In collaboration with Lora Cecere, TraceGains sits down to discuss the Supply Chain Manifesto during “Straight Talk with Supply Chain Insights.” This episode, led by the founder of Supply Chain Insights, interviews TraceGains’ SVP of Marketing & Business Development Gary Iles and Sr. Director of Product Marketing Paul Bradley.
Stream the full podcast to hear insights into TraceGains’ unique model, which connects food ingredient buyers and sellers across the supply chain through a Networked Ingredients Marketplace called TraceGains Gather®. Lora, Gary, and Paul also use this time to walk through the Supply Chain Manifesto, and how it aims to improve supply chain collaboration by strengthening trading partners’ relationships. As F&B industry veterans, they frankly address today’s top challenges, such as the growth of end users, the need for real-time insights, the importance of innovation, and the crucial role of digitalization as well as interoperability.
In just 30 minutes, you’ll gain new perspective on the importance of cooperation, sustainability, and ESG considerations, even as the commitment to contribute to the industry’s evolution remains constant. Whether you’re familiar with TraceGains’ mission as the networked ecosystem orchestrator for the food and beverage community, or new to world of supply chain networks, watch the episode below to see a compelling dialogue unfold between some of the industry’s most trusted voices.
Lora Cecere: My name is Lora Cecere. I’m the founder of Supply Chain Insights, and today I want to welcome you to Straight Talk with Supply Chain Insights. This is a podcast that’s designed for the supply chain leader who’s on the go and wants to be in the know and wants to talk innovation. Today, I am interviewing TraceGains, and TraceGains has a unique model to connect food ingredient buyer and sellers across the supply chain.
We’re not very collaborative in the supply chain and TraceGains is trying to change that by introducing the manifesto. And today, we’re gonna talk about what is the manifesto and how do we improve training partner relationships? So, I’ve got Gary and Paul here. Paul, tell me about TraceGains. Why should people care?
Continue reading the transcript:
Paul Bradley: Sure. Well, TraceGains is the world’s first real global Networked Ingredients Marketplace connecting brands and suppliers around the world. We also have a whole array of enterprise services for CPG brands ranging from compliance to new product development and on out to the plant floor.
Lora Cecere: Okay. Good. And, you know, as you think about TraceGains, how long have you guys been doing this?
Gary Iles: So, Paul and I have been doing this for just over two years, but TraceGains has been in business for more than fifteen years when it originally was founded. We we’ve gone through, a number of iterations over the course of our evolution as a company. And most recently, we’re particularly proud of the Network Ingredients Marketplace that we’ve launched called TraceGains Gather.
Lora Cecere: And that’s fun. And that gets us to the manifesto before we get there, what I wanna do is, Gary, tell the audience a little bit about yourself. And Paul, tell the audience a little bit about yourself. And, Gary, you go first.
Gary Iles: I’m Gary Iles, I’m the Senior Vice President of marketing and business development and TraceGains.
Lora Cecere: And why are you excited about the manifesto?
Gary Iles: I’m excited because it really is a document that represents the voice of the market.
And so it’s not just TraceGains’ perspective on the market. It’s really coming from more than a thousand customers, twenty thousand suppliers across a hundred and fifty-six countries, representing close to seventy thousand supplier locations on the planet. So this is a broad market swath that has communicated with us over the years, and we’ve distilled it down to a very consumable one-page format that everyone can understand.
Lora Cecere: And how did you get the data from all those people across all those continents and all those countries over all those years? What methodology did you use?
Gary Iles: We use several. I mean, first, we were in constant conversation with our clients, through our onboarding process, through meeting them at trade shows, through speaking engagements like this. We get constant feedback. We have a number of user forms and executive forms that we conduct annually. So a wealth of information coming from those. We’ve also conducted a number of surveys as well that give us feedback and insights into what the market is looking for at any particular point intime. So we’ve always been a very connected company to our customers, but the market in general.
Lora Cecere: So you’ve listened and you tried to learn, and then you’ve done some surveys and now on around it. Now, Paul, I understand that you’ve got a real passion for R&D, and, you know, tell us a little bit about what you do at TraceGains.
