Produce Traceability Initiative Moving Ahead

A recent survey to gauge produce industry members' adoption of the Produce Traceability Initiative's (PTI) seven milestones indicates companies are making widespread progress

Beginning in 2008 as a voluntary initiative to achieve supply chain-wide adoption of electronic traceability of every case of produce by the end of 2012, PTI is made up of a diverse group of 228 companies representing all produce industry sectors and a broad array of sizes responded to invitations to complete the survey, led by four categories: growers, packers/repackers, shippers, and distributors. Demand-side respondents, comprising distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, and wholesalers or terminal markets, constituted 23 percent of the respondents.

Among the highlights of the survey, which was open to all produce companies, regardless of whether they have been active in PTI activities, found that 84 percent of responding suppliers are communicating GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) to receivers, while 77 percent of all brand owners said that they have assigned GTINs to some or all of their produce cases.

Meanwhile, 88 percent of receivers report they are receiving cases with incoming GTINs, and 75 percent of receiver's report they are reading or planning on reading data on some or all inbound cases. Receivers lag suppliers on implementations, but are making headway, with 43 percent of receivers reporting they are totally or partially equipped for reading inbound PTI-recommended data, and 40 percent of receivers storing all or some data on inbound cases.

Relatively few companies declared an unwillingness to participate in the initiative, with only 7 percent of brand owners saying they do not plan to meet the entry-level milestones.

"We are very pleased with the results from the survey," said Food Lion's president, Cathy Green Burns, who co-chairs the PTI Leadership Council. "We've made great progress with this initiative, especially among suppliers who are leading the way with traceability implementation. Based on the survey results, we plan to redouble our efforts to engage buyers to complete our vision of whole-chain traceability."

Co-chair Doug Grant, SVP/COO of The Oppenheimer Group, concurred. "We have so many companies and individuals making progress against the PTI milestones, and these survey numbers take us beyond the anecdotal to demonstrate to the industry and those watching the industry just how far we've moved the needle. The industry should be proud."

Respondents also indicated that they want the PTI administering organizations – the Produce Marketing Association, Canadian Produce Marketing Association, GS1 US and United Fresh – to continue providing education and communications on PTI issues after the end of the year, as companies continue to hit milestones and focus on implementations.

In related news, Kroger, Loblaw, and Safeway have agreed to accept a new standard 4"x 2" label for Returnable Plastic Containers (RPCs) following an industry collaboration driven by PTI volunteers. The change guides a level of standardization to RPC labeling and provides a cost effective solution for produce suppliers.

The effective date of the change, transition plans and other details regarding the new RPC labels have been or will be communicated individually by each retailer to its trading partners.