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Country of Origin Legislative Actions for Food Has Broader Industry Supply Chain Implications


In June, The United States House of Representatives voted to repeal country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef, pork, and chicken and social media commentary regarding the move continues to dominate as an ongoing trending topic.  The reasons are obvious- consumers demand and expect knowledge as to the specific sourcing origins of food products. Consumers are right to be concerned and watchful, and the impact of these actions continue to impact food, beverage and consumer product goods focused supply chains.

The original COOL legislation had good intent, requiring meat products sold in supermarkets and grocery stores to specifically indicate where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.  Reports indicate that the original law was prompted by the lobbying of U.S. ranchers who compete with the Canadian cattle industry, and later garnered the interest of consumer watchdog interests.

But this current ongoing process now involves the political and economic implications of other supply chains, in addition to food.

The broader issue involves the World Trade Organization (WTO) which after the initial U.S. legislation was passed, ruled that the labels regarding animal origin would have a discriminatory impact against the two U.S. border countries, Canada and Mexico, and thus a barrier to free trade.  Both border countries indicate that the law requires that animals be segregated by country of origin, a costly process that has U.S. wholesale buyers avoiding the buying of export origin meat products.

Both countries are seeking permission to impose what is described as billions of dollars in added tariffs on U.S. goods in retaliation.  And there lies the supply chain impact which threatens to change the existing economics and stakeholder interests of cross-border trade.

U.S. legislators are thus caught in what is described as a damned if you do, or damned if you do not conundrum regarding the existing COOL repeal legislation which has now moved to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

In order to seek additional insights regarding the implications of COOL, Supply Chain Matters had the opportunity to recently speak with Candace Sider, vice-president of regulatory affairs, Canada, at international trade compliance services provider Livingston International. Ms. Sider has a significant background in understanding Canada’s regulatory processes involving interaction with federal and provincial officials, regulatory agencies and policymakers.

She explained that Canada viewed the original U.S. COOL labeling requirements as having a $3 billion impact on that country’s cattle and hog industry.  During the current arbitration period, decisions are expected to be made as to what commodities would remain on the original impacted list. If the surtax were to be implemented, importation from the U.S. of the subject products could ultimately passed on to consumers. The U.S. government has indicated to the WTO that it disputes Canada’s figures.  However, Canada is preparing to lift tariffs on U.S. imports that include in excess of 100 different commodities including products such as range and refrigerator parts, wine, and yes, chocolates.

The WTO is not expected to rule on the U.S.’s latest appeal to the threatened tariff increases until early August, or possibly September. Meanwhile, the implication of the ongoing dispute actually impacts more than just meat-focused supply chains.

Livingston is currently advising its clients to prepare for a number of potential scenarios involving the ongoing trade dispute process invoked by COOL.

Where all of this eventually ends-up is subject to many viewpoints.  After all, this is very much a process driven by economic, multi-industry and lobbyist forces.

However, one aspect is clear. The complexity of today’s globally based supply chains takes on many different dimensions and implications.  While you might have perceived that legislation affecting packaging disclosure of meat products has little to do with service parts, chocolates and wine, it indeed does. The takeaway is to nurture contacts and resources that can alert your team to ever changing developments and multi-industry implications.

Bob Ferrari


Supply Chain Matters Q2-2015 Newsletter Has Published


This posting is to alert our readers that earlier today, our Supply Chain Matters Q2-2015 Newsletter was published and should be in the email inboxes of our hundreds of registered subscribers. Supply Chain Matters Blog

Our newsletter is a more insightful look at global supply chain and B2B/B2C business process, technology and other important trends and is offered to both readers of this blog and clients of our consulting and industry analyst advisory services. Please check your inbox to insure you received a copy.

The Q2-2015 Newsletter includes the following updates and industry supply chain event implications:

  • Q2 quantitative and qualitative highlight summaries of global PMI supply chain indices indicating more moderation and slowdown within emerging regions.
  • Commercial Aerospace industry assesses supply chain ramp-up realities.
  • Confirmed turbulence in global transportation.
  • Continued crisis for Consumer Products and Food based supply chains.

