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Do I have to provide supplier name to customers?

Protecting Supply Sources

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#1 Blindman88

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Posted 21 January 2020 - 06:47 PM

Hello All:
I am new to the community.  I have been an importer of specialty teas for 18 years.

One question I have is how to protect my sources of tea.  When I file the paperwork needed to meet GMPs of customers, I necessarily have to provide my supplier name, address, etc.  What's to keep my customer from going direct to my supplier now that they know they have a qualified source?

Thank you,

Blindman



#2 The Food Scientist

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Posted 21 January 2020 - 06:57 PM

Hey Welcome!

 

As a customer if I buy tea imported by you, I would definitely want to know the source! I do that already where we buy from brokers or importers that get us food from outside the USA, I ask for all the details as where the source is. You can choose to write that you decline to disclose but its up to your customers if they will be okay with it or not. Also usually buying from an importer who imports product is cheaper as far as I know so to them they'll buy from you.


Edited by The Food Scientist, 21 January 2020 - 06:58 PM.

Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#3 SQFconsultant

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Posted 21 January 2020 - 08:33 PM

Don't give information out that does not need to be given.

 

Unless it means loss of a customer.

 

Note that area of the request as Proprietary.


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Glenn Oster
 
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#4 TimG

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Posted 21 January 2020 - 08:49 PM

I agree with the above 2 posters. If the information being common knowledge could possibly cost you business (sounds like you're concerned they will go around you and attempt to deal with the suppliers) than you should consider it proprietary.

My process descriptions and flow chart are both proprietary. I work for a chemical manufacturer who is the ONLY source of fully synthetic ammonium chloride and sulfate products in the USA, and the process has yet to be duplicated.

I will occasionally get some push back, but once I explain why they have so far all  been understanding. With a well thought out explanation, you might find similar results.



#5 pHruit

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Posted 22 January 2020 - 08:38 AM

Hello All:
I am new to the community.  I have been an importer of specialty teas for 18 years.

One question I have is how to protect my sources of tea.  When I file the paperwork needed to meet GMPs of customers, I necessarily have to provide my supplier name, address, etc.  What's to keep my customer from going direct to my supplier now that they know they have a qualified source?

Thank you,

Blindman

You don't say where you're based - that might have a bearing on what expectations are "reasonable" (in terms of comparison with the general food industry in the area), but I fully agreed with The Food Scientist that I would not buy from you without this information. Some of your customers will not have a choice in this; schemes such as BRC require us to assess the actual processor rather than the supplier, if the two are not the same.

My experience over the years, having been around this discussion with my colleagues in our commercial department, has been that very few customers have any actual interest in going direct to source. They don't know the market, they don't want to deal with import/logistics, they struggle with the higher MOQs necessary to make international shipping viable etc.

Nonetheless there are a couple of things you can do to help protect yourself:

 

1) Talk to your suppliers. You have the relationship with them, you bring them business presumably consistently, and they get to deal with one business they know, rather than 35435487 different smaller customers in your country. It's therefore in their interest as well as yours to support your relationship, so discuss it with them - I've found that our suppliers are generally happy to point any enquiries from our country in our direction, even without having a formal agency/sole distributor agreement in place. If one or two of your customers to then try to go direct, your supplier should let you  now and pass the business back to you.

 

2) Put a written contractual agreement in place with your customers, confirming that they can't contact your suppliers direct. You'll possibly want to check with a lawyer in your area as to exactly what you can restrict and whether it's reasonable to require damages etc if they break the agreement.



#6 Hoosiersmoker

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 04:14 PM

How are you verifying your suppliers provide safe product now? If you have such assurances, a letter of continuing guarantee should suffice as long as you are comfortable with the safety of your supplier's product. Most buyers are just looking for information that insulates them from potential liability for products they sell, not looking to "buy direct" so just provide them with that assurance.



#7 john.kukoly

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 07:55 PM

The idea of brokers needing to keep supplier information secret to prevent a customer from going direct, has been a thing of the past since the internet came into play. Using anything from Google, to Alibaba, if someone needs to source an ingredient or material from anywhere in the word ,it's just a few keystrokes away.

 

Brokers play a significant role in the industry, providing service, product expertise, regional experience and product access that often cannot be obtained dealing directly with an original producer. Most organizations use brokers. Where there is a benefit from direct supply, the company will do it, regardless of a broker trying to hide their sources. A good broker, as noted above, that works as a partner with their customers, rarely has to worry about losing their business base so long as they provide a valued service.

 

In the US, FSMA, and in Canada, the SFC regulations, both throw in another complication - especially for imports - and verification of supply chain controls - which if you have no idea who the supplier is becomes a difficult position to try to justify.

 

if the broker has a complete supplier approval program, and their customers have verified the program, and regulations for that commodity do not require disclosure, it could work. Specific focus needs to go into the traceability and recall components of the brokers management system - otherwise you have to act on a worst case scenario - if there is a recall int he commodity you purchased, and have no idea who produced it, can you risk not assuming you're part of the recall?



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#8 Hank Major

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Posted 03 February 2020 - 08:08 PM

This kind of request is so aggravating I am sometimes temped to just create a cut-out company and give them that.



#9 Charles.C

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Posted 03 February 2020 - 10:27 PM

The idea of brokers needing to keep supplier information secret to prevent a customer from going direct, has been a thing of the past since the internet came into play. Using anything from Google, to Alibaba, if someone needs to source an ingredient or material from anywhere in the word ,it's just a few keystrokes away.

 

Brokers play a significant role in the industry, providing service, product expertise, regional experience and product access that often cannot be obtained dealing directly with an original producer. Most organizations use brokers. Where there is a benefit from direct supply, the company will do it, regardless of a broker trying to hide their sources. A good broker, as noted above, that works as a partner with their customers, rarely has to worry about losing their business base so long as they provide a valued service.

 

In the US, FSMA, and in Canada, the SFC regulations, both throw in another complication - especially for imports - and verification of supply chain controls - which if you have no idea who the supplier is becomes a difficult position to try to justify.

 

if the broker has a complete supplier approval program, and their customers have verified the program, and regulations for that commodity do not require disclosure, it could work. Specific focus needs to go into the traceability and recall components of the brokers management system - otherwise you have to act on a worst case scenario - if there is a recall int he commodity you purchased, and have no idea who produced it, can you risk not assuming you're part of the recall?

 

Hi john,

 

One cannot deny the benefits of traceability from a QA/Safety viewpoint however it can also involve collisions at the business level, eg "Privacy".

 

No idea about the tea business but I would comment  that, despite the advent of GFSI, for some raw materials, sourcing info. can be a matter of life and death in some locations.

 

I recall the furore when BRC introduced this aspect into the Broker Standard. Leverage also brings responsibility ("Spiderman").


Edited by Charles.C, 04 February 2020 - 04:40 AM.
edited

Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C





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