Food retail: the importance of data pools in improving product data

By Han van den Heuvel

The story of the trip your bananas took from Panama to the self-service check out in Manchester. The different ingredients in the bread rolls that you sell in your bakery and where they all came from. Accurate allergens guidance for consumers based on production and storage facilities. Food retail these days is heavily dependent on product data. And the alignment of that data is vital – it is entirely dependent on the product data of all involved parties being structured and defined in the same way.

That sounds great in theory. But in practice, aligning this data can be a major challenge. One obvious issue is that suppliers and retailers – understandably – often use different data models and formats to define and manage product data. Another problem is the accuracy of the available data – it’s often incomplete or incorrect which makes it difficult to get a consistent picture of the product. Another challenge is that suppliers and retailers are sometimes reluctant to collaborate, which makes it tricky to have a single platform for data alignment.

A solution for food retailers

An answer to all of this can be a data pool, such as GS1, which develops standards for supply chain communication and can be just the ticket in helping retailers align product data. A data pool is essentially a central repository for product data, where the product data of suppliers is combined and aligned. This is done through a common data definition, such as the GS1 data standards, which are a set of agreements on how product data should be structured and defined.

The main benefits for a data pool for aligning product data are:

  • Increased efficiency: a data pool simplifies the process of combining and aligning product data, which essentially leads to a more efficient and effective supply chain.
  • Improved quality: a data pool helps to improve the quality of product data. This is because the product data in a data pool is checked for accuracy and consistency.
  • Increased flexibility: with a data pool, it is possible to share the data with all parties who have a vested interest in that data. this can lead to a more collaborative way of working, which could lead to other opportunities and innovation.
  • A more informed customer: aligned product data is as good for those of us with a shopping basket, as well as for retailers – better informed customers can make better choices.
  • Regulatory adherence: in the EU and the UK there are very strict standards around food labelling, for example, Natasha’s Law which was introduced to protect allergy sufferers and give them confidence in the food they buy. Data pools will help food manufacturers and retailers adhere to these standards.

In terms of how to go about implementing a data pool, you need the right data governance program in place to help you manage and monitor the data in your data pool. You also need to choose the right one for your needs. There are lots available, so look under the bonnet and do the requisite due diligence. And involve your partners – you work closely with these suppliers and you can’t put on a price on the benefits a collaborative working environment can bring your business.

These days, aligned product data is essential for an efficient and effective supply chain in the food retail industry. It’s important from a cost and efficiency perspective. And it’s important from a reputational perspective. Simply put, better informed customers can make better choices. And this has massive implications for food retailers. The answer to this data alignment lies in data pools. So go ahead and take the plunge!

Want to learn more? If you would like to learn more about using data pools for product alignment in the food retail industry, please email [email protected] and we’ll be in touch right away.