If you would like a copy of our latest Q2 newsletter, please send an email with the title Newsletter Request to: newsletter <at> supply-chain-matters <dot> com. Please Supply Chain Matters Blogremember to include your Name, Role and/or company with your email address and we will have a copy sent directly as well as automatically add your email to future distribution.

Bob Ferrari, Founder and Executive Editor


Kraft Heinz Merger Moves to the Next Critical Step


Just before the 4th of July holiday in the United States, and after the blockbuster news announcement in March, HJ Heinz has now indicated that its proposed merger with Kraft Foods had been approved by Kraft Foods Group shareholders, forming what is to be called The Kraft Heinz Company, subject to certain customary closing conditions. A preliminary count of the voting results was noted as more than 98 percent of votes cast in favor of the transaction.

The transaction will reportedly create the third-largest Food and Beverage Company in North America and the fifth largest Food and Beverage Company globally. Business media previously reported that initial talks had begun in January, and now with half the year completed, the merger has moved to its transitional management stage.  This is obviously, very swift action and perhaps a sign that planning was well underway.

As noted in previous Supply Chain Matters commentary, this Heinz-Kraft deal is backed by infamous private equity firm 3G Capital Partners, with financing from Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. 3G Capital’s has a track record for aggressive cost-cutting, which has since sent further tremors among consumer product goods supply chain industry players.  Since assuming operations management of HJ Heinz, upwards of 7000 jobs were eliminated in a 20 month span. New CEO Bernando Hees ultimately cut a third of the staff at Heinz’s headquarters including 11 of the company’s top 12 executives. The new combined Kraft-Heinz is seeking upwards of $1.5 billion in additional annual cost savings.

Further announced was the new senior leadership team for Kraft Heinz.  The new senior leadership team will be headed by former Heinz and 3G Capital executive Bernardo Hees. The appointments are dominated by current Heinz executives, another indication of the aggressive cost-cutting practices to follow in the coming months. Of the 10 senior management roles, eight will be filled by Heinz executives. There is but one female executive as part of the new senior leadership team.

Included in these announcements is the appointment of Eduardo Pelleissone as Executive Vice President of Global Operations with direct global responsibility for supply chain, quality, and procurement and operations functions. Mr. Pelleissone joined Heinz in 2013 with the acquisition of 3G Capital, as Head of Operations. Before joining Heinz, the executive was heading operations at All America Latina Logistica S/A.

Noted in the announcement is that Robert Gorski, previous EVP, Integrated Supply Chain at Kraft Foods will depart upon completion of the merger. In a previous Supply Chain Matters 2013 commentary, we praised Gorski for his leadership style and efforts in transforming Kraft Foods supply chain business processes after its former split involving Mondelez International. Gorski exhibited an active and inclusive leadership style.

Melissa Werneck was appointed SVP Global Human Resources, Performance and IT. She also joined Heinz in 2013 and according to the announcement, led an Integrated Management System that included a Management by Objectives (MBO) Program.  This appears to be an interesting mix of MBO and IT under a singular executive leader.

The new senior leadership team is further comprised of four Zone Presidents who will manage Europe, Russia, Asia Pacific and Latin America regions.

Newly appointed Kraft COO George Zoghbi has now been appointed COO of U.S. Commercial Business and will lead five commercial business units. Certain direct reports of Zoghbi will be part of Bernardo Hess’s termed Extended Leadership Team, and includes elements of corporate marketing, U.S. sales and budgeting.

As noted in a previous commentary, the new combined company will be driven by zero-based budgeting methods. Andre Maciel was promoted to head of U.S. Commercial Finance that includes U.S. Budget and Business Planning (BBP). Maciel directly reports to COO Zoghbi and is a member of the termed Extended Leadership Team.

Advertising Age was quick to note that the new Kraft-Heinz will not have a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in its senior leadership team. The top ranking marketing position will be a Vice President, Marketing Innovation role assumed by Kraft veteran Nina Barton who will report to COO Zoghbi and will also be designated as part of the Extended Management Team.  Current Kraft CMO Jane Hilk will reportedly also leave the completion upon completion of the merger.

