With stories like the horsemeat scandal and halal meat controversies rocking the industry more and more frequently, buying specialist Lynx Purchasing is urging operators to ask their suppliers the right questions in order to be prepared for any customer queries about traceability.
And as customers start to spend more on eating out with the economic recovery, the firm even expects businesses with that traceability guarantee to have a competitive advantage.
Lynx managing director John Pinder told BigHospitality: “As an operator, you should be asking the same questions that a concerned customer would ask you: Where was this food sourced, how was it processed, and what is the full list of ingredients? In the case of seafood, can the supplier tell you whether it’s farmed or caught sustainably?
"With meat and poultry, a supplier should know about the welfare standards it was produced to. Your customers may or may not want all that information, but if the supplier can’t provide the information, alarm bells should ring.”
According to Lynx, local suppliers should be preferred, not only for provenance guarantee, but also to get the best value on seasonal products.
The company’s Summer 2014 Market Forecast predicts higher global prices for beef and lamb due to a shortage of supply in the UK and Chinese competition for Australian products; continued high prices for farmed salmon due to insufficient stocks; and a hike in the price of exotic fruit caused by diseases affecting crops.
For these reasons, Lynx is advising its customers to buy British produce which, this summer at least, will present better value. But even if operators choose to source local or international products, the important thing is to keep the supply chain simple to avoid possibilities for mistakes or diluted information.
“International products aren’t necessarily less traceable, the challenges come when food passes through a number of stages or different processes before it finally sold to the operator," Pinder added.
"In the case of a ready meal or similar product, the number of ingredients used creates greater complexity. The simpler the supply chain, the better.
"A container of frozen beef that has come directly from a processor in South America to the UK is very traceable. In contrast, as we saw with the horsemeat scandal, where meat was moved around a number of different processors in Europe before ending up in ready meals, every extra stage in the supply chain creates the possibility for either poor quality information, or in some cases, deliberate fraud."
Top 5 things to consider when choosing a supplier
After establishing that a supplier meets your requirements in terms of price and product range, here are the top five things to consider to make sure they can also be counted on to deliver traceability:
- Can the supplier provide information that you can confidently share with customers about the origin and processing methods used?
- Does the supplier understand the needs of your business in terms of the specific cuts and types of produce you use?
- Will you be able to vary the products you source according to seasonality and market price?
- With processed food, how often does the supplier change the source or mix of ingredients used?
- Is full product traceability information always available if required?