Spice companies are up in arms after attempts by Tesco to steamroller through an initiative giving it control of ingredients purchasing.
The multiple has banned primary own brand suppliers from using spice firms that do not comply with its new global accreditation scheme.
Spice companies were given barely a week to pay £150 for assessment by Law Laboratories, which is managing the process for Tesco. This will give them provisional recognition.
A further £650 will be payable annually for verification, after which the supplier will receive full recognition and appear on LawLabs’ Valid IT web site.
Producers of own-label ranges, such as Finest and Value, will have to select suppliers from this site from June 17.
Tesco’s move comes despite the fact EU legislation requires only a one-up-one-down approach to traceability, whereby companies have to keep records of what they bought from whom and to whom they sold their product. And the majority of spice suppliers already comply fully with all necessary regulations and assurance schemes.
A Tesco spokeswoman said the move was a response to customer concerns following crises such as Sudan 1 and Para Red. “This is obviously a big issue for our customers and we will do everything we can to reassure them,” she said.
She denied the retailer would make any financial gains from the fees charged, saying they would go directly to LawLabs. “This is actually a commercial opportunity for the suppliers. They’re paying the fee to get a recognised standard.”
But suppliers contacting The Grocer were angry. Most only received details from their customers last week even though the deadline for compliance was June 3.
“Tesco has given no room for compromise.
“We are already BRC-certified, follow all EU/UK legal requirements and can show all accreditation and certificates of analysis and quality control,” said one supplier. “It is unreasonable. We can’t see how this is justified. It’s not just a case of A makes B for C and C supplies to Tesco - it’s the entire alphabet. Ingredients come from all over the world, where will the chain end?”
Tesco said the time limit was realistic. “We are prepared to be flexible if there are reasons why it can’t be done and we’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis.”
She said feedback following a consultation with the Seasoning and Spice Association and suppliers had been positive.
But an insider at the SSA said: “Tesco has sprung this on the industry at very short notice and is using its commercial strength to enforce this.
“It has got an awful lot of people’s backs up. When you start delving into people’s main supplier base there is an element of intellectual property.”
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Siân Harrington & Rachel Barnes