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NOT Made In China  

2007-07-24 22:40:54|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Amid growingawareness of food perils, companies that spotlight whereingredients originate are enjoying new demand



NOT Made In China - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒
NOT Made In China - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒
NOT Made In China - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒
NOT Made In China - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒


Earlier thisyear, Swiss ingredient maker DSM Nutritional Products launched a"premium" Vitamin C. The marketing gambit: It comes from tidyScotland instead of sprawling China, which provides 80% of theworld's supply. But it was a tough sell. "We were struggling to getthe price we thought was justified by the quality," sayscommunications chief Alex Filz.
NOT Made In China - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒 NOT Made In China - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒

No more. Not after contaminated products from China ended up onsupermarket shelves. Suddenly, "Not Made in China" has become amajor selling point. DSM's Quali-C brand is flying out of itsScottish factory at more than double the price for bulk Vitamin C."It's a tremendous business opportunity for us," says Filz (seeBusinessWeek.com, 7/13/07, "China: Due fora Reality Check?").

In the midst of the imported food crisis, companies are findingclever ways to cash in. Some, like DSM, are playing the "not fromChina" card. Upscale New York grocery Fairway reassures consumersthat none of its seafood is Chinese. Others see a growing businessin making this global supply chain safer. One big player: IBM,which is pushing systems to trace the food supply from source tomarket. "Whenever there's a crisis, there will always be a silverlining for someone who can help alleviate whatever pain is outthere," says crisis consultant Gene Grabowski, seniorvice-president of Levick Strategic Communications.

Secaucus (N.J.) specialty dog food producer Freshpet found thatsilver lining. At the end of last year, it was selling its premiumall-natural blend of meat and vegetables in a mere 200 stores. Mostretailers said the idea was "interesting" but didn't bite, recallsco-founder Scott Morris.

Then pets began dying and, beginning in March, dozens of productswere recalled because they might contain melamine from China, anindustrial chemical. Freshpet threw out its only overseasingredient, a protein component from Europe, and quickly ramped upits marketing. It printed big stickers for retailers to put on therefrigerator cases where its products are stocked, highlightingthat the food was made daily with fresh, local ingredients. All ofa sudden, the retailers who had given Freshpet the cold shoulder"started calling," says Morris. Now, roughly 1,000 stores offer itsdog food, with another 1,000 coming by yearend. Projected 2007sales have more than tripled to nearly $50 million. "Sometimesyou're good--and you get lucky," he adds.

With today's global food supply, however, eliminating everyparticle from China is impossible for most major food companies.Even a simple product like a cereal bar contains ingredients fromIndia, the Philippines--and China, which now supplies the bulk ofthe world's vitamins, apple juice, and other goods. "I think mostpeople are surprised by the diversity of the sources," saysingredient consultant Peter Kovacs.

Instead, the latest woes have many food giants scrambling toratchet up efforts to ensure the safety of imported ingredients.That's providing a big boost to a host of companies aiming to helpwith the task. While Kellogg's has long had systems in place tomonitor its global food chain, for example, it has arrangedadditional third-party audits of its suppliers. Many companies arealso broadening the list of things they're analyzing. "One of thereasons melamine slipped through is that no one knew to test forit," says Grabowski.

This increased scrutiny is good news to Gene Rider, North Americanconsumer goods vice-president of Intertek Group PLC. Operating in110 countries, with headquarters in London, the company offers acomplete quality system for clients ranging from Kraft (KFT) Food Inc. and Unilever to Nike (NKE ) and Microsoft Corp.(MSFT ) Intertek will evaluate and train suppliers, testproducts, and provide other services. Since the latest bans andrecalls, inquiries have more than doubled, says Rider. "Companiesare increasingly asking to outsource their quality programs," hesays. "It's tremendous for us."

IBM also sees a big opportunity in this market. One of the keysteps to putting safe food on the dinner table is tracing theentire path of ingredients and products from fields and factoriesto grocery store shelves. Such a system sounds like a no-brainer,but in practice it's difficult, requiring sophisticated markers andsoftware. "It's a global-information management problem," says GuyA. Blissett, head of consumer products at the IBM Institute forBusiness Value. The tech giant is trying to capitalize on thatdemand by providing the tracking tags and sensors to monitorshipments or processes, as well as the computers and software tomake sense of it all.

Not only does such a system help boost safety and quality, saysBlissett, it enables a company to offer up premium products. It'spossible to document, for instance, that beef was grown withouthormones, or that yogurt contains the advertised bacteria--and thusbe able to charge a higher price.

Already, retailers overseas have found big profits by givingconsumers just that kind of information. After outbreaks ofListeria bacteria and other tainted food in Europe, Frenchhypermarket chain Carrefour created Quality Line products, whichcome from local farmers who have agreed to tough quality standards.The products are now offered in 15 countries and are increasinglypopular. In Belgium, where feed contaminated by dioxin was fed tolivestock, 98% of beef and 56% of pork carry the Quality Linestamp. Shoppers appreciate the extra assurance. "Whenever there isa crisis, our performance ends up being much better than that ofcompetitors," says Roland Vaxelaire, director for quality,responsibility, and risk management at Carrefour in Paris.

For now, big U.S. chains are just beginning to move in thatdirection, with certified organic foods and produce labeled withthe country of origin. But Blissett says a high level of interestis fueling his business. "Consumer product companies are realizingthat, to be competitive, they need to have a robust traceabilitysystem." And IBM isn't just waiting for the market to develop.Recently it has tried aggressively to drum up customers with thehelp of a survey showing that nearly 40% of consumers are alreadychanging what food they buy because of safety concerns.

In recent years, food producers have been under relentless pressureto buy ingredients at the lowest price. That, inevitably, led themto China. Now, says DSM's Filz, they increasingly are "moving awayfrom decisions made just on price to something like a stamp orseal." No surprise then that DSM is creating such a seal, whichwould guarantee the quality, reliability, and traceability of itsproducts. That's good for safety--and for DSM'sbusiness.
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