ORLANDO, Fla. — While the Rapid Recall Exchange, the 2-year-old industry recall portal, has signed up more than 600 manufacturer and retailer subscribers, it still lacks the “critical mass” of suppliers that would make it a primary source of recall information, according to trade association officials and retailers.
Manufacturers use the exchange to communicate timely and accurate product recall and withdrawal notifications to retailer and wholesaler headquarters, which in turn share the information with individual stores. The exchange's retail membership represents 85% of U.S. grocery volume — including 21 of the 24 largest supermarket chains based in the United States — but it still lacks key suppliers, especially in the fresh food sectors, said Pat Walsh, senior vice president, industry relations, education and research for Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va.
“We have good penetration [among manufacturers] on the dry grocery side — though it needs to be better — and need to expand in other fresh food verticals like meat, produce, deli and bakery,” said Walsh, who participated in a session on the RRE at the U Connect Live conference here earlier this month.
Major food distributors in the exchange, including Kroger, Wegmans and Wakefern, have recently sent letters to their vendors explaining that the only way they will accept recall information is via the RRE, noted Brian Lynch, senior director of business and industry development for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Washington, who also participated in the U Connect Live session. In an April letter posted on www.rapidrecallexchange.org, Kroger asked all of its suppliers to subscribe to the exchange by July 1.
Michael Roberson, director of corporate quality assurance for Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., said in the U Connect Live session that the chain is “disappointed” in the number of manufacturers using the Rapid Recall Exchange.
“Only 222 of our grocery suppliers are signed up, and more than 1,000 have not yet joined,” Roberson said. “We need to have the entire food industry collaborating on the Rapid Recall Exchange.”
Last year, of the 300 recalls Publix experienced, fewer than 50 went through the RRE, he said, adding that industrywide only 15% of recalls were submitted to the RRE. A total of 65 recalls have been issued through the exchange industrywide since its September 2009 launch.
For recalls that went through the RRE at Publix, Roberson observed “the absolute excellence in the information that was communicated,” including product GTINs (global trade identification numbers), the reason for the recall, and photos. “If we get this information from our trading partners using RRE, then we eliminate most of the [internal] steps because everything works together through this tool,” he said. By contrast, for recalls that don't go through the RRE, “nine times out of 10 we're going back to trading partners and seeking out additional information.”
Publix has been proactive in urging manufacturers to join the exchange, Roberson said. In addition, Publix has expanded its supplier scorecard to monitor and rank suppliers on whether they leverage the RRE.
The RRE was created by FMI and GS1 US, Lawrenceville, N.J., which will be issuing a new version of the exchange, 2.3, in August.