People are eating differently today.
We’re eating on the go. We’re ordering in. We’re demanding “fresh,” “organic,” “local,” “healthy” foods. We care how our foods are grown, processed and prepared. And we have a world of information at our fingertips informing and influencing our food choices. The restaurants, supermarkets and food processing plants that Ecolab serves recognize these trends — and they’re working to accommodate them. All the while, though, they know one thing is not changing: Food must be safe.
That’s where Ecolab is helping, just as it has through prior shifts in consumer preferences. But now, as we’re tailoring our food safety expertise to help solve emerging food safety problems, we’re also bringing sophisticated new tools to the table. Here’s just part of our story.
Online ordering is exploding in China, delivering larger food safety implications
No place in the world has adopted online food ordering as enthusiastically as China. The convenience — and the discounts available to online shoppers — are helping drive the trend. This year, more than 345 million people in China are expected to log on to place food orders.
Meituan-Dianping is China’s largest e-platform for online food orders. An early pioneer in connecting offline businesses with online consumers in need of a meal, movie tickets or reservations, it currently links 290 million active users with more than two million restaurants. Each day, its 500,000-member delivery staff makes 18 million home deliveries, most of them restaurant-prepared meals.
With food safety a topic of intense concern, China established regulations that made e-businesses, like Meituan-Dianping, responsible for the safety of the food they deliver, even though they don’t prepare it. Delivery companies that fail to properly manage the safety of foods they deliver face serious penalties and possible shut down.
Faced with this challenge, Meituan-Dianping executives met with Ecolab and shortly after, a cross-divisional team from Ecolab Corporate Marketing and the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) and Institutional businesses began working with Meituan-Dianping to develop a management system to ensure food safety.
Meituan-Dianping asked Ecolab to help address contamination that could occur during food delivery. Many food deliveries are made by moped so the challenge was to convert the hygiene, cleaning and sanitizing solutions we normally supply to restaurants in a package that was compact, portable, easy to use and required no personal protective equipment.
To meet Meituan-Dianping’s unique specifications, the QSR team developed a kit containing three easy-to-carry items: hand-hygiene sanitizer for the delivery staff and non-corrosive formulas for cleaning and sanitizing the delivery box. Then training on how to use the kit was provided as it rolled out to some 40,000 delivery people in Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Ningbo and Chengdu in 2017. Some 50,000 additional delivery associates in other cities are expected to receive the kit and training in 2018.
With a program in place for its delivery team, Meituan-Dianping’s next challenge — one in which Ecolab also is a partner — is to help improve food safety at the small-to-medium sized restaurants listed in its network. A joint innovation lab and project team are researching and developing right-sized cleaning and sanitation and pest control programs. And the team is combining its food safety expertise and digital technology to educate millions of restaurant operators in good food safety practices.
Troy Hou, a QSR associate who serves Meituan- Dianping, sees the importance of his work. “I really enjoy what we do to help improve the food safety standard in the online food delivery market,” he said. “Plus, I am a loyal user of Meituan-Dianping’s platform. I now feel peace of mind when I use it to order food for my family and friends.”
Moving forward, the joint team will broaden its efforts to ensure food safety during preparation and delivery and expand cooperation in training and branding, including inviting Meituan-Dianping to join China’s seven-year-old Seven Star food safety program, founded by Ecolab China.
“Providing food safety solutions to this fast-growing e-platform giant opens the door to exciting opportunities to support China’s food service industry as it works to ensure safe food,” said YM Yang, assistant vice president, QSR.
“Providing food safety solutions to this fast-growing e-platform giant opens the door to exciting opportunities to support China’s food service industry as it works to ensure safe food.”
Assistant Vice President
Quick Service Restaurants
1. Convenience: Online ordering and delivery from restaurants and grocery stores; meal ingredients delivered in meal kits; fully prepared meals ready to eat from the local grocery store. In China, for example, an estimated 345 million people will go online this year to order delivery of a restaurantprepared meal. Online grocery shopping is predicted to become a $100 billion business globally.
