Groceries Code comes under scrutiny

The Groceries Supply Code of Practice covers 10 large grocery retailers

The UK food supply chain is coming under scrutiny at two events examining transparency, competition and focusing on the roles of Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) and the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).

GCA Christine Tacon fielded questions from suppliers and retailers following a presentation on working for fairness in the grocery supply chain in the second session of a keynote morning seminar organised by the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum, which took place in London today (Wednesday March 8).

Tacon was followed by various speakers, including National Farmers Union deputy president Minette Batters on supporting British farmers and the role of the GCA, and others discussed the future for the GSCOP.

Regulation, pricing and trade 

In a first session of the morning, chaired by shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman, Hilary Ross, executive partner and head of retail, food and hospitality with legal firm DWF, addressed the challenges the sector faces in terms of regulation, pricing and international trade following Brexit.

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at Nielsen UK, outlined the latest consumer trends in UK food retail market and implications for the supply chain. He was followed by Andy Morling, head of the National Food Crime Unit at the Food Standards Agency, described his priorities for protecting consumers and tackling food crime in the UK.

These presentations were followed by a panel session on increasing consumer trust in the food supply chain, covering transparency, food crime and labelling policies, involving Morling together with Eoghan Daly, manager of forensic and counter-fraud services with national audit, tax and advisory firm Crowe Clark Whitehill, James Gray, national chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association, and Helen Munday, chief scientific officer at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

Then, on Wednesday March 15, the FDF has organised a GSCOP training day to be run by the British Brands Group, which aims to help participants to understand the GSCOP and how it can make a difference in their negotiations with the UK’s 10 largest grocery retailers.

The course is targeted at commercial and sales directors, key account managers, regulatory and support staff involved in trading with retailers, and all direct suppliers, whether of branded, own-label or fresh products, irrespective of size.

“One of my key messages to suppliers has been to get trained in the Code to strengthen themselves in negotiations with buyers who, by law, have to be trained,” said Tacon. 

“I know from meetings around the country that more suppliers have been responding to this message and I am delighted that the FDF is hosting this day-long training.

‘Knowledge about the code’

“Good practical training gives suppliers detailed knowledge about the Code, how to use it and how I interpret it on areas such as delay in payments. 

“Armed with this information, suppliers have a greater ability to push back when they are being asked for something that is potentially against the Code. Meeting other suppliers on such training courses is also another way to build confidence, share experiences and to understand how others may have dealt with issues.”

John Noble, director of the British Brands Group, added: “Supermarket buyers are trained annually on GSCOP but there is no such requirement on suppliers. It is essential that suppliers are as familiar with the rules as their customers.”

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