The Food & Beverage Business

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Articles and Information   © Ravi Wazir, 2020

The Onions Must Speak: Traceability of the Food Supply Chain

Any food and beverage operator worth his salt inevitably wants to serve his guests food that is safe, tasty, cost effective and convenient. He understands that among the many things he must do to achieve this, attention to the supply chain is critical.

Further, his consumers also want to know all sorts of things about the ingredients: where they’re from, how fresh they are, how they were transported, etc., and why not? Anyone committed to good health and fair practices, whether a manufacturer or a consumer, is entitled to know.

Today, people expect a brief resume of their ingredients and finished goods. Tomorrow, they will demand an entire dossier of traceable details on every aspect of the supply chain.

So let’s take the example of a simple ingredient like an onion being converted to paste form by an FMCG food brand for convenience in cooking, at say, the kitchen of a caterer. Now imagine that we have to map this entire journey and share the details.

What better way to know your onions, than to ask them. So visualize an onion speaking with us, through an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) possibly, telling us about its journey....

From Farm to Plate

Farm

I was a late Kharif sown in August ’18, harvested in Jan ’19 in Nashik, Maharashtra, and sold in a jute sack at the Lasalgaon wholesale market at Rs.7/- per kilo. The excellent quality black loam soil with organic manure I was grown in, led to me to be a good-sized 50mm, A-grade Nashik Red Onion in the market that season.

Wholesale Market

A local trader bought and stored me at ambient temperature around 30 C and a relative humidity (RH) of 65%. Since my neck had been dried for 10 days, I lost about 10% of my weight but stayed well without rotting or sprouting and you could hear the nice dry rustle in the 40kg sack each time we were periodically turned to prevent us from getting spoiled. In around three weeks, the trader sold me for Rs.12/- a kilo at the local mandi (market).

Brand / Direct Manufacturer (FMCG / Institution / HoReCa)

A Mumbai based cooking paste brand called Swaad who wanted to make & sell fried onion paste to the HoReCa sector and retail, bought me from the trader and arranged for me to be transported to their contract manufacturer named A1, in Chinchwad, Pune.

Plate: End Consumer Feedback

I was delivered to Sun Catering Services who used the pouch I was in, within the week. They were happy with the product and reverted to Swaad with a repeat order. However, I’m told one of the pouches from the same batch as I, got puffed up for some reason. Swaad has sent it to the lab and is presently trying to trace back the problem to the point that it might have happened, with a view to understand the reason and take corrective action.

Details mentioned in the above “onion conversation” are meant only for representative purposes and not to be taken literally.

In the food business we must know not just our onions, but every single ingredient, whether raw or prepared, and have the ability to track each aspect of our supply chain, from farm to plate.

Honestly sharing this information with our stakeholders, helps build trust in the brand and thus loyalty towards it.

So to produce and consume food with integrity, it is imperative that the onions must speak.

Journey of an FMCG Food Brand