"India represents significant opportunity" says LRQA's Groenveld from GFSI Food Focus Day in Delhi

The first Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Food Focus Day is being held today in Delhi, India. Cor Groenveld, Global Head of Food Supply Chain Services at LRQA shared his thoughts on the event and the emergence of food safety certification in India.

“LRQA is delighted to be part of what is a very successful GFSI conference. The event has attracted 320 delegates - representing both local and international stakeholders - including retailers, manufacturers, local food authorities and certification bodies. We are seeing not only local Indian companies in attendance but representation from the global organisations as well including Danone, Coca Cola, Walmart, Cargill and McDonalds. What is interesting is that all of these organisations, irrespective of their size, are keen to learn of India’s approach to food safety as we move towards 2013 and beyond.

LRQA India’s food safety technical expert & senior assessor Niraj Raje gave a well-received presentation this morning on the GFSI Auditor Quality Qualification requirements. GFSI is relatively new in India, so naturally there was a lot of explanation on what GFSI is and also about the GFSI’s new initiative - the Global Capacity Programme.

One of the key themes to emerge from this morning’s discussions was the importance of collaboration between retailers, manufacturers, certification bodies and food authorities. We are facing many challenges in the next twenty years - not just in India but worldwide. Issues such as the projected growth of the population, the increasing complexity of the food supply chain, emerging pathogens and an ageing population will undoubtedly drive a collaborative effort amongst these stakeholders to deliver food safety across the global supply chain.

Another interesting aspect from the discussions this morning was the emergence of social media in India and how this is linked to food safety. With India increasingly embracing social media as a communication tool, manufacturers and retailers alike are clear on both the opportunity and threat that social media presents. They are keen to ensure that their approach to food safety is transparent and underpinned with robust independent third party assessment and certification.

The historical difficulties that major global retailers have faced with trying to enter the lucrative Indian market was also addressed. There has been a shift in strategy and there is now a willingness of the food authorities to allow retailers into the Indian market. There is still a great deal of discussion ahead; to give an indication on the size of the retail market, there are between 12m and 15m small traditional retailers within the India - called Kirana - compared with there being only 3000 modern retailers, with Walmart and Metro both as examples.

Whilst there is still a long road to go for attracting global retailers to India whilst protecting local business, what is clear is that the global manufacturers are actively promoting the value of independent 3rd party certification against the GFSI benchmarked standards.”

Cor went on to talk about the success of the GFSI; in 2008 there were 30,000 GFSI recognised certificates worldwide - that figure has grown to 130,000 in 2012. “We are increasingly seeing tangible objective evidence from retailers and manufacturers that demonstrate that the GFSI approach is not only reducing food safety issues but stakeholders are seeing cost savings thanks to a reduction in the number of multiple certifications.”

Cor - as Chairman for the Foundation for Food Safety Certification - will also be presenting later on today on the GFSI-recognised complete food safety certification scheme FSSC 22000. “India represents a significant opportunity. Given both the existing and new market entrants, coupled with LRQA’s technical expertise, we are well placed to capitalise on an increasing demand for independent food safety certification from the Indian marketplace.”

For more information on LRQA Business Assurance food sector services, visit www.food.lrqa.com or www.lrqa.in or follow us on twitter @LRQAFood. You can also connect with Cor at http://www.linkedin.com/in/corgroenveld