Paul Bradley: Yeah. So I lead product marketing for TraceGains, and absolutely. I have really fallen in love with the innovation side of the food and beverage industry. There is so much going on and so many really cool people involved. It’s impossible not to be fascinated.
Lora Cecere: Okay. So the first element of the manifesto is the rise of the users has occurred.
Tell me about that. The superheroes, and how are you making them smarter?
Gary Iles: We believe that it’s the end users that are getting it done in the industry.
And those folks have an array of challenges on their plate. And we’re astonished that they’re able to get their jobs done at all, given the volume and information that they have to handle on a daily basis. The number of partner relationships and business relationships that they have to maintain, the number of shared documents that they have to pull together and have on hand at any one point in time to either satisfy specifications, confirmations, or even regulatory requirements. The wealth of information that they’re dealing with is, is more than overwhelming. But it’s the end users that have really risen up and taking control to make quick decisions, get the information that they need and to drive resolution to the problems they were facing in the pandemic years and beyond. So we wanna acknowledge that and we design all of our solutions to be really end-user solution.
Lora Cecere: So you’re improving usability of the network to drive improvements in work. Yeah?
Okay. And Paul, you know, businesses need instant insights and answers. Do you want that one or you wanna Gary to talk about it?
Gary Iles: Well, let me touch on that one really quick, Lora, because that’s actually coming from a conversation that we had with you. So we’re trying to make sense for them and allow all end users to really do the jobs that they were hired on for, not chase down documents, understand whether or not there’s a disruption occurring in the marketplace. When all these things can be done in an automated fashion by giving them automation, they can focus on their jobs, and we think, that takes us a long way to avoiding supply chain disruptions in the future?
Lora Cecere: Well, you know, we’ve got a lot of automation in our personal life. Right?
And we don’t in the enterprise. In fact, when I go to companies, they say, how come I can see when, you know, my pizza’s coming for lunch, but I can’t see the imbalance supplier to my factory or if, you know, which purchase order they’re actually working off of. So, you know, it’s not so easy. So how about the next one? Food and beverage companies need to innovate or perish.
Paul Bradley: You know, it sounds like an exaggeration, but I’m telling you, as I talk to more and more food scientists and R&D professional out there. It’s actually a pretty serious perspective. We have got to innovate as an industry. The food global food supply chain has got to develop and got to change. For us really to have at least the kind of future that we want for ourselves and our kids, some folks would say to have a future period.
It really speaks to the passion that I mentioned earlier, Lora, that I see in the R&D community, and we can’t help but be in inspired by that at every turn that the importance of innovation for all of us going forward is massive. And the drive is there in the industry to do it.
What’s not always there is the connection, the collaboration, and the tool sets to do that as quickly and as effectively as we need to.
Gary Iles: I think the innovation is not only an existential risk for, you know, planet, planet one, you, you know, for all of us, but it’s also for companies as they progress. We see a lot of companies that fail to innovate and, they’re the stories of yesteryear now, and they’re being overtaken by new startups.
Lora Cecere: Well, and we certainly see that the smaller companies are innovating to a greater degree in food and beverage. Right? You know, look at monster. Right? Despite change of my award winner versus, you know, somebody like Annheiser Bush, which is struggled with profitability and, you know, the ability control inventory. Okay. So we gotta innovate, and we also need to be able to support our claims. Right? We’ve got a lot of claims that we need to support, whether it’s something about the product or ESG or provenance. So, who wants to talk a little bit about that and the manifesto?
Gary Iles: Sure. I think traceability is growing. And it’s becoming more and more important as a product feature. Right? It’s not just that you claim your dolphin-safe., you need to be able to prove that. So as consumer awareness and the ability to, you know, research these things becomes more prominent, not only making the claims and doing the right things that consumers are looking for, and the right things for the planet. But being able to prove that through a credible supply chain is increasingly important.
Lora Cecere: How many levels of the supplier base are you able to actually get transparency on?
