viewpoint

26 October, 2007
Page 10 
I sometimes think we are all obsessed with 'trends'. But one thing is certain: if you are not aware of them, your business will stand still then start to die - and so will your customer base.
It is something Tesco's Neil Franklin points out this week (pg 18) and if you are, or ever wish to be, a Tesco supplier I urge you to take note, because his background is with British Bakeries, and he is forward-thinking every step of the way. He even wants to roll out a new training scheme for both scratch baking and bake-off which is bound to give staff more pride in their products. But the rest is not general talk about how great Tesco is. Unlike some conference speeches, his address to delegates at the British Society of Baking autumn conference got down to the nitty-gritty of what suppliers really need to know, really need to do and really need to be aware of.Perhaps, as a supplier, you know it all already. If not, you may like to go through it with a highlighter pen and pass it to your relevant departments.We are in the information overload age: instant news on every channel and e-mails tumbling in every second, which we read while talking on the phone and signing off invoices. But when I went to do a supermarket shop last week, there were four common things I could not buy and I thought of Neil's comments, so I understand what he means about lack of availability, for instance. It can be very frustrating.And I can't help wondering if the suppliers of those four items had marketing people who had accessed the types of information Neil talks about or knew what flavours and promotions I go for. Had they passed it all to the salespeople or directors who visit the buyers?Knowledge is power; it always has been. And the fact that there is so much knowledge available, so often and so rapidly is thanks to the blessing (or curse!) of computers. Competition among the supermarkets is fantastically fierce and is driving both standards and innovation, so having an inside track on their thinking is extremely valuable.Macphie, meanwhile, is driving its own 'green' standards and innovation (pg 4), leading from the front with a biomass boiler that burns wood chips. How soon will it be before wood chip ovens become the next 'green' option?



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