Sustainable distribution challenge for baby food firm

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Baby food company Organix tries to find ways to minimise its impact on the environment wherever it can, including the distribution process.

The company was founded in 1992 by Lizzie Vann and is now owned by Swiss food group Hero. Sales grew by almost 17 per cent in 2010 to £37million.  It has recently doubled the size of its portfolio and now offers over 100 different products, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and pudding options for babies and toddlers.

Establishing retail relationships and managing this growth proved a challenge for the manufacturer. Mike Hansford, strategic sourcing manager says: “We couldn’t run our operation based on a warehousing and transport system that was good some days but not others – we needed a relationship that was sustainable with a logistics provider who could help us grow our business.”

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Since 2004 the firm has used Howard Tenens  to handle distribution to retailers such as Tesco, Boots, ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.

“Retailers demand the highest possible service levels – if we fall short, we’d expect to be called in to explain why it has happened and what’s gone wrong. They simply can’t afford to be out of stock on shelf,” said Hansford.

Over the course of the seven year relationship, the baby food company has nearly doubled its SKUs, but has at the same time managed to reduce its pallet holding from 6,500 to 4,500.

In 2010 Howard Tenens designed and implemented its own bespoke WMS which uses cloud computing to deliver full multi-site, multi-client visibility of stock across the group. This is integrated with Howard Tenens’ existing in-house transport management system which now provides updates on the status and movement of any shipment at any given time.

Hansford said: “Having a comprehensive range of live data, stock visibility and up-to-date transaction reports all available at the touch of a button gives them a very valuable competitive edge.”

Anna Rosier, Organix’s managing director, said: “Even though we’ve grown enormously, we still think of ourselves as a very small company and so it never fails to surprise us when Howard Tenens come to us, as they did with their warehouse management system, and ask us to be involved directly in developing the solution”.

The two brands also acquiesce on their environmental agendas. Sustainability is ingrained in Howard Tenens’ commercial strategy, with key initiatives such as its dual fuel fleet and double-deck trailers, and backhauling arrangements with a growing number of customers.

Rosier said: “Since we run an organic business, it is part of our approach to try to find ways to minimise our impact on the environment wherever we can. We are not green zealots by any means, but we have developed ‘Plan O’ – our sustainability agenda – that sets different challenges for all of our suppliers. For ourselves and Howard Tenens it is simply a matter of good practice to be as efficient as possible.”

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