Paul Bradley: So for us, we’re not as directly focused on the traceability transparency side of it in terms of working through multiple tiers of the supply chain. What we’re really focused on is for each supplier that an organization is working on, you know, wherever they may sit in that specific supply chain’s tier structure, We want customers to be able to understand that supplier, not just in terms of the basics of traceability information, but really from a three hundred and sixty degree view encompassing supplier performance so that as you do dig in and do that hard work on full end to end traceability, you’re doing that with the right partners and you’re doing that with people where that investment is gonna have the right return for you.
Lora Cecere: Okay. And then the next one, which I think these are closely linked. Fraud is putting the safety of our industry at risk. So let’s talk about fraud. How do you define it? You know, what’s a nefarious actor? And how do you basically give visibility to an issue?
Paul Bradley: Yeah. So, you know, I just I was thinking about this one. I wrote a blog post about just a few weeks ago, looking at seafood. And there was an EU study that I cited there. It looked at snapper, and it found that seventy percent of the snapper big quotes around snapper and the sample set was something else. There were thirty eight different species. Just in that sample set alone, some of which were protect I mean, that’s a particularly flagrant and probably kind of gross example. But, you know, we definitely know that food fraud, economically motivated adulteration, is happening across a swath of products. We know the usual suspects, but it’s all over the place in the global supply chain.
This is one of the places we’re really being able to lean into global intelligence, being able to understand things that are happening, maybe even outside of your direct supply chain, but inside of the ecosystem of suppliers that you’re working with and being able to get the data, make it immediately available at decision time and action it is so, so important.
And one of the things that we are really connect we’re connected to is that notion of how can we really expand visibility into the global environment of data collection that’s surrounding the supplier ecosystem.
Lora Cecere: And what do you think that looks like?
Paul Bradley: Well, you know, for example, if there is, an contamination issue, an importation issue or food, food fraud issue that’s detected, in a supplier that or with a supplier that I’m working with. Maybe not on a product that I’m dealing with, but something that supplier is involved with elsewhere, that can be really useful information for me to know. It can also be really difficult information for me to know if I have to just go out there and search it.
One of the things that TraceGains does is we plug you into a, a global network intelligence suite that allows you to actually watch that supplier, monitor their activity worldwide. And if something happens, even if it’s not in your supply chain, be proactively alerted of that so that you know that’s happening and you take action. There’s many other things that are necessary, but that’s one aspect of where we’re directly trying to impact that.
Lora Cecere: So sort of like rating the reviews or cases where I can see that a supplier had an issue or a product had an issue?
Paul Bradley: Yeah. Exactly. But importantly, pushing that information to me as a decision maker, right, not just making it something I’ve gotta know to look for, but putting it in front of me in the flow of work when that happens. Important.
Lora Cecere: So proactive alerting. Good. Okay. Digitalization is essential for survival. We’ll start out conversation with what is digital?
Gary Iles: Digital in in today’s world is not just bits and bytes. It is the ability to decompose information down to its smallest core component so that it can then be reassembled with other valuable information, and that has to be clearly done in a digital format.
So let me give you a contrast. A lot of folks today will view a PDF as a digital document, and it is. The problem with that is that the valuable information that’s contained within that PDF, if it’s not decomposed by ingredient, by location. Right? If it’s not decomposed in a way that it can be used and attributed to other things within an ecosystem an supply chain, then you’re not getting the value of digitization out of that document.
So, think of the vast amount of industry that we have across the planet, in number of suppliers, number of our manufacturers, the sheer number of products that are produced and consumed by like, the mass market. Each one of those is then decomposed into you know, hundreds of points of data that are associated with that.
And then against that, there could be hundreds of points of data associated with that individual piece of information that includes the things we talked about. ESG information, regulatory information, whether or not it’s adulterated risk, profiles, etcetera.
The amount of information is exploding. So, digitization is TraceGains way of absorbing all this information and allowing users and allowing companies to react to it through automation through intelligence, through artificial intelligence, so that they can improve their operations and really focus on meeting their market needs.
Lora Cecere: Well, you know, it’s a lot about the movement from integration to interoperability, right, and being able to preserve the semantic layer. So, the supply chain in the future is all about cooperation, and that’s number seven on your manifesto. Let’s talk about that. What do you mean when you say cooperation is the future of the supply chain? And how does your system enable that?
