The U.K. food and drink sector encompasses producers, raw material suppliers, processing, manufacturing, packaging, retail—an integrated and complete supply chain. Within such a diverse industry there is lots of scope for innovation and growth.
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One such opportunity is product provenance, meaning where food is grown, raised, or reared. Today’s consumers want to know where their food originated. And British consumers want their products close to home.
In England, Wales, and Scotland food and drinks companies are forecasting healthy growth over the next five years. Scottish companies forecast a 24 percent growth in turnover in this timescale; companies in England and Wales predict growth of 19 percent on average. Certainly, enough to sustain the title of “the single largest manufacturing sector in the U.K.”
The growing use of provenance as a marketing scheme has the added benefit of driving up demand for services throughout the food and drink supply chain. Products “locally sourced,” “made by,” and “made in” Britain touch a lot of companies within the supply chain.
Who Benefits from This Growth?
Almost half of these companies expecting growth in Great Britain are planning to increase their market penetration within the U.K. as a major avenue for growth. But provenance continues to be a source of opportunity.
In Scotland, it is the small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have been capitalizing on the reputation of the country’s produce—91 percent already make use of provenance to drive up consumer demand. Companies in England and Wales have so far been less active on this score, although 86 percent of respondents do believe there is a reputation to capitalize on.
Packaging and labeling companies in particular will benefit from more manufacturers and retailers increasing their messaging around product provenance. It’s likely many products on the shelves would also fit the locally grown, sourced, or made requirements. A new run of packing will be required to highlight this to the consumer perusing the supermarket shelves.
As competition increases, companies will need to experiment with different eye-catching packaging options.
Beat the Challenge of Proving Provenance
There is a challenge in proving provenance in a credible way. If you sign up to a certification program there is evidence that must be supplied. Regardless of whether you join a scheme or not, visibility throughout the supply chain is required. This often proves an administrative burden that SMEs, in particular, struggle with.
After all, an opportunity is only lucrative while the costs don’t cancel out the profits.
Technology in one form or another is the key to beating the challenge of proving provenance. In recent months, consumer facing apps utilizing blockchain technology have been proposed as the answer.
One app developer in particular believes that provenance requires transparency in the journey of the product from farm to shelf; culminating in a story that shoppers see when they scan the product barcode.
Storytelling is an important element of provenance. The story captures the consumer’s imagination, but that happens long before they make their choice at the supermarket shelf. Provenance will continue to be used as a tactic to drive demand. No consumer will spend their time scanning barcodes on every aisle, reading romanticized stories of provenance. And as this practice of proving provenance through storytelling increases the stories will harmogenise, undoing the trust and goodwill that the tactic originally promised.
Who Should be Accountable for Provenance?
Supermarkets have long been the driving force in quality standards for the food and drink industry. The story of provenance is important for the feel-good factor but provenance is also thought of as proof of quality.
For the busy consumer, the “made in” stamp is shorthand for quality. In some cases, simply being on the shelves of a certain supermarket is an indicator of quality. The task of proving provenance should reasonably fall to the supermarket, on the consumer’s behalf.