It’s one thing to have a corporate food safety program but entirely another to make sure the executive suite is aware of its importance and the rest of the company buys into a food safety culture, experts said at the 2014 Food Safety Summit.

Food safety programs must be well-funded, integrated in all systems and departments, and receive support starting at the CEO level.

For food safety directors, it begins by having an elevator pitch ready at all times to grab the attention of higher-ups.

For Jorge Hernandez, senior VP for Food Safety & Quality Assurance at US Foods, the line is “I’m the one who is keeping you out of jail,” which he used when he met his new CEO for the first time. It got him a meeting with the chief exec a week later, during which he was able to explain everything the company was doing to ensure safety and protect the company from legal liability. (read more…)

Counterfeiting of branded goods is growing globally, and losses from counterfeiting cost retailers and manufacturers nearly $1 trillion each year and more than 75,000 jobs in the U.S., according to a study from the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association.

“This study pinpoints the opportunities that retailers and manufacturers have to reduce the chance for counterfeit products from reaching shelves and finding their way into consumers’ homes,” said Mark Baum, FMI‘s senior vice president of industry relations and chief collaboration officer. “We must be vigilant about safeguarding our supply chain from counterfeiters and step up our efforts to stop organized retail theft.”

The study, “Brand Protection and Supply Chain Integrity: Methods for Counterfeit Detection, Prevention and Deterrence,” includes guidelines for manufacturers and retailers based on a survey of consumer packaged goods manufacturers across the globe and retailers across the U.S., as well as input from a committee of industry leaders in manufacturing and retailing. (read more…)

When Coca-Cola distributed cans of its famous fizzy drink in South America last year bearing popular local names like Roberto and Alicia, it had its packaging supplier to thank. Beverage can maker Rexam had figured out a way to print eight different designs on the same production line and pack 24 variations on a single pallet — a far cry from the standardized approach of the past, and one that gave Coke valuable promotional buzz and boosted sales in its target markets.

Drawing on the ideas and inventiveness of external partners is one of the defining characteristics of innovation leaders, and increasingly a competitive imperative for companies across a broad range of industry sectors. The notion that internal R&D departments can respond to intensifying pressure for new brand variants and shorter timescales on their own is outmoded. “Open innovation” and collaboration are the order of the day, whether it be using social media channels to solicit feedback from customers or working closely with suppliers of packaging, ingredients, flavours or contract manufacturing services on product design and development. (read more…)

Hal Hamilton founded and now is co-director of the Sustainable Food Lab in Hartland, Vt., which helps companies adopt sustainability practices, gathers data on sustainability efforts and shares that information to promote the sustainability movement. He talks with SmartBlogs about how the lab works and the future of sustainable agriculture.

How did the Sustainable Food Lab get started and what are the priorities?

The Food Lab first convened in June 2004 as a two-year leadership journey. Over the past 10 years it has expanded to include more than 60 member and partner organizations, including brand manufacturers like Unilever, Mars and Stonyfield; food service companies like Sysco, Sodexo and Aramark; retailers like Costco and Marks & Spencer; and NGOs like The Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance and Oxfam.

The reason the Food Lab has grown is that businesses are integrating sustainability into their value chains and need to learn from one another about how to do this more effectively. (read more…)

From the workers in the fields who pick our produce to the celebrity chefs crafting the 12-course tasting menus at our favorite five-star restaurants, the universe of people who contribute to putting food on our plates is wide-ranging and diverse, with plenty of moving parts.

Whether they’re growing the food, preparing it in factories and commercial kitchens, serving it at restaurant tables or selling it at supermarkets and c-stores, the fates of employees in the food industry are often tied to some common trends, especially when it comes to the economy and the rise of technology. The recession drove consumers to tighten their belts and spend less on restaurant meals, and shoppers also grew more careful about spending at the grocery store, even as they took to preparing more meals at home.

While the recession was longer-lasting than earlier dips, the economic changes affecting the world of food industry employment are largely cyclical, as evidenced by a recent resurgence in demand for restaurant and hospitality workers. (read more…)