Paul Bradley: You know, it’s very closely related to what we were just speaking about in terms of all of the information that’s out there in a in a complex global supply chain, no one organization and no one solution has it all. So, we really do need to be thinking about interoperability. We really do need to be thinking about how information from around the global supply chain can come together. We are extremely proud to work with a number of different data partners. SGS Digicomply is a wonderful partner of ours, who is out there with boots on the ground around the world collecting incident data, risk data, but also, you know, regulatory information from inside all these different jurisdictions And we’re gradually enriching that with more and more information that is ESG related, whether that’s labor or carbon or water footprint. And there’s much, much, much more to come, on that journey for us as we look forward. We’ve got to be committed to how we can really leverage the best information from around the world and make it consumable.
Lora Cecere: So, we’re better together. Right? That’s the next one.
Gary Iles: This has always been core to TraceGains since the very beginning. We believe this. We’re not the only ones in the planet that believes that, believe this as well. But we think that by working together, we can have a competitive industry we can have a better competitive industry. One that, competes on the merits of the products that they put out to the customers, one that serves the market better. And we believe we can take unnecessary costs out of our business by just operating more efficiently together.
So there’s a there’s a wealth of benefit that we get from cooperation and working together that is indisputable.
Lora Cecere: Now as we think about the manifesto, we know we’re not only stronger together, but we gotta change. Right? And now is the time to change. Why is now the time to change? Number nine.
Paul Bradley: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of reasons we could point to. Gary mentioned customer surveys that we do in market surveys a couple times a year. Earlier this year, we just asked people, how are you feeling? How is your workload? Eighty-five percent of respondents to that survey indicated that they are overworked at least some of the time. And in an industry where we already struggle with turnover, we already struggle with labor, we already are at risk of losing some of our highest value folks to other careers, you know, we gotta take that seriously. The users are the heroes of the supply chain, and they have worked their tails for the last three and a half or four years.
Only one example out of many. Right? I think consumers are asking for a different kind of world. I think that as I mentioned, there’s a huge drive on the sustainability front, which is valid and something we need to be listening to very carefully. All of this has gotta come together into how we work, not just more efficiently, but how we work better, how we unite, how we really orient towards things that are meaningful for the industry and for the people in it.
Gary Iles: Look, if we thought we had a great supply chain and great processes, that was all exposed through the pandemic. Right? Supply chain crashed and it crashed on many fronts, or just stick with the metaphor. The supply chain broke, and it broke all over the place. To go forward, we can’t just reassemble that same chain and hope things are going to get better.
They’re not. We need a different paradigm. Folks are still running many of their recipes off of Excel or sourcing off of Excel documents. Again, with the vast amount of information that’s coming with the advent of artificial intelligence actually helping to create automation and more insights into very large volumes of data, the companies that move towards digitization, and efficient automated intelligent processes, they are going to win. And so we want everybody to join an into that endeavor. We don’t want just a few companies who’ve been privileged and can make big investments to capitalize on these capabilities to be the only winners.
We all benefit if we have a rich robust competitive environment that are producing things that the consumers want. And we need more players to do that. We can’t just have a few companies, monopolies, or oligopolies, deliver those products to market. We need startups. We need innovation. That’s how we progress.
Lora Cecere: And we wouldn’t have a supply chain without ingredients. Right? So, you know, base level, we gotta move atoms. So, and that’s really what your network’s all about. Right?
It is connecting buyers and sellers of ingredients. But let’s talk a little bit about what you’re doing in this value chain to drive that decision and improve those flows.
Paul Bradley: Yeah. You know, we our tagline for a while has been that in the molecular structure of the global food and beverage supply chain, right, ingredients really are the atom.
They are that atomic unit. And, you know, just like we all learned in chemistry class, you know, they’re surrounded by this halo of information, which isn’t always visible and isn’t always actionable.
And we really believe that if you can unlock the information that is surrounding the ingredients that are moving through the supply chain, not just their physical attributes or their characteristics, but all those other things we’ve been talking about. Where are they from?
What are the conditions under they were they were created. What was the agricultural environment looking like where those came from? What was the water consumption story along that journey? Right?
