An incredible 80% of the information held on supermarket IT systems about branded goods is wrong.

This the key finding of the ‘Data Crunch’ report, published by not-for-profit supply standards organisation GS1 UK this week.

The only reason inconsistencies did not cripple the supply chain was that retailers didn’t trust suppliers’ data and had allowed stores, warehouses and buyers to develop a multitude of spreadsheets and small databases of local product data for particular department needs, according to the report.

If the industry ironed out this issue, it could potentially realise £1bn in savings and revenue in the next five years, it said.

GS1, which compared data held by the big four supermarket chains with that of Nestlé, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Mars, said that by properly synchronising simple product information such as size and weight, the industry could avoid shrinkage and eliminate the need for the myriad processes used to cope with the bad data, saving as much as £700m.

There was also the potential to generate £300m of new sales through improved consumer-facing data covering health, allergens and the environment.

The industry has already begun introducing processes to improve the data flow between suppliers and retailers. Working with the leading retailers, GS1 has developed a new standardised ‘new lines form’ for suppliers to complete when introducing new products. It will provide all the information generally required by the full range of supermarket departments.

“It’s in everyone’s interests for the industry to work together towards building smarter supply chains,” said Sainsbury’s trading director Mike Coupe. “We must all work with our suppliers to ensure a reliable flow of information and product data to make this happen.”

GS1 chief executive Gary Lynch said that this was an area in which the UK lagged behind countries such as the US, Australia, Canada and Germany and warned that tackling the problem would not be easy. “We’ve been very encouraged by the collaborative action the industry has taken to date.”