In the face of unforeseen global disruptions, the food industry is working tirelessly to adapt and strengthen. However, we’re charting a new path rather than returning to the old ‘normal’.
Challenges such as inflation, supply shortages, cyber threats, and food fraud continue to test the food sector. These can throw manufacturers or restaurants off balance, causing a rush to restore operations and refill depleted resources.
For example, a recall of a specific cheese brand could disrupt pizza production, or a technical fault might hinder a fast-food restaurant’s supply chain. Extreme weather conditions can also trigger price hikes or obstruct fruit and vegetable transportation.
Embrace Technology, but Be Prepared for Threats
As food manufacturers lean more on technology, new risks emerge. Inefficient networks, viruses, and cyber threats can halt production abruptly. Overlooked outdated software can become a significant data risk.
Cybersecurity firm Cybereason reported a 500% rise in cyberattacks on the food and agriculture sector across the EU in 2020. In the subsequent year, Kaspersky Lab highlighted the food and beverage industry as the second most cyber-targeted sector, following manufacturing.
Your best defense against such threats is not just a secure IT platform and backup system, but a workforce informed about and ready to face cyber threats. Your crisis management plan should have proactive measures to equip employees to identify and prepare for common vulnerabilities, like phishing emails.
In the face of a crisis, reliable vendor relationships are invaluable
Unexpected hiccups in your supply chain can greatly impact your food’s safety and quality. If a recipe calls for 12 ingredients and two are unavailable, the manufacturer must swiftly find a new supplier. Your crisis management plan should cover a vendor replacement strategy, detailing multiple vendor sources, robust vendor audit programs, and strong vendor communication.
Guard Against Food Fraud
When supply chains get disrupted, fraudsters may attempt to introduce counterfeit, diluted, substituted, and mislabelled products. EUROPOL estimates that food fraud costs the European food industry as much as €30 billion annually.
Undeclared allergens or unsafe chemicals can turn a quality issue into a safety one. Therefore, as you onboard new suppliers, confirm they are providing the correct ingredients. This rigorous vendor selection process should form part of your crisis management plan.
Turn Crisis into Opportunity
While a crisis situation can be disruptive, it also presents opportunities for growth and learning. By analyzing the situation post-crisis, you can identify gaps in your current system and address them, making your operations stronger and more secure. A crisis can also help you understand your team’s dynamics better, highlighting areas of strength and those needing improvement.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Collaboration
Creating a successful crisis management strategy should not be a siloed effort. Collaboration across all departments, including management, marketing, production, and safety and quality, is crucial. When everyone understands the plan and their role in it, your organization is better equipped to respond to a crisis effectively.
Maintain Transparent Communication
If you switch suppliers, products, or ingredients, informing your customers is crucial, including any changes on your label when different ingredients are used or formulas are altered. Your crisis management plan should detail when and how to communicate these changes, and it should be supported by various departments.
Even though this process may be costly and time-consuming, the consequences of surprising your customers and risking their trust and loyalty are far more severe. Therefore, it’s imperative to have a risk-aware mindset in today’s challenging environment.
Contact us if you’d like assistance in developing a food safety risk assessment. Our team of experts can guide you to implement the right safeguards and employee training to maintain production, even in the most challenging and unpredictable situations.