Ron Southard, who used to lead up Intesource, is at it again with SafeSourcing, a new Spend Management solutions provider for the retail and grocery industry. But what interests me most about his new venture is not just a focus on safety and supply risk management as an integral part of sourcing, but rather the thought leadership emphasis and investment that Ron is making to explain to the market the importance of looking beyond just price when it comes to sourcing and procurement. The Safe Sourcing Blog is a great showcase of how providers can educate their customers and prospects about an issue on a level that goes far deeper than what analysts, bloggers or the trade press usually get into.
As an example of SafeSourcing's depth and usefulness, let's consider one of Ron's recent blog post on food safety. Not only does Ron get into the cultural aspects of how consumers are trying more exotic foods and how this impacts food safety in the supply chain. He also offers up a solution to the issue. To wit, "what is sorely needed is a database of manufacturers, suppliers, brokers, growers and products that can be searched in a variety of ways in order to trace goods to their original source of supply when situations like this occur ... It is incumbent on suppliers to provide this information freely and openly when it is asked of them. When a safety situation occurs the retailer-broker-supplier-distributor-grower chain can then be easily searched so that our limited government resources can be productive with their existing resources."
One of the challenges of the food industry is that knowledge that exists at various tiers in the supply chain rarely makes it through to the end-consumer -- or even category or store level procurement managers. Earlier in the year, I was talking to a neighbor and friend who happens to run one of the fastest growing fruit trading businesses in the country (they supply to Costco, Sam's, Wal-Mart, etc.) She told me that when it comes to pesticides, the most important thing is not necessarily what product you're considering, but its country of origin. For example, it's known that fruit such as clementines coming from Spain often have far greater levels of pesticides and fungicides than those coming from other regions, including North, Central and South America. Or take the case of grapes, which in certain cases are known to contain greater amounts of potentially dangerous pesticides depending on their country of origin.
Knowledge like this rarely makes it to the end consumer, let alone the retail buyers who serve in a last mile capacity -- the final link in a complex global supply chain. Sure, you might say, who needs to know about specific pesticide levels. But this sort of information matters and is representative of the larger issue of product traceability and information transparency in the food supply chain. Let's hope that SafeSourcing and other information sources continue to cover this issue and that a database such as the one Ron suggests finally sees the light of day in either a FDA or for-profit context.
- Jason Busch