>>suppliers should bear the pain, and profit from shelf-ready packs


No-one is disputing the fact that shelf-ready packaging is good news for the industry. So why is it suddenly one of the most contentious issues in the grocery market?
That question forms the basis of a thought-provoking feature starting on page 29 of this week’s issue. The answer, inevitably, is down to the wrangles over who is going to pay for it all. And guess what? I don’t think that it’s going to be retailers or their customers.
But I also feel that suppliers are focusing too much on the cost issue and are losing sight of the fact that if they were prepared to seize the initiative here, talk to their customers and develop new ideas that would take this debate forwards, they would also benefit.
I don’t for one minute underestimate the serious operational headaches that any moves towards shelf-ready packaging will cause suppliers. That point was rammed home to me during a recent tour of a modern, automated food factory. At the end of the tour, having seen hardly anybody in this modern plant, I ended up in the warehouse. There I saw staff unloading product from an industry-standard distribution pack and putting it into a reusable, shelf-ready system that was bespoke to Tesco. There’s clearly a huge buggeration factor for the supplier in doing that - and extra costs that damage the efficiency of its state-of-the-art factory.
Nevertheless, suppliers cannot have it both ways. They want on-shelf availability to improve, but they don’t want to pay anything towards that? Hmm...
Tackling in-store availability issues has been one of the biggest issues debated through the pages of this magazine for the past three years or so. Suppliers have, rightly, in my opinion, been very vocal about the failings of their customers - particularly when it comes to getting product through the last 50 yards. Stung by the criticism, retailers have invested heavily in new systems and new ways of working that are designed to tackle the problems that lead to poor availability - and there are signs that things have, generally speaking, improved since we first started talking about the issue. Now we see retailers pushing another initiative to make further improvements.
It makes sense to me. And I think this is one occasion when suppliers should stop whingeing about the cost. Instead, they too should take a lead on this issue - and reap the rewards.
be ready to take the lead