Future Group, Reliance Retail ask food companies to deliver products within five days of manufacturing

With increased customer scrutiny in the wake of the Maggi noodles controversy, large retailers are asking food companies to supply products at their stores within five days of manufacturing if not less so that their shelves aren't filled with old stocks.
Retail giants ask food co to deliver in time
With increased customer scrutiny in the wake of the Maggi noodles controversy, large retailers are asking food companies to supply products at their stores within five days of manufacturing if not less so that their shelves aren't filled with old stocks.
 
"Travel time between various channels from the manufacturing plant to the warehouse and distributor to retailer has to reduce so consumers get the freshest products," said Devendra Chawla, group president, food, FMCG and brands at Future Group, which has a retail network of almost 500 stores, including Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar and Nilgiris.
 
Products usually take an average of at least 10 days to reach store shelves from the plants, except for perishables such as dairy products, which are delivered overnight. Retail development in the country has been impeded by poor roads and the lack of a cold-chain infrastructure.
 
Consumer awareness over food safety has increased tremendously over the past two months, during which the national regulator Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) put companies under the scanner following the lead-in-Maggi controversy and Nestle India had to recall the noodle brand from the market. As a result, retailers want supply timelines to shrink so that products move faster from factory to store shelf.
 
"Retailers have started to request for fresher stock with higher shelf life. While modern trade always had shelf-life policies, it is getting stringent now," said Mayank Shah, deputy marketing manager at top biscuits maker Parle Products.
 
Reliance Retail has introduced an extra round of safety checks across products in its 600 stores amid fears of a consumer backlash if a sub-standard or expired product is sold, said a person familiar with the development.
 
"Any product that has 70% of its shelf life remaining does not enter our stores," an executive of Reliance Retail said.
 
The FSSAI is preparing an adviso- strinry for retailers, which will hold them accountable for products they sell, including any that haven't been approved.
 
Yudhvir Singh Malik, the CEO of the food regulator, told ET last week that retailers could be vulnerable to regulatory and legal action if found to be defaulting on these parameters.
 
Tata Starbucks said earlier this month it has "initiated the suspension of applicable ingredients from certain products served in our stores" and is providing the regulator with documentation needed for its pending applications.
 
"In a world where 'you are what you eat,' people want to know what they are eating. The back of the pack is becoming as important as the front of the pack," Chawla of Future Group said.
 
Organised grocery chains including Big Bazaar, Walmart India's Best Price Modern Wholesale, Easy Day, Nilgiris, K Raheja's HyperCity, Savemax Wholesale and Spar had started pulling Maggi off the shelves even before the FSSAI ban on the twominute snack and Nestle's recall.
 
"As a policy, we accept only those products which have 75% of their shelf life when they hit our stores," said a senior official of a leading supermarket firm, adding that most national companies have plants spread across the country and it's not always possible to distribute their products within a short span of time. "In the case of beverages or food products, where shelf life is less than a week, companies tend to keep production facilities near retail locations since most of them are regional players."
 
The withdrawal of the Rs 2,000 croreplus Maggi brand is estimated to cost Nestle more than Rs 320 crore. Over 27,420 tonnes of the product were in the market when the recall was announced on June 5.
 
Following the Maggi controversy, a top consumer goods firm has postponed two launches, while some are allocating additional funds for research and development. "We are stepping up spends on product testing, especially in collaboration with external labs," said Sunil Duggal, CEO at Dabur, which makes Real juices.
 
"There's huge concern about blackmail from consumers, too. Industry is at a serious crossroads in terms of food & beverage safety and the only strategies being discussed in boardrooms is that of food safety concerns and FSSAI," the CEO of a leading firm said.
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