What Does Transparency Mean to Food Manufacturers?
In the food industry, transparency involves openly sharing information about how food is produced. Many elements of transparency are already widely practiced and mandated in forms like nutritional labeling and truth-in-advertising statutes. However, transparency expectations are increasing. More and more, both regulators and consumers are looking for information ranging from ingredient provenance to the specific processing methods employed by the manufacturer.
Efforts to increase transparency in food manufacturing are driven by both regulators and consumers. Although the industry itself is a major source of innovation, the trend is primarily driven by external influences. Understanding these influences and the expectations that regulators and consumers have is essential for taking effective steps toward transparency.
The first step in establishing a successful transparency program is to look to the supply chain. Although current regulation requires tracking only one step in either direction from your facility, this guideline can be expected to expand to two-step tracking or even full supply-chain visibility. Furthermore, given the increasing expectation from customers that food companies will provide detailed transparency information, a more transparent supply chain seems like an inevitability even if regulators do not ultimately require it. Accordingly, supply chain transparency needs to be a priority for any food manufacturer.
Just as it is crucial to have transparency along the supply chain, it is essential to have transparency within your own operations. Though this may sound easier than supply chain transparency, in fact it can be quite challenging. Although you may have a high-level knowledge of all your manufacturing processes, it is essential that you not only have detailed information about everything you do but also that you be able to make appropriate information readily available to regulators, consumers, and your own food safety personnel. Anything less will fail to satisfy new regulations and consumer expectations.