A recent Shopper Vista study, conducted by the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), has found that 45% of shoppers claim they are able to buy higher quality produce for the same or less money than previously.
Interestingly, a study conducted by the same company back in 2012 found that 54% of shoppers were prepared to pay more money for high quality produce; demonstrating the radical change in consumer expectations. The use of supply chain software has been critical for retailers and suppliers in meeting these ever increasing expectations of their customers – and giving them a competitive advantage.
Muddy Boots Software, a global specialist in supply chain software for the food and farming industry, claim that as retailers and suppliers have focused on sharper pricing, shoppers have become more accustomed to benefitting from lower prices, without necessarily needing to trade down in quality: "This poses a huge challenge to the retailer," states Jack Evans, Head of Commercial at Muddy Boots, "and this increasing expectation of 'quality for less' is adding to the pressure."
Is there a way that retailers can give their customers better quality produce whilst maintaining or even lowering their prices? Jack believes there is: "This is something that can only be achieved through working more efficiently, maintaining total visibility and getting produce right first time, every time."
"The reality is that retailers rely on their suppliers to provide a consistently high standard of produce. Reducing costs by paying them less will inevitably impact quality as suppliers will be forced to make concessions in the production process to compensate their loss of earnings. This is a risk retailers can't afford to take.
"An alternative is cutting costs internally; often this is a case of downsizing personnel. This is also an unwise decision as spreading a workforce too thinly, especially in the quality department – an area that is now so high on the agenda and so publicly exposed - is a risky strategy. Things get missed, mistakes are made and this could have disastrous consequences."
The implementation of accessible cloud-based systems may seem like an expensive option, but the benefits and long term cost savings they yield vastly outweigh the investment. Having better visibility of quality data, and being able to easily communicate that up and down a supply chain plays a significant role in improving transparency and enabling better collaboration. This gives businesses better insight into the factors that affect the performance of their supply chains, and ultimately gives them the information required to remove inefficiencies and areas of waste.
For example, since using the Greenlight Quality Control app from Muddy Boots, Waitrose have been able to save a tremendous amount of time in quality checks. "If the user's current volume of checks completed for the last 6 months was translated over 12 months, we'd predict the time saved to complete data input would equate to more than 71 days," says Waitrose's Quality Technologist, Trevor Patey.
Likewise, Morrisons have found that Greenlight Quality Control has transformed the way they manage their supply chain and drive their quality agenda.
Hugh Mowat, Head of Quality explains that "traceability, quality assurance and compliance is paramount for the products destined for our shelves. Muddy Boots' dashboard capability gives teams a real-time view of the performance of our supply base. We can now view site, supplier and product performance in one place, which has enabled us to drive significant efficiencies through waste reductions, and identify and mitigate risk from our supply chain."
The preservation of a hard-won reputation and the delivery of customer trust is essential to any retailer; as a growing number of retail technical managers are finding, the insight and transparency in supply chains that Muddy Boots' software solutions offer are crucial in delivering the retail Holy Grail of higher quality and better value.