HAVING A sourcing plan is so important when dealing with fresh produce, because without it we leave too much to chance.
Our procurement and technical teams agree a robust calendar for each season with our growers and it’s very rare that we have to step outside of it.
However, that doesn’t mean that once our plan is agreed, we can put our feet up and wait for the deliveries to arrive – far from it! Fresh produce is notoriously very difficult to manage, because each season is different. There are so many variables at play, especially the weather, which can dictate when a season starts or ends in any one location, as well as whether the crop is good, bad, indifferent, or even non-existent!
So, within our plan, we will identify potential ‘pinch points’ which we know are quite likely to cause issues, based on our experience – we call it seasonal trending. We will work closely with suppliers to understand what plans are in place to minimise these high risk areas and, if necessary, ensure we have contingency – a plan B if you like. Of course, contingency comes at a price, but a price that’s worth paying if we want to guarantee the availability and quality which our customers rely on.
The shoulders of the seasons are of particular importance to my team as they can often be very challenging. For example, at the end of the Spanish hard salad season, we often see discolouration of peppers as the season begins to naturally wind down. If volumes of programmed Dutch peppers are not yet available at this time, then our team will need to make a decision which may include sourcing from further afield. Very occasionally, we may even need to modify our own specifications in order to maintain full supply, until the situation is rectified. In such instances, we communicate this change to our customers, so they have the opportunity to choose an alternative product.
Another important consideration for my team when prioritising is country of origin, especially when we need to source from the Southern Hemisphere. Clearly, when a product has farther to travel, the margin for error is greater. On occasion, products may get harvested whilst still immature in order to last the journey, yet never reach full maturity. Conversely, produce which is harvested when too ripe is unlikely to have the shelf life we need by the time it reaches the UK. By planning ahead, we ensure these products are given additional focus by our quality control team, and put extra measures in place, such as more regular inbound deliveries or dual supply.
For Reynolds, our sourcing options can also be limited at times by our absolute requirement for food safety, which is the foundation of our hierarchy of needs. As a result, we require all of our foreign growers to have GLOBAL G.A.P certification, standards which are primarily designed to reassure consumers in all aspects of food safety and legality.
For example, Mexico grows more avocados than any other country. However, their main customers are in the US, where GLOBAL G.A.P certification has limited ‘appeal’. Therefore most Mexican growers don’t bother obtaining the accreditation, as their US customers don’t require it. Consequently, Reynolds chooses not to work with them.
Importantly, by choosing our partners carefully, as well as reducing the potential risk of seasonal issues, we benefit from working with a highly sustainable supply base. By partnering with growers and suppliers who fully understand our needs, whether located at home or abroad, those businesses have the confidence to invest for the future and are much more likely to be able to supply Reynolds in the years to come.
This article appeared in the Spring Issue of Reynolds The Marketplace
Ian Booth, Technical Director, explains how seasonality can impact on the decision making process at Reynolds.