In May, we caught up with Steve Robert, global vice president, sales, marketing and product innovation at AIB International, to talk about a study the firm commissioned looking at pandemic preparedness in the food industry. According to the study, 78% of food and beverage executives say they are actively preparing for a future global pandemic, with 30% expecting another one within the next four years and 50% expecting one within the next decade. In a Q&A on our site, Robert talks about why they may feel that way and offers advice on how to be prepared for the worst — again.
Check it out at: bit.ly/3xZx3t7
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“You’re a marketer’s dream.”
That’s what a fellow Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine staffer told me on a recent Microsoft Teams video call as I explained a recent hat purchase.
“I’m a good marketer’s dream,” I replied.
But he’s right. I’m a sucker for a well-executed ad campaign — especially one that tells a good story.
For example, the hat in question was a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap. But instead of the club’s standard white and blue, it was black with a sort of hot pink “LA,” meant to signify the Miami Heat, who had been beaten by LA’s other marquee team, the Lakers, in the 2020 NBA Finals.
Good stories hook you, and they raise the stakes. Good stories are easy to share, and they move people into action.
My wardrobe is full of tales. There’s the jean jacket made in the United States of Japanese denim, meant to honor a bourbon collaboration combining U.S. and Japanese distilling techniques. Or there’s the pair of sneakers an influential designer made to resemble a pair he (and I) loved as a kid in the 1990s.
Obviously, as a writer and editor, I’m biased, but whether you’re selling a product or trying to inspire someone, I believe the best way to get your point across is to tell a good story.
Good stories hook you, and they raise the stakes. Good stories are easy to share, and they move people into action.
I’ll let you be the judge on the quality of the articles in this issue (I’m certainly proud of them), but writing and reporting aside, they’re about good stories.
This month’s cover story, “Better Together,” is our take on where food safety culture is now, including a Q&A from Frank Yiannas, the Food and Drug Administration’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response. Of particular interest are the results from our Survey Monkey survey asking food processors for their takes on food safety culture.
More storytelling pops up in “Tech Support,” where experts fill us in on what’s current, new and next in food industry technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
And, proving that a good story can be told with art as much as text, the too-cute cleaning characters drawn by Alex Eben Meyer for “So Fresh and So Clean” seem to pop off the page, ready to scrub your sanitation worries away.
Imagine the stories those little folks would tell.
I recently presented a virtual workshop on protecting your brand integrity during a product recall. During the workshop, I conducted a participant poll asking: “Have you ever been involved in a product recall?” I was not surprised to find that a number had been involved in a recall, but I did not expect to learn that 50% of the participants had been involved in multiple recalls. But perhaps that was exactly why they had chosen to attend the workshop. Having been involved in recalls in the past may also have been the reason that 78% of the workshop participants said they did have written recall policies and procedures in place.
Having policies and procedures at the ready is critical when an incident arises, and having been through one — or more — recalls certainly provides lessons learned. But neither weathering a recall nor simply having written up some policies and procedures is as valuable as undertaking a full crisis response simulation/practice. It was heartening to see that 44% of the participants had conducted a recall simulation within the last couple years, but I would have been even more pleased to see a much higher percentage having done so. Why?
While there are lessons that can, and should, be learned when one goes through a real-life recall, you are trying to manage so much in a real crisis that attempting to learn and grow in the midst of it all is not, by any means, the most optimal way to do so. In relation to recall preparation, not having policies and procedures can put a business in a very precarious position, but even when fully written out, they are still just words on paper. It is when those words — and lessons learned — are put into practice that you will truly learn how effective your policies are and how well they will protect your consumer — and your brand.
Implementing a simulated crisis response scenario enables you to test your system — and your people — when you’re not in the midst of a crisis. Companies often choose to conduct these with only one person knowing that it is a simulation, as the more “real” it can be made, the better you can test your system.
For more information on managing the risks associated with recalls, take a look at the TAG Talks: Q&A Recall Management video: bit.ly/3nPafHQ
Why is this so critical? Because when you are in a crisis, speed is one of the most critical aspects of success; and if you, and your team, don’t know what to do — if you have not actually practiced it — valuable time can be wasted in figuring out what should be done by whom and when.