From our lens, this appears to be a sign that product and brand marketing will not take a lead presence in business strategy which has been the practice of CPG firms.  Instead, revenue growth and increased profitability will take center stage.

The new combined Kraft-Heinz company will surely garner lots of business, supply chain and industry media attention in the months to come, from many different contexts. Of more interest, other industry players, suppliers and investors will be closely monitoring the actions taken as well as the results.

Business as usual no longer will suffice among CPG focused supply chains.

Bob Ferrari


Validation that Transportation Costs a Top Concern for Supply Chain Leaders


For the past three years, our Supply Chain Matters editorial commentaries related to the annual Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) sponsored State of Logistics survey reports have consistently expressed concern towards a persistent trend for increased logistics, transportation and inventory costs within the U.S… The latest report depicting 2014 activity and our related commentary was no exception.

Thus it was rather timely this week for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) to release findings of a benchmark research report conducted with the help of the Boston Consulting Group. The report, A Hard Road: Why CPG Companies Need a Strategic Approach to Transportation, provides profound observations for Consumer Product Goods focused supply chains related to transportation cost increases trending way beyond a cyclical trend.  The most sober takeaway from the report is the declaration that: “transporting goods to retailers is now the greatest worry of supply chain leaders.

The GMA-BSC report indicates that more than 80 percent of supply leaders interviewed cited transportation as their top-of-mind concern, while across the board, service levels are declining. According to the report: “Trucks are chronically late, capacity is insufficient, and delivery windows are exasperating retailers” Once more, transportation costs are noted as eroding other supply chain cost savings. The report authors indicate that since the study was conducted in 2012, freight costs have risen as much as 14 percent over the four year period, and only a third of CPG producers were able to trim transportation costs these past two years. CPG firms are further increasing safety stock inventories to compensate for unpredictable service levels.

While there is no simple solution for tackling the current challenges related to transportation, the report outlines five different lever strategies for reader consideration. A key message is that the procurement of transportation can no longer be viewed from a pure commodity perspective, but rather a strategic internal or external sourcing strategy related to line-of-business needs. One important lever outlined  was that active supply chain network design analysis should be considered a priority.  A sober statistic noted that 72 percent of CPG firms surveyed are now actively engaged in network design efforts as compared to the 6 percent level reported in 2012.  That is compelling. Such efforts are directed at dynamic means to optimize routes, locations of distribution centers for supporting customer fulfillment needs as well as assessment of trade-offs in owning transportation assets. Obviously, technology and services firms catering to supply need network design are rallying to support these needs.

This report concludes with a message that CPG supply chains need to view transportation from a strategic lens, focusing product distribution strategies on transportation-centric cost and service requirement needs.  Supply Chain Matters obviously adds that such recommendations apply to other industry supply chains as well, along with active consideration for developing in-house supply chain network design capabilities.

U.S. transportation cost and service performance are indeed an ongoing key concern, one that will remain to be analyzed at the highest levels of supply chain leadership for many more months to come.  Carriers and 3PL’s had better be attentive and proactive in addressing these concerns.

Bob Ferrari

The Implications of Wal-Mart’s Broader Fees on Suppliers


In order to boost relatively flat revenue growth among its U.S. physical retail outlets, Wal-Mart recently raised salary levels for its respective U.S. retail associates to improve customer service and responsiveness. The retailer further continues to invest heavily in Wal_Mart Storeits online fulfillment channel.  All of these actions provide adding pressure on margins.

In April, Supply Chain Matters echoed business media reports indicating that this global retailer was ratcheting up pressures on its suppliers to squeeze costs. Earlier this month, Reuters reported and somewhat validated a significant effort to offset increasing costs, namely imposing added charges among most all of Wal-Mart suppliers.  Supply Chain Matters is of the belief that this effort will have added implications for both parties.

According to the report, added fees will relate to warehousing inventory along with amended payment terms, affecting upwards of 10,000 U.S. suppliers. In one cited example, Reuters indicates that a food supplier would supposedly be charged 10 percent of the value of inventory shipped to new stores or warehouses, along with one percent to hold inventory in existing Wal-Mart warehouses. It reportedly was not clear if the one-time charges apply only to the initial shipment or would cover a specific period of time. A Wal-Mart spokesperson indicated to Reuters that these fees were a means for sharing costs of growth and keeping consumer prices low.

