Buyers need to go back to basics

10/15/2013 09:13:00 AM
Tom Karst

Suppliers care most about seeing their produce shipped out of their packinghouse and with a firm sale, with the higher price the better.

Though some shippers may bask in the glow of supplying Whole Foods, their bottom line happiness is no less than if they supplied a hard discounter that pays in 21 days.

In the same way, buyers care most about having quality, safe product on their shelves. There is a playground of pretend, executive-level concern about sustainability and other extraneous matters because it is good public relations to act concerned.

The rules change if food becomes scarce. If you are a corporate buyer for Wal-Mart and you have no apples in the warehouse, are you going to go though the sustainability audits with a fine-tooth comb when you choose the supplier? Sustainability practices are not “do or die” and may never be.

In fact, should it matter to the supermarket buyer if the strawberry supplier has a Primus or a GlobalGAP audit, or a third option approved by the chain?

No, in an ideal world, such distinctions shouldn’t matter.

The buying community needs to untangle itself from the maze of noble-sounding demands it is putting on suppliers. Ask for a common harmonized food safety audit - for domestic and imported produce - and pay for the best quality you can afford to buy. If you demand PTI, demand it for everyone. Do what is in your power to help your loyal suppliers stay in business, and they will do the same for you. That is sustainability in its purest form.


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bob hughes    
October, 23, 2013 at 03:04 PM

You appeal to the environmental concerns of customers by stating on the plastic packaging for "Handy Candy Grape Tomatoes" that the cup and lid are made from plants - why are they not recyclable? bearing a number 7

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