Wegmans Calls Private Label Food Safety a Critical Issue
By Ron Margulis, Managing Director,
I have long thought
the only thing that could derail the store brand locomotive is a major recall
of a retailer-marketed product. Turns out that some of the leading supermarket
chains in the country have the same belief and are busy working to do something
Gillian Kelleher, vice
president of food safety and quality assurance at Wegmans, spoke at the 2009
Private Label Manufacturers Association Annual Conference this week, discussing
how the supermarket chain is working with suppliers to ensure consumers receive
only safe food.
If a supplier is making
a product for the Wegmans label, they must either be inspected by company
Quality Assurance Auditors or be certified against one of the Global Food Safety
Initiative (GFSI) endorsed standards. The first shipment of any new Wegmans
brand product is scrutinized by Ms. Kelleher’s
team to make sure it meets product specifications and food safety requirements.
Tests are conducted in the Wegmans lab or by independent laboratories.
Kelleher said there are several benefits for the company’s suppliers from the
effort, including increased consistency, improved communications, standardization,
HAACP training and reduced audits. As a result of the focus on food safety
in store brands, Wegmans reports that 37 percent of all store brand products
they carry are certified to the standards set by the GFSI. The company has
the goals of reaching 50 percent by the end of the year and ultimately reaching
100 percent of all suppliers. The retailer also explained the food safety program
is being expanded to include the company’s culinary innovation center and bakeshop.
plans for Wegmans include extending food safety training throughout the supply
Question: How would a major private label recall impact the growth of
store brands? Do you think its worth it for retailers to “go the extra mile”
with food safety requirements from a competitive standpoint?