2. On-the-go eating for on-the-go lifestyles: Around the world, 30 percent of meals are eaten on the go.
3. Fresh, local ingredients: Two-thirds of 4,600 diners surveyed in nine countries said fresh, local food is the most important factor in their choice of restaurant. More than half wanted food free of artificial ingredients.
4. Health and wellness: In a survey, more than 90 percent said healthy options were at least “somewhat important” in where and what to eat.
5. Information and transparency: Consumers expect clear labeling. What ingredients are in the product? How was it grown and processed?
“Ecolab is a leader in the food safety space and they’re in a great position to further advance food safety on a global level.”
SEEING AROUND THE CORNER
It’s a team effort for food safety
Consumers today have high expectations for food. They expect more transparency into how their food is made. They want it to be produced in a safe way that prevents contamination. They also want their food to be “clean”, a broad definition that includes qualities like minimal use of additives and non-GMO.
To help keep on top of these quickly evolving trends, Ecolab has created a new Food Safety Advisory Board. The board is comprised of the industry’s top food safety leaders with backgrounds in food and beverage manufacturing, restaurant operations, food retailing and policy-making. They’ll meet a few times a year, along with many of Ecolab’s senior leaders and food safety experts, to discuss major food trends and how Ecolab might explore new programs and innovation opportunities to better serve its customers.
“I’m honored to be part of this effort,” said Mary Wagner, chair of the Food Safety Advisory Board who has held senior leadership positions at Starbucks, MARS Botanical and YUM! Brands. “Ecolab is a leader in the food safety space and they’re in a great position to further advance food safety on a global level.”
“Not only can we help them ensure that food is safe, we can guide them in preparing tastier food.”
As grocery stores evolve, food safety grows more complex
The grocery scene is evolving and Bill Pattison, marketing director for Ecolab Food Retail Services (FRS), is watching closely.
To meet consumer demand for convenience and compete with online ordering, grocers are increasingly offering more walk-up-ready food like pizza, sushi and sandwiches, meal kits measured and packaged for preparation at home — and an engaging shopping experience, according to Bill. The result, in some stores, is what the industry calls “grocerants,” a blend of grocery store and restaurant — a place where you might be as likely to join friends for lunch as shop for tonight’s dinner ingredients. But as these evolving food emporiums prepare more menu items and the food is held at warm temperatures, the risk rises for both food safety and quality, Bill said.
Ecolab has long met grocers’ needs when it comes to food safety. Innovations such as two-in-one cleaners and sanitizers — for floors and food contact surfaces — have provided easier, quicker solutions that save costly labor. Regular food safety audits — FRS conducts 343,000 per year — have helped stores identify food safety flaws, fix them and guide staff training to prevent future risks.
Now, as food safety and quality become more critical in grocery stores, Ecolab is bringing another potent tool to the mix. MARKETGUARD™ 365 is a digital app that collects and consolidates a store’s food safety data — from temperature logs, sanitation checks and Ecolab’s Pest Elimination reports to health department violations. With it, grocery store and corporate food safety managers gain near real-time insights into how well food safety protocols are being followed. With the information at hand, it’s easy to answer practical, but essential, questions such as: “Was the rotisserie chicken cooked to, and held at, the correct temperature?” and “When was the deli floor last sanitized?”
An additional advantage: MARKETGUARD™ 365 can help grocers prepare better-tasting, higher-quality food, which is critical to winning repeat business. “Cooking temperature has a lot to do with the quality of prepared food,” said Bill. “Store associates are trained to cook to minimum temperatures for safety, but they often don’t track a maximum temperature for quality food. With the app, we’re able to tell them the true temperatures at which they’re cooking and show when they’re overcooking. Not only can we help them ensure that food is safe, we can guide them in preparing tastier food — and help save on utilities by not cooking so long.”