Food Industry Reports Benefits of Track-and-Trace Technology

Oct. 18, 2011
Foodservice companies have reported seeing measurable benefits as part of the industry-driven Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative.

Dozens of major foodservice companies have reported seeing measurable benefits as part of the industry-driven Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative. On the two-year anniversary of the Initiative’s launch, GS1 US says the industry has now passed the halfway mark on the way to a 75% voluntary adoption of GS1 standards by 2015 (measured by revenue).

The Initiative was launched in October 2009 as a voluntary industry collaboration to drive waste out of the foodservice supply chain, enhance product information and establish a foundation for improved traceability and food safety. To date, companies making up 55% of the foodservice industry’s manufacturer revenue and 45% of the distributor revenue are using GS1 standards. GS1 US is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the adoption and implementation of standards-based, global supply chain solutions.

“Adoption of GS1 standards is going to dramatically change our industry for the better,” says Brendan Foley, president, Heinz Foodservice. “Without these standards, our transactional systems and product information differ all across the board. The grocery and retail industries have been successfully using a standardized product identification and data sharing system for years. Now it’s the foodservice industry’s turn.”

GS1 standards provide a common platform for structuring and sharing product information globally, and include: Global Location Numbers (GLNs) for location identification, Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) for product identification and the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) to exchange information through a network of certified electronic data pools.

“Prior to the foodservice initiative, 6,000 distributors had their own internal systems to move data from manufacturers, but we realized that data wasn’t always accurate,” says Mike Roach, president of Ben E. Keith Foods. “That created all sorts of problems downstream for our operator customers, but we can now provide them with more accurate product information thanks to GS1 standards and data sharing via the GDSN.”

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), menu-labeling legislation—plus a growing consumer demand for more and better nutritional and allergen product information—underscores the need for a standards-based system for accurate and timely product information.

The GDSN provides electronic access to shared data for all supply chain partners. GDSN allows them to continuously synchronize item data to improve inventory control, warehouse management, and more efficient handling of purchasing and other transactions. The implementation of GS1 standards is designed to enhance product traceability, from the operator back to the distributor, manufacturer, processing plants and ultimately, the farm.

“Traceability is critical for food safety,” says Ann Oka, senior vice president of supply chain management for Sodexo. “If we don’t know where a product came from it is very difficult to ensure quality control, let alone recall products in the case of a foodborne illness outbreak.”

The number of foodservice companies subscribing to the GDSN has grown from 191 in 2009 to 1,430 today. Many foodservice companies have also indicated their readiness to send or receive product data through the GDSN. US Foods (formerly U.S. Foodservice), Performance Food Group, Ben E. Keith and other foodservice companies are using a common platform to receive up-to-date product information from their suppliers. In addition, Darden Restaurants and UFPC (Yum! Brands) are among the operators using GLNs and GTINs to standardize the way their supply chain community identifies locations and products.

The Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative recently launched four new working groups, including a GLN Task Group for location tracking; a GTIN Allocation Task Group to assist in assigning product ID numbers; a Product Images Task Group for standardizing product images to enhance marketing and sales, and a User Workgroup to share implementation and adoption issues and successes.

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