The dietary and food supplements environment is not the only place where the demand for increased transparency is altering relationships and business practice, but it has its own special problems and pitfalls. Our consumer base is often more proactive and value-driven than other categories. Not only do we have the issues facing other consumer packaged and prepared and health products categories; we have a whole array of additional challenges and opportunities to navigate.
The evolution of the Internet and access to new technology has changed how we obtain information, and these changes will continue. Information at the click of the button, and the empowerment of consumers to ‘make their own choices’ correlates with a general mistrust of iconic brands, and movements such as clean label, sustainability, personalisation and self-care.
All these factors bode very well in the mid-term for ingredient suppliers and brand manufacturers across the spectrum—if they are navigated with authenticity, a focus on the journey rather than the short-term gain, fad or trend, and a deeper engagement with all supply chain partners, up and down, in unprecedented relationships. The long-term victory will go to those organisations who use transparency to build trust.
Companies the world over are taking disparate approaches to becoming more transparent in their practices and operations. In some cases, this means disclosing where a product is sourced and made, all the way to transparent procedures and operations. The promotion of said transparency is frequently a short-term measure such as ‘we’re now telling you this, aren’t we great’, rather than a fully-engaged transformative path that often involves corporate culture makeover, re-establishment of defining values, partner re-engagement and the full 360-degree analysis that baseline and fundamental assessment most often requires. That is not to say that a company cannot decide to disclose previously closely held information, but to label this as suddenly ‘transparent ‘will probably backfire. One reason for this is there are probably other practices, beliefs and behaviours hiding inside that legacy closet (‘legacy’ being either company, category or industry) that still loom to trip the organisation up and derail any perception of true transparency—and more importantly, authenticity. The recent universe is littered with companies with fabulous intentions who can’t get out of their own way. People will find out— you either tell the story or become a potential victim of it.
The best examples of organisations truly embracing transparency—in supply chain and beyond—are almost always broadly transformative. How can you commit to transparency, make it a corporate priority and not have procurement at the table alongside your quality and marketing folks?
Business dynamics are changing. Consumers—especially our consumers—are changing. These things are fueled by the power of social media, expectations of partners within our supplements universe, the persistence of empowered communities, right alongside emerging technologies. The blockchain platform is a great example of novel thinking that can fundamentally revalue business and businesses. These tools and platforms can also determine their viability and ultimately, their longevity.
Len Monheit will be speaking at Vitafoods Europe 2018 on the subject of transparency in the supply chain. Register to attend here.