Report Aims to Improve Foodservice Supply Chain

“Success in the foodservice channel is dependent on the presence of high levels of cooperation among channel members, as well as high levels of trust and integrity.” This is the conclusion of Dr. Richard George of St. Joseph’s University, contributor to a new International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) “members only” study, Perspectives on the Manufacturer-Distributor Relationship: How We Got Here and How to Move Forward Together.

The report, which delivers insights on the current relationship between foodservice distributors and manufacturers, is the first part of a three-year undertaking to find ways to improve distributor and manufacturer cooperation. The goal is to find common ground for improvements.

“This report, based upon conversation with leaders in the foodservice industry, underscores the fact that current relationships can no longer be viewed as ‘business as usual,’” said Dr. George.

He conducted in-depth interviews with distributors, manufacturers, sales agents/brokers, and industry observers. Their responses are broken down by channel participant. In addition, suggestions are offered for relationship enhancement and for channel improvement in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.

An important determinant of the health of the foodservice channel will be the strength and dependability of relationships, said Dr. George, and measures of relationship health include trust, cooperation versus conflict, direction/degree of interdependence, and relative market power. “As noted throughout the research and across the various channel players, transparency and trust are the key ingredients. What is needed is an atmosphere of openness and negotiation. It is not enough simply to pay for cases shipped. The new paradigm should focus on developing partnerships,” said Dr. George.

“Based on the results of the Year One research, Year Two of the project will focus on developing and testing a trading partner collaboration model,” said Mark Allen, president and CEO of IFDA. “Seven pairings of foodservice manufacturers and distributors—as well as brokers where appropriate—will be working together to move from rhetoric to results and enhance supply chain performance and collaboration,” said Allen

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