I picked up a leaflet from my local national retailer recently, entitled ‘We Are Changing’. I then started to read the note before bursting into laughter. They were "going to change", they claimed. Please don’t tell me you swallowed it? Please tell me you saw through this little piece of damage limitation PR stunt to the masses?
I remember sitting in the offices of this retailer not all that long ago, hoping to get a price increase out of them, having not had one for two years. However, my meagre 4% was a lot more than the 35% decrease in price they were wanting, so naturally we parted company.
However the buyer’s words still stay with me – "a pie is just a pie". This just about sums up their commitment to quality at that time.
Thankfully we have a very wide and variable portfolio of clients and products and if, sadly, we do lose one of either, we can handle the impact.
However, if the manufacturer has allowed him/herself to be so biased towards one customer, and financially needs the volume, and is being forced into having to reduce the cost to meet a revised selling price – or else – then he or she will cut costs… and usually quality ingredients go first. That’s where the spiral downwards starts, until the manufacturer cannot cut any more, yet has to – or else it loses the business. With this dilemma, is it any wonder other species of meat were found in products proclaiming to be beef?
Of course, many multinational companies can have their products made where the base labour cost is much lower than here in Great Britain. I am sure the vast majority of businesses are ethical and do perform to strictly controlled guidelines, but when the backs are to the wall, and it’s ‘do or be dead’ and head office is 10,000 miles away, who’s going to know anyway? That is how all this problem started with horsemeat contamination - it wasn’t greed the manufacturer’s greed, it was the need to survive or lose everything.
The multiple retailers’ policy of driving down costs to maximise their margin, irrespective of the damage to the supplier, is to blame. It is 100% their fault, and they should admit it openly.
So when I see vain attempts to divert attention away from them, by little quotes on a leaflet saying "that it is the whole food industry" and "they need to do more", I do get a little annoyed. Could you guess?