The more that we can understand those things at that component level, the more that we can really aggregate those things together into products, into skews that are fully informed by all that information that are moving us further down the path that we’re all trying to go as far as the evolution of the industry.
Lora Cecere: It’s hard though, right? I mean, because there’s so many ingredients and the information, you know, needs to be cataloged and maintained and updated, and, you know, it requires a lot of work. And so, you’re simplifying it for the industry and, you know, I’m proud of you for doing it.
Now one of the things your network does is it addresses the ESG problems of today and tomorrow. And seventy percent of the ESG impact is actually in the networks. And unfortunately, people are investing more in enterprise solutions than networks. So how does your system and why is this the part of the manifesto that ESG addresses the real problems today and tomorrow. How do you help people with the ESG goals?
Gary Iles: I’ll start first by saying we’re firmly believe we firmly believe that business ecosystems are the way of the future. You’ve talked about that. Business ecosystems contain networks that allow them information to move seamlessly across that network. It allows people to connect allows business to get done quickly.
But it provides information in context as well. And so the important thing about a business ecosystem and the network that TraceGains has created is we can start to consume third party information like risk profiles, like regulatory compliance, like ESG information, and we can apply that to the suppliers the locations, the ingredients in the, in the ecosystem, and we could do that automatically. And that becomes increasingly important because there is no single definition of ESG.
ESG is a growing body of information and concerns that are being surfaced all over the world. And Europe has taken a very advanced, posture to this, and they’re being very assertive. And really driving the rest of the planet to kind of abide by the concepts that are merging from Europe around ESG. So, by creating both the infrastructure, as well as the attach points for more information to enter the ecosystem, we’re gonna be in a position to not only address today’s concerns of ESG, but what emerges in the future, next week, next year, four years, five years from now.
Lora Cecere: So, if someone has a ESG goal around ingredients, and food and beverage, they should call you. Right? Because the last part of the manifesto is just really resonating with me. And it’s just so really powerful. We’ll do our part so you can do yours is the last part of the manifesto. And what is that promise? Tell me about it.
Paul Bradley: Yeah. You know, when we talk about sustainability, at the end of the day, we’re talking about product innovation. Right? We’re talking about the ability to do new things. The things that we’ve done for the last few decades are not the things that are going to create the future that we’re all striving towards.
So, you know, really looking at the potential that is out there for the industry to change the exciting innovation that’s happening at with smaller scale organizations with young organizations that aren’t afraid to dream, that aren’t afraid to imagine something very different. That’s incredibly exciting.
We’ve gotta stay committed to that, and we’ve gotta make sure that, you know, hey, we love our large customers, and they’re doing some great things too. Some of them are actually great engines of innovation.
But we really continue to be energized by what’s happening in emerging sectors of the market, and we think that’s gonna continue to just be so exciting in the years to come:
Gary Iles: We will be quickly becoming the networked, ecosystem orchestrator for the supply chain and it relates to food and beverage. And we take that responsibility that we’ve grown into very, very seriously, and we believe that if we don’t give back and provide a means for the rest of the industry, to satisfy their needs to work together and to deliver better products and services to the global market that we’d be shirking the responsibility that we’ve been given by being the biggest network on the planet, for a food and beverage.
So, It’s our commitment. It’s our visible commitment to the industry. It’s our visible commitment to consumers, and it’s our visible commitment to continue to evolve this product for everyone in the supply chain.
Lora Cecere: Well, how exciting I love principle-based leadership I like your manifesto. If only, we had clear principles and boundaries from other players. Paul and Gary, thank you for joining me today on Straight Talk with Supply Chain Insights, and I hope everyone makes your conference in January. It’s a virtual event, and it’s a great time to find out more about how to drive this value chain to basically make the food and beverage industry more effective. All the best. Thank you, gentlemen.
This podcast is produced for informational purposes and does not constitute any scientific, legal, or medical advice.
The views and opinions expressed by guests of this podcast are those of the guest alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and positions of the host or any other entity or organization. Listeners are encouraged to listen with an open mind and form opinions of their own.
This podcast originally aired on November 15, 2023.