In our April commentary, we observed that these appear to be signs of yet another wave of supplier squeeze tactics in order to improve a retailer or manufacturer’s overall margins. While these actions are not new for Wal-Mart, their application to a far broader population of suppliers is noteworthy. Such efforts that add to the cost burden of doing business with a retailer are bound to provide setbacks in efforts towards deeper collaboration and supplier product innovation. Consider that Wal-Mart continues with the construction and opening of new online fulfillment centers to support is fulfillment needs. The addition of supplier inventory fees to stock these new centers may cause some suppliers to consider alternative inventory stocking strategies of their own, that balance the needs of Wal-Mart with other retailers such as Amazon, Target or Costco. Indeed, unilateral efforts directed at transferring the cost burden among suppliers can often lead to counter-productive consequences, particularly during seasonal buying surge periods such as the holiday season.

Suppliers can take advantage of the same fulfillment decision-support technology as retailers, namely to determine the profitability potential for each major customer, and providing preferential service for customers that financially support needs for added responsiveness and fulfillment collaboration.

Too often, it seems that these mandates are handed down by the most senior management responding to investor pressures for more short-term profitability and margin growth.  These efforts cascade from retailers and manufacturers, to first tier suppliers, and throughout other tiers of the supply chain. It’s unfortunate that there supply chain teams are rewarded more for enforcement of such actions as opposed to efforts directed at joint supplier process and product innovation.

Bob Ferrari


Significant Merger of Supermarket Chains has Implications for Consumer Product Goods Supply Chains


This week’s announcement of the planned merger of European based retail supermarket market chains Royal Ahold and Delhaize Group has implications for consumer product goods supply chains.

This proposed combination would amount to €29 billion in total revenues and in excess of 6000 retail stores with what are described as strong local identities. It further brings together Netherlands based Ahold’s existing European retail and online shopping brands, along with Giant and Stop & Shop in the U.S., together with Belgium based Delhaize’s European retail outlets along with Food Lion and Hannaford retail brands in the U.S.

Business media reports that this combination of equals would create the fourth largest U.S. retail supermarket chain with an especially high concentration in the northeastern portion of the United States. According to the announcement, the combined businesses will have the name of Ahold Delhaize. The announcement further states:

From providing a broader selection in own brand products to having a wider range of store formats, customers will have more and easier ways to shop, whether they are visiting stores, or shopping online with pick-up points and home delivery, both in food and non-food.”

Ahold alone boasts that it provides an omni-channel presence offering its customers their channel of choice for shopping options including retail supermarkets, convenience stores, gasoline stations, specialty stores and online food and merchandise delivery options. It further positions its brands as offering responsible and more healthy products with a commitment for environmental responsibility.  Since the current CEO of Royal Ahold will assume leadership of the new combined company, these tenets are likely to continue  Delhaize has its own innovations to add.

As Supply Chain Matters has noted in prior commentaries, the retail supermarket industry has undergone significant change during the post-recession years and margins remain slim. Consumers demanding both more healthy and convenient food choices have impacted both supermarket chains as well as packaged consumer goods providers. A merger of this size provides opportunities for additional buying scale and the ability to influence a greater selection of natural and specialty convenience based foods among existing or new producers. Due to minimal geographic redundancy, this combination provides added opportunities to take advantage of added efficiencies in logistics, distribution and transportation costs.

From our lens, the most significant implication is the additional buying influence that can be brought to bear on consumer product goods producers. The notion that this combined entity spans both European and U.S. retail markets adds additional impetus to breakdown the different pricing, merchandising and promotional strategies that CPG producers maintain as separate and distinct in both markets. More importantly, as major supermarket chains continue to merge into larger entities, the balance of buying and merchandise selection power will continue to swing back to chains themselves.

This combination is expected to be completed by mid-2016, subject to regulatory clearances and shareholder approval.

Bob Ferrari


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