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Could businesses in Britain be setting themselves up for a fall by underestimating the effect of potential Scottish independence on the economic recovery? Corpress LLP, a specialist consultancy firm supporting organisations in their management of dynamic business risks and crisis exposure, has found that businesses in the rest of the UK are not taking into account the potential risks of a ‘Yes’ vote on 18th September.
All companies record their risks and publish them in annual reports, so the indifference to the impending referendum could mean one of two things. Some believe losing Scotland will have little impact on UK-based organisations, with no risk involved – even UK government departments like the DECC neglect to refer to the vote in their annual reports. But the alternative is that businesses are not understanding and leveraging the substantial risk to their own advantage.
Indeed, the picture is slightly different north of the border. In a survey of Scottish-based companies, Corpress found a mix of risk reporting on independence in their annual reports, with the majority of those surveyed making some reference to reviewing the impacts. With issues of credit ratings, pensions, relationships with European markets and, of course, that all-important currency debate, should the rest of the UK be taking the prospect of Scottish independence more seriously when it comes to risk management?
David Evans, a partner in Corpress, says, “There is sufficient evidence that a ‘Yes’ vote in Scotland could derail the UK’s economic recovery. It could impact business’ operational and administrative costs, create supply chain problems, and significantly reduce energy security in the remainder of Britain – England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
He adds, “Businesses can combat this uncertainty with horizon scanning, scenario testing and risk workshops to seek opportunity and protect their business from the potential crisis of a ‘Yes’ vote. We focus on the integration of risk and response capability, helping to build awareness of how risks affect an organisation and how everyone has a key role to play when the unexpected impacts normal operations. With our focused, easy-to-run and highly effective programs, businesses can build much-needed resilience and demystify the risk that could have derailed them.”
Energy security has been deemed one of the biggest risks of an independent Scotland, and with a deteriorating situation in Ukraine, there is a potential crisis trigger for Europe’s energy supplies. In the case of a ‘Yes’ vote, any crisis situations in Ukraine could mean that, while Scotland’s lights are shining brightly, the rest of the UK may struggle.
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, there will be winners and losers. The winners in any scenario are the ones who have researched and understood the risks, and assessed the possibilities, leveraging the risk for their own gain. The losers can learn from this lesson – that risk management and crisis planning is a crucial element of business; they won’t make the same mistake twice.
As the organic movement seeks to raise awareness of food produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods this September (Organic September: www.soilassociation.org/smallchangesbigdifference ), a new survey of food symbols and endorsements found on many products in supermarkets and other retailers reveals a less than healthy situation for organic.
The survey asked consumers to indicate if they recognised a list of 13 symbols found on food products. It then asked which symbols were 'actively looked for' when out shopping. Results were compared with a previous poll in 2008.
The Soil Association symbol – belonging to the leading charity behind the organic movement in the UK – has seen recognition levels soften from 40% observed in December 2008, to 33% in the latest poll. As a point of reference, the Rainforest Alliance commanded 47% claimed recognition, the Fairtrade symbol 89%, the Lion Quality mark, as found on eggs, achieved 76% and the Recycling symbol 72%.
The fastest riser, jumping 13% in recognition, was the Red Tractor brand with 65%.
While 36% of shoppers look for Fairtrade, 31% look for Red Tractor and 28% look for Lion Quality-marked products, only 10% of the sample claimed to seek out the Soil Association symbol when shopping.
More important still is that only 29% of people believe they could confidently relay what organic means to a friend, although a further 47% indicated that they could relay something, albeit with less confidence.
According to food and drink research specialists, MMR Research Worldwide (MMR), who conducted the survey of 285 UK shoppers aged between 16 and 74 in July, lowering awareness and shopper confusion surrounding organic can be remedied with simpler messaging.
“Our figures show that the Soil Association has taken a bit of a knock in recent years, particularly among younger people” says Andy Wardlaw, Insight Director at MMR Research Worldwide. “It may come as a surprise not only that organic is in the bottom half of food symbols recognised by 16 to 34 year olds but that it performs so poorly compared to the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade symbols.
“Further probing in our research indicated that simple information about organic could have a positive impact on the way consumers feel about organic produce. We suspect that people think they know what it means but when it comes to the crunch, there is very little to draw on. Nearly three quarters of people said they would feel more positive with messaging linked to “no harmful pesticides”, “works with nature”, “animals reared humanly” or “no artificial fertilisers”.
“It would appear from this research that there are issues that consumers care about, that are not currently associated with the organic movement. This represents an opportunity to increase the relevance of organic foods and fill the void of consumer understanding. The Soil Association and brand owners alike could consider initiatives to reinforce consumer trust regarding the supply chain and quality. We recommend exploring the different facets of organic status and how they fit a particular brand's positioning and strategy.”
Research Reveals Consumers Demand For Clearer Food Labelling
Consumers have given a resounding 'NO' to more complicated processed food according to a survey commissioned by ingredient supplier Ulrick & Short.
Food manufacturers are very much aware of the requirements of the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU 1169/2011 – also known as ‘FIC’), due to come into effect on December 13 this year.
Only four months away from the introduction of the new guidelines, Ulrick & Short’s survey has highlighted key consumer concerns about food labelling and ingredients, which will not necessarily be addressed by the new regulations.
Changes in legislation required under FIC will include: • Mandatory nutrition information on processed foods (by 2016); • Mandatory origin labelling of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry; • Highlighting allergens e.g. peanuts or milk in the list of ingredients; • Better legibility i.e. minimum size of text; • Requirements on information on allergens also cover non pre-packed foods including those sold in restaurants and cafés.
However, in the survey – in which 2,000 consumers were questioned about their attitudes towards labelling and food content – the topic of greatest concern was the complexity of labels on food. An overwhelming 75% of respondents stated that they would like to see simpler labelling, with nearly half – around 45% – avoiding artificial additives such as e-numbers in their shopping basket.
Adrian Short, director of Ulrick & Short, said: “Our entire philosophy rests on our commitment to providing genuine clean label, non-GM alternatives to food ingredients, whether that’s removing additives such as phosphates, making food healthier by reducing fat or simply creating allergen-free versions of old favourites.
"As well as improving the nutritional profile of many products, U&S ingredients provide manufacturers with the means to effortlessly simplify and clean up their ingredient declarations – which is clearly what consumers want.
“Over 70% of survey respondents said that they are much more aware of their eating habits than they used to be, indicating that they are more likely to pay attention to what is in their food. FIC will actually add to the burden on food manufacturers, requiring them to include even more information on their packaging. There’s no better time to take a good look at making better use of clean label ingredients, not just for health or cost reasons but to clean up ingredient declarations and meet the demand from consumers for simpler, clearer labelling.”