GHQ Cover Story 07/05: Food safety’s quiet revolution

Jul 08, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Through special arrangement with Grocery Headquarters magazine, we present these opportunities to discuss the subjects of GHQ’s monthly cover stories.

Busch’s has found that, when it comes to food safety, going beyond what is required by the government
is a point of difference that consumers tell the grocer they appreciate with every dollar spent in its 11 stores.

“Inspections are a part of being in business, and we’ve always gotten good ratings from [Michigan’s department of agriculture]. But we wanted more than good ratings from the
state.” Dan Courser, chief operating officer for Busch’s, told Grocery Headquarters. “Our standards are high, and we wanted people to know that. What you don’t see, like
the microbial testing, helps make the program viable.”

Where others are happy to comply with local, state and federal regulations, Busch’s has gone farther with its food safety program that includes third-party certification from
NSF International’s FreshCheck program.

Mary Weaver, a project manager for the FreshCheck program, said, “The groups we work with aren’t just ahead of the game, but want to get way beyond it. It’s not about meeting
government regulations, but it’s being progressive, being proactive versus reactive, and showing a genuine concern for food safety.”

Busch’s is not alone in the grocery retail business in using third-parties to assure the safety of the products it sells, but where others prefer to handle that part of their
business quietly, the Michigan-based chain includes it as part of its marketing and advertising program.

“Food safety is an integral part of our organization,” said Mr. Courser. “We hold it near and dear, and an important part of our culture.”

Consultant Dave Adams believes companies such as Busch’s are on the right track. “The next step has to be marketing, to make your commitment to food safety part of your branding,”
he said. “The catch is figuring out how to do that. Nobody wants to say they’re taking extra precautions, if only because they’ll look bad if and when someone screws up.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on the marketing of food safety initiatives by retailers to create a point of difference from other retailers
in the minds of consumers?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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4 Comments on "GHQ Cover Story 07/05: Food safety’s quiet revolution"

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Mark Lilien
15 years 7 months ago

Food safety is a key issue for a large and growing portion of America. As partial proof, look at the huge growth of kosher certified assortments from national name brand food manufacturers. This phenomenon cannot be explained any other way, since Jews are a tiny and numerically declining minority group. Look at the increased use of dating (Budweiser beer, etc.). Demand for organic food is often driven by safety concerns. One great step would be a universally-recognized inspection seal for food, positioned like UL for appliances. Many people want something more than reliance upon intangible “hit or miss” government inspections.

Ron Margulis
15 years 7 months ago

Food safety ties in very nicely with an overall freshness campaign as a differentiator for grocers. There is no need to put all a retailer’s eggs in the food safety basket, however, and other elements of the campaign like product quality, nutritional advice and meal planning must also be highlighted. And, of course, trained and courteous staffers must execute the whole thing, or the campaign will wind up like the Farmer Jack’s effort of a few years ago. Also, an understated approach that accents the positives as opposed to calling out a competitor’s negatives (food safety or other) is appropriate.

Al McClain
Al McClain
15 years 7 months ago

While it’s great to have the image that your food is very safe, going through extra testing, etc., all it takes is one mistake to kill that idea. And I’m not sure anybody really wants to imply that other retailers’ food may not be safe. On the whole, I think projecting a clean, fresh, safe image is the route to go, without going overboard and causing consumers to worry anymore than they already do.

Mark Burr
15 years 7 months ago

I’d think treading carefully would be the best track. There is nothing wrong with having a great program and making it known, however shouting it from the rooftops could be risky. There are many, too many, factors out of the individual retailer’s control and that could put your reputation at risk if you claim otherwise.


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