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The Future in Focus

Listen to our podcast where we are speaking with Stuart Kelly about the 2022 GFSI Conference.

Podcast: GFSI Conference 2022 - Episode 2 - Global Food Safety

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GFSI Conference 2022: Episode two

In this episode, we speak to LRQA’s Global Sales Director, Stuart Kelly, about some of the key themes of this year’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Conference - where this year LRQA will be exhibiting in a face-to-face capacity - and how the last two years have impacted the food business. 

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Transcript: GFSI Podcast episode 2

You can listen to the podcast directly, where LRQA interviews Stuart Kelly, our Sales Director at LRQA, or you can read the transcript below.

What are some of the key themes on the agenda this week in Barcelona and can you explain why they are such important topics?

I think there’s a number of key themes this week that are important for a number of reasons. We’ve seen the world change so much since the last time we were lucky enough to get together in a face to face environment for this event and I think those changes have had some significant consequences on the food supply chain so if I go through them one by one. I think first of all we’ve got food safety and that’s at the heart of everything that everyone does that is attending this event.

But it’s almost a given now, people expect their food to be safe, they expect not to worry about any issues with that food as it arrives either in their supermarket or on their plate in the event of the consumer. What’s now becoming more if you like issues or trends that they’re looking to think about and I think we’ll see a lot of this in Barcelona is, is that sustainable, how is the supply chain now operating for that product or for the products that they’re getting. They’ll be looking at things like ethical compliance and looking at things like slave labour, they’re looking at things like deforestation. They’re looking at things like energy consumption, water consumption and are those products actually now manufactured and produced in a way where their impact on the environment, their impact on the human race is actually being minimised from a negative perspective.

So I think we’re seeing a shift from just basic and I don’t want to undermine food safety but from basic food safety expectations to way beyond that now and I think we’re seeing how the standards and the scheme owners have to adapt and recognise these changes that are coming along.

So I’m quite excited to be here this week to actually get to know what they’re thinking, get to know how they’re adapting and how they’re modernising and changing what they’re doing as you know the audits, the schemes and the standards have a part to play but that has evolved and probably revolutionised actually over the last couple of years as we’ve gone through a pandemic, we’ve now got volatility in parts of the world with what’s going on in Ukraine etc. So it’s really good to see how the food industry and the standards, the scheme owners, the role of certification, the role of audit is changing and evolving and revolutionising to actually take affect and make sure that it has its part to play in what we’re trying to do here.

Great, question two. Remote working has been the thing to do for so, for such a long time now, how do you think this has impacted the food business and why is this weeks face to face conference important?

This is a good question for me. I think remote working is something that has become normalised and people are actually now almost struggling to get back to work on a fulltime capacity and our own organisation has introduced flexible working and I know speaking to some of our customers over the last week or so that that’s something they’re very comfortable with and familiar with.

What it meant for the food business is that people could no longer get to sites that they would normally have gone to, to carry out audits or visits with their suppliers and really to understand what’s going on in their business, and they’ve had to rely on doing that in different ways so I think what its done in terms of impact is positive and negative. Negative because they probably lost contact with their supply chain in a face to face environment that they would have been so used to doing over the last number of years, but positive in that it meant that the companies and the, basically the brands had to think about how they did things differently. So how they outsourced some more work to local organisations or people with a global presence that could actually be their eyes, their ears and their voice on the ground looking at things like data and technology and how they could use that to still get a handle of what was going on within the supply chain.

And therefore I think having the face to face conference is important for a number of reasons. One its actually getting together because people do communicate best and interact best when they are face to face and I think that develops a sense of trust and a sense of familiarisation that you can build on and grow from in a remote environment. So I think its good to get together and have that face to face contact and to build those things.

Secondly it will help because it’s the first time that a lot of these people have been able to get together again and actually discuss what they’ve had to do, how they’ve adapted and changed over the last couple of years. And that’s important because understanding how different companies are dealing with remote challenges can also help everyone in a way of thinking and how their organisation can best adapt.

So to me its important for building the trust, building the relationships, sharing of best practice and also worst practice what didn’t work so that everyone can learn from this. We’ve got to remember this is all about safe sustainable food, that’s what this is about and therefore the sharing of that is something that’s important so that we can all learn from each other and reassure the public and the consumer that their food is sustainable and safe.

Is there anyone at the conference that you are looking forward to having a conversation with?

I’m looking forward to having a conversation with everyone and anyone at the conference, I think the fact that it is face to face really helps. These events for me are all about getting to meet people whether that’s a longstanding relationship with clients that are existing or even previous clients, or whether its meeting new people that you can start to build relationships and hopefully client relationships with into the future.

So I’m looking forward to speaking to everyone because I think we’ve all got so much to share. We’ve all had so many different experiences over the last couple of years in particular since we last got together that every conversation will be an interesting one, everyone will have a story to tell, everyone will have a tale which might be a good tale, a bad tale but it’s certainly something that I think I can learn from every single communication and conversation that I have this week, so I’m very happy to speak to anyone as I normally am.

Are there any sessions that you’re looking forward to attending, if so which ones?

There are a few actually and without mentioning specific ones I’m keen to understand what the GFSI’s position is and how its thinking as an organisation has changed as a result of the pandemic, the shift to remote working, the challenges around auditing that it faced and its standard owners and its members faced over the last couple of years. So it’ll be good to understand how they’re taking the lessons from that and learning from them into the future because this is something we’re having to live with but I think the reality is it also made people realise that this can happen again and again, and therefore we need to be ready for it and agile in our thinking. So I’m keen to get their take on how they will change moving forward to facilitate and accommodate the future pandemics and challenges that the world is bound to face.

The second thing is for me is around the use of technology and I’ve always been a big advocate of the use of technology and in particular data and analytics to drive decisions and predicting potential risks to minimise the impact in the food industry. So there are quite a number of good tech talks and sessions around the use of data, analytics, predictability, and machine based learning and I’m really keen to attend them and just to understand what people are doing. The world is just so fast now in terms of data and I heard I think only a week ago someone was saying that the cost of data has changed so much over the last twenty years that if house prices had gone down in the same way, you could buy every single house in the USA combined for less than a million dollars now.

So that whole use of data, that whole speed at which things are changing around the world is something we need that we need to sit up and listen to and use to our advantage. So probably technology driven sessions and understanding the stance of the GFSI as it moves beyond 2022 and into the future state of safe and sustainable food supply chains.