Recent changes in consumer attitudes, such as an appetite to reduce food waste and packaging, growing interest in local food products, short food supply chains or enthusiasm for organic and fair trade, are fuelling the development of bulk 1.
Sales are experiencing exceptional growth as producers and retailers adapt to these changes, looking for opportunities. They need to change their organization with an even greater emphasis on hygiene and rigorous traceability to imagine a new shopping experience. They cannot do this without a robust supply chain.
The logistics of bulk are today based on traditional methodologies, adapted from processes designed for packaged goods. Specific solutions are needed, adapted to operate on an industrial scale with specific sanitary and IT solutions to support them.
A retail market that is expanding rapidly
According to Réseau Vrac, the industry body representing the sector in France, retail sales of bulk products reached 1.2 billion euros nationally in 2019, up from 850 million in 2018. The number of stores with self-service distribution silos, or hoppers, has jumped by 60%. Sales may only represent one percent of all food, but the market is expanding from fruit and vegetables to cover many other products, notably cereals, drinks, spices, hygiene and household products. Bulk products are no longer confined to small organic or zero-waste stores, there are numerous retail chains, and the leading supermarkets are onboard. Major food manufacturers are also responding to customers who want to see current products available in this new eco-friendly format.
A bulk supply chain to surpass current safety standards
A supply chain specifically adapted to bulk is urgently required and must achieve, as a minimum, the same levels of safety and traceability as for packaged products. FM Logistic today has a working solution and is looking to encourage manufacturers and distributors to develop their bulk offers further. Some remain hesitant but, as Rodolphe Bey, Director of Storage and Co Packing IS solutions at FM Logistic, says, “They should wait no longer; FM Logistic is ready to go in terms of both the logistics and the IT systems essential to ensure success”.
This new offer is a collaborative initiative bringing together experts in different aspects of the bulk sector from sourcing to storage, conditioning and cleaning, the design of containers for installation directly in store, and the management and return of empty reusable containers.
Solutions for major supermarkets and independent stores
This revolutionary concept has been successfully piloted in France to serve Franprix (part of Casino Group) developing a bulk offer for brands traditionally concentrated on packaged products. Working with Bulk & Co, specialists in the design and equipment of bulk shelves, and over 90 FMCG producers and retailers through Ilec, FM Logistic carries out co-manufacturing of labelled hoppers (recyclable cardboard boxes for the products) and eco-packing in a clean room dedicated to food conditioning.
Short-circuit logistics chains based on the circular economy have been set up. The major brands supply their products in bulk, reducing primary packaging. Once conditioned the hoppers are delivered to stores and set up directly on the shelves ready for customers to serve themselves.
FM Logistic is ready to go even further and has brought together a variety of partners and can also manage eco-packed reusable containers destined for the shelves of stores of all sizes. Customers can keep the containers for future reuse or return them to the store so that they can be reintegrated into the supply chain.
A fully transparent traceability
Underpinning this new offer is a fully scalable IT solution powered by Reflex WMS which is especially configured to manage multiple industrial providers and numerous retailers. In addition, there are plans to set up a blockchain to guarantee end-to end detailed traceability. It will collect, record and verify data using the blockchain and then restore it to all. For example, consumers could use a scanning app to trace the product “from the fields to the store”. This solution goes well beyond the traceability required to satisfy legal obligations; it ensures full transparency at every stage of the process.
En route for a truly sustainable supply chain
In the context of huge growth in the bulk market, FM Logistic is ahead of the curve providing the processes, traceability and experience to safely store and distribute bulk products as part of its aim to create a truly sustainable supply chain. It is ready for manufacturers and retailers who want to join them on the journey and prepare for the future.
1 Products sold to consumers without packaging or in a reusable container