarter Food Safety. Digitization, connectivity, and tech-enabled traceability are central to the concept.
The current crisis has highlighted the need for increased visibility in the infant nutrition space: there is without a doubt not only a demand, but a requirement, to transition to a new paradigm of connected packaging that will aggregate and parse digital product data all the way from production to consumption.