The Supply Chain Impact of Adding an Allergen to a Chocolate Bar

supply_chainThroughout the lifecycle of a consumable product, many parties are constantly challenged with updating and managing product information, like ingredients and allergens. Since December 13th, 2014, this task has become even more complex than before for companies producing or selling food and beverage products in the European Union due to the new EU 1169/2011 rules. As a result, changing the basic formula of a chocolate bar by adding one allergen, like nuts for example should be carefully considered as it can have a tremendous impact on its complete supply chain if manufacturer and retailer(s) want to remain compliant with EU regulation 1169/2011 and to inform the consumer about the changes to the product.

EU_1169_nuts_to_a_chololate_bar-supply_chainLet’s say, the chocolate bar is available in three (3) varieties: dark-, whole milk and white chocolate. Each of the varieties is available in two (2) sizes: normal and mini size. The chocolate bar is distributed in twelve (12) countries within the European Union using different packaging. This would require the manufacturer to introduce 72 (3 varieties * 2 sizes * 12 countries) new GTINs at an item level. If the chocolate producer decides to do any package or seasonal promotions, multipacks or introduce a new variety, this number would even be higher. The new attributes, including updated information on allergens, have to be modified for each product and 72 new GTINs have to be generated for the chocolates bars by the chocolate manufacturer’s data maintenance department. Trading partners have to be updated about the modifications, too. Assuming the manufacturer uses the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), the new GTINs will have to be registered along with their new attributes eight weeks before the modified product will be available. In addition to that, packaging hierarchies have to be taken into consideration as well. Let’s say, each item has an associated case and pallet, the number of updates would sum up at 216 (72 updates * 3 product hierarchies).

Managing the updates related to the product modifications, results in high administrative and other costs. Trading partners across the supply chain report significant impact to their annual sales and costs. According to GS1 Europe, one retailer reported 6,000-8,000 GTIN changes per year, leading to 2-3% of additional administrative and support costs. If the GTIN had to change for every new minor variant of a product, they forecast the number of changes per year could rise to 20,000-25,000, leading to a significant increase in further additional administrative and support costs.

The change of the chocolate bar’s recipe also means that a corresponding change to the mandatory product data displayed on the label is required. This means for the online retailer(s) selling the chocolate bar that they have to update information displayed in the online shops. Considering that a retailer has to deliver exactly the product that is displayed in his online shop, there will be a period of time when the old version of the product and the new version coexist in the supply chain. During this period it is not possible for the retailer to know if the version of the product ordered on a website will be available at the time and place the order is picked.

GS1 Europe suggests handling this issue as follows: Retailers working to GS1 standards use GTINs to pick on-line orders. If the modified chocolate bar with nuts is given a new GTIN it increases the possibility that the correct variant can be made available for picking and, even if it is not available at the pick point, the retailer can recognize automatically if the version being picked is different from the version that was ordered. In this latter case the product can be offered as a substitute when the goods are delivered and the consumer can choose whether to accept it or not. On their websites, GS1 provides comprehensive information on how to comply with the new European Food Information Regulation.

Using the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), suppliers and retailers are able to share standardized product data, cut down the cost of building point to point integrations and speed-up new product introductions by getting access to the most accurate and most current product information. The Informatica GDSN Accelerator is an add-on to the Informatica Product Information Management (PIM) system that provides an interface to access a GDSN certified data pool. It is designed to help organizations securely and continuously exchange, update and synchronize product data with trading partners according to the standards defined by Global Standards One (GS1). GDSN ensures that data exchanged between trading partners is accurate and compliant with globally supported standards in maintaining uniqueness, classification and identification of source and recipients. Integrated in your PIM System, the GDSN Accelerator allows for leveraging product data of highest standards to be exchanged with your trading partners via the GDSN.

Thanks to the automated product data exchange, efforts and costs related to the modification of a product, as demonstrated in the chocolate bar example can be significantly reduced for both, manufacturers and retailers. The product data can be easily transferred to the data pool and you can fully control the information sharing with a specific trading partner or with all recipients of a target market.

Related blogs:

How GS1 and PIM Help to Fulfill Legal Regulations and Feed Distribution Channels

5 Ways to Comply with the New European Food Information Regulation