Traceability and transparency are becoming increasingly significant to retailers, as more consumers want to know more about where their food comes from.
Speakers at the IGD Convention today told about the pressing need for retailers to know the full origin of their products.
Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD chief executive, urged retailers to understand their supply chains "inside out" and called for a revolution in transparency and traceability.
"How far back can you trace your ingredients now and to what level of detail?" she asked delegates, who were mostly from the retail and manufacturing industries.
"Are there any barriers? If so, why?
"Next you need a cost-effective, step-by-step plan to lift your levels of traceability. It's a process of refinement. If you already know the country of origin, could you narrow this down to the farm?" she asked.
IGD shopper research unveiled at the event showed 56% of shoppers, up from 34% in 2011, want to know more about where their food comes from. Currently only 12% said they knew "quite a lot" about the origin of their food.
"We have a great opportunity to close that gap. And people's expectations are already high. Eight in 10 shoppers believe that food and grocery companies should know where every single ingredient comes from," Ms Denney-Finch added.
Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King agreed that consumers were expecting retailers to keep pace with their traceability needs.
"We should have nothing to hide," he said. "We have to stay one step ahead."
Ms Denney-Finch said traceability and transparency should not be seen as overheads, but rather as an investment.
"Whenever we're transparent it shows that we are confident. As we should be - what we sell has never been safer, more reliable, better quality or better value. I've visited hundreds of farms, factories, distribution centres and stores around the world, so I know first-hand. The people and companies with integrity will prevail," she said.
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