The phrase ‘product recall’ is likely to strike fear into the heart of any retailer. Richard Jones, chief technology officer at LINKFRESH, explains why supply chain software is more important than ever in protecting brand reputation.

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Global brands from Cadillac to Cow & Gate have all paid the price of product recalls, not just financially. In today’s ironically named ‘social’ age, a brand’s lovingly built reputation can be severely damaged at the share of a hashtag.

Fortunately for Cadbury Schweppes, social media was in its infancy when it was forced to recall more than a million chocolate bars in 2006, amid fears they may have been contaminated with a rare strain of salmonella. The recall still cost Cadbury Schweppes an estimated £20m, not to mention six-figure fines for health and safety breaches.

Fast forward to 2012, when drinks maker Britvic had to recall its popular Fruit Shoot drink from the UK and France due to a faulty bottle top. The cost was an estimated £16.9m but the knock-on effects were thought to push it up to £25m.

Most recently, October 2015 saw Cow & Gate recall a range of baby muesli after it was found to contain insects. The financial cost is yet to be calculated but the reputational damage to the much loved and trusted brand is incalculable.

Even in the best-run companies, human error is always a risk and occasionally things will go wrong.

The irony is that while the technological revolution enables companies to trace contaminated or damaged products with pinpoint accuracy, it has also empowered disgruntled customers and fraudulent opportunists. Real, perceived or contrived grievances can become global media events in a matter of seconds. And tidal waves of viral information are almost impossible to contain.

This makes it more critical than ever that vulnerable companies nip such issues in the bud.

Although our software and systems can’t prevent insects getting into products or contamination occurring, they can ensure a retailer is able to identify, isolate and recall a faulty or damaged product with the utmost speed and efficiently.

As well as helping minimise the financial cost of an umbrella recall, this also has the knock-on effect of helping multiple retailers protect their own brand reputation by being seen to be acting responsibly and quickly.

No matter how well-oiled the PR ‘crisis comms’ machine is, prompt action will minimise brand damage and speak far louder to loyal customers than retrospective apologetic words.

LINKFRESH provides supply chain software to the fresh food industry that enables traceability, transparency and improved communications between all parties involved at every stage from farm to fork.

www.linkfresh.com

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