Additionally, recalls are costly, and, as shown by the fact that half of the workshop participants had been involved in more than one recall, they are common and frequent. In fact, as listed on the Food and Drug Administration’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts web page, there were 26 food or beverage recalls in March — nearly one a day.
So, how prepared are you (really) for a recall:
- If you have a recall, will you be able to quickly:
- Identify the issue, how much product is involved and how serious the incident is
- Appropriately elevate it in your organization, determining who needs to know and when
- Have the team ready and knowing what to do — and taking action
As often as they occur, recalls can still be very complex situations, made all the worse if you are not prepared. Not only is quick action needed to ensure the safety of your consumers, but also to protect your brand reputation and, thereby, your business.
Our planet has been nothing short of incredible in sustaining its inhabitants for more than 4 billion years. Plants, animals, humans, etc., have all been the benefactors of this amazing world. As everyone knows, however, those inhabitants, particularly the human ones, have not been as good in providing stewardship to the planet. As we better understand our impact, we have come to realize our own responsibility. Corporate responsibility — including environmental sustainability — is not only the right thing to do, it is now somewhat irresponsible to ignore.
With all the different aspects of corporate responsibility, how do we integrate them into our business to add value without complexity?
There are numerous options, requirements and certification schemes for corporate responsibility programs. Choosing which one, and more importantly, how to integrate them, often determines the difference between having the system work for the company, and the company work for the system. Outlined below are a few ideas on how to incorporate aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) into your existing business management system.
As most business/quality leaders know, the ISO 9001 standard is one of the basic certifications a business pursues. The good news with ISO 9001 is that, as the watershed standard, it serves as a solid foundation. From a CSR perspective, many of the related certifications in this space contain extremely similar clauses that are found in ISO 9001. Some examples available in the CSR space: ISO 14000 (and its subfamily) — environmental management; ISO 45001 — occupational health and safety; ISO 50001 — energy management systems; ISO 26000 — corporate social responsibility (Note: this is not a certification standard).
There are common elements between the above and ISO 9001 such as: scope, policy, training, continuous improvement, document control, stakeholder engagement and communication, audits, etc.
Planet Earth has been good to us. Now it’s time to take some responsibility.
For an ISO 9001-certified company (or other ISO certification) — the core elements exist, so the additional schemes can be integrated into the system, essentially creating an integrated business management system. For example, in an FSSC-certified company, simply updating the training element to include occupational health and safety requirements addresses that clause of ISO 45001. The good news is that there is no need to create multiple systems for multiple certifications.
In the procurement function, establishing a Supply Base (or Supplier) Code of Conduct (CoC) is a good start to begin to establish the requirements of the company for those entities that wish to do business with them. Many companies already have a CoC, and if so, it can be updated to include requirements that the company can impact from a CSR perspective. For example, a food/agriculture company could prohibit suppliers from deforestation.
Another helpful item is the requirement of the above-mentioned cradle-to-cradle lifecycle assessment for an ingredient or a package. This would also help the organization begin to address Scope 3 environmental impacts.
Virtually all established organizations have capital expenditures (CapEx). Many of these requests are designed to increase production efficiency and reduce cost in a manufacturing or service environment. As such, incorporating a requirement in the CapEx form to define the related impact on environmental aspects is a great way to begin capturing ongoing improvements. As many organizations measure environmental impacts on a volume standardized basis (e.g., GHG/MT manufactured), efficiency improvements often have a resulting shift on lowering overall environmental impact.
Incorporating environmental impact/cradle-to-cradle lifecycle analyses during the design review process is another way to better understand — and therefore manage — the overall impact of products and services. Many organizations have a formal design review process (often called “Stage-Gate”) — so including an environmental element there is a relatively easy way to begin capturing the impact.
In summary, organizations have spent a great deal of time, resources and energy in creating systems. As we continue to improve our understanding of our impact, we can leverage all the work already completed to establish a solid program for positively impacting CSR. While none of the approaches described may be easy, or a direct fit for you, hopefully they will provide a springboard for integrating additional aspects of CSR into your already existing system.