Christine Tacon
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The following are examples of Christine’s coverage in the media.

2017

Outgoing UK grocery business adjudicator sets out new approach to regulation

Just Food – 25th June 2019

Christine Tacon speaking at yesterdays conference The UK government body overseeing the behaviour of the country’s large supermarket chains has set out a new compliance strategy.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA), Christine Tacon, told the organisation’s annual conference in London yesterday (24 June) that her aim is to drive effective top-to-bottom compliance risk management by the retailers she regulates. 

However, it has led to concerns that the changes are effectively ushering in self-regulation.

Tacon, who confirmed she will step down in 2020 after seven years in the role, said that in her final year she is committed to working with each of the 12 large retailers to ensure all their practices, systems and behaviours are designed and structured to meet their obligations under the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).

She told conference delegates: “I am introducing a common factors approach to guide their compliance risk management activity.

“However they are set up, I want to see the retailers build for themselves a whole-organisation approach to code compliance. This puts their compliance management thinking into their overall governance structures, their legal and audit functions, as well as their internal systems and processes into their training and their communication with suppliers.

“This is the best way to make sure that breaches of the code don’t happen and if they do, that they are quickly picked up and put right. It means retailers doing the right thing not only because that is what is required of them, but because it makes good business sense.”

Tacon set out her vision after her organisation’s annual survey revealed continuing improvement in retailer behaviour. For the second year running only four out of ten suppliers reported having experienced an issue at any point in the year.

Last year’s top concern for suppliers – delay in payments – fell from 19% to 13% in a period when the retailers’ response to the issue was under formal monitoring by the GCA. Forecasting is now the issue most reported by suppliers, and that, too, has continued to decline.

However, some concerns have been expressed about the direction in which the GCA is heading in terms of regulation.

Trade justice organisation Tradecraft in Depth tweeted: “We must oppose moving back to the failed model of industry self-regulation.”

Andy Coyne

Aldi tops GCA annual survey for 6th year with Co-op the most improved

Farmers Guardian – 25th June 2019

97 per cent of suppliers said Aldi complies consistently well or mostly well with the code.

Aldi has topped the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) annual survey for the sixth year, with 97 per cent of suppliers stating the retailer complied well or mostly well with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).

 

B&M came bottom with 81 per cent of suppliers saying it complied well or mostly well.

And the GCA, Christine Tacon, was looking to work with retailers to ensure all their ‘practices, systems and behaviours are designed and structured’ to meet their obligations as she enters her final year in the role.

It comes as the annual survey revealed continuing improvement in retailer behaviour, with only four in ten suppliers reporting experiencing an issue for the second year.

Concerns

Last year’s top concern for suppliers – delay in payments – fell from 19 per cent to 13 per cent.

Forecasting was now the issue most reported by suppliers but it has also continued to decline.

Co-op was the top improver, after significant scrutiny from the GCA following a year-long investigation which found it had breached the code.

Ms Tacon said Co-op’s should be pleased the steps it has taken were being noticed by suppliers.

She added the investigation could be a ‘game-changer’ for the sector.

“The root causes I identified as a result of that investigation showed the extent to which the retailer had failed to take charge of its own Code compliance,” she said.

“Opportunities to manage and minimise its compliance risk had been missed, and themes emerged which were not only common to Co-op’s breaches of the two paragraphs of the Code I investigated, but also familiar to careful readers of my previous two case studies.

“I now intend to build the lessons I learnt into my approach with all regulated retailers. I want to leave this role having achieved all I set out to do – and more.”

Future

She was also planning to examine how the code should apply to the buying alliances, joint ventures and merged entities run by the retailers.

On the debate as to whether the role of the GCA should be extended she said it would mean ‘significant change’ in the way the work was done.

She said it would mean altering the levy funding model and the collaborative approach she had established would not have been possible with a larger cohort or regulated businesses.

“And thought would have to be given to the fit between any new price-based measures and the competition position underpinning everything the GCA is currently established to do,” she added.

 

Julie Ashfield, managing director of buying at Aldi, said: “We are incredibly proud to have topped the GCA’s annual survey every year since its inception six years ago. This reflects the close relationship we have with suppliers, which is built on mutual trust and understanding.

“The partnerships we have established with our suppliers over many years allow us to source the very best products for our customers.

“As we move towards our long-term target of 1,200 stores by 2025, this presents an opportunity for our suppliers to grow with us too.

“We currently source from more than 1,000 British businesses and look forward to working with many more in the coming years.”

Alex Black 

Retail supplier complaints hit new low

Fresh Produce Journal – 24h June 2019 

Retail supplier complaints hit new lowAldi again named most Code-compliant supermarket in annual report by Groceries Code Adjudicator

The number of supplier complaints against supermarkets has fallen to a new low, the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s new annual report indicates.

 

 

The report, presented today by Adjudicator Christine Tacon, revealed a reduction in complaints from all nine of the most-reported areas of concern in the past year. Issues around forensic reporting are at a low of just seven per cent (2014: 45 per cent), margin maintenance is at eight per cent (2014: 36 per cent), ‘pay to stay’ has fallen to five per cent (2014: 25 per cent) and payment delays has dropped to 19 per cent (2014: 35 per cent).

In a further sign of progress, only two retailers were rated by suppliers as being below the level of the best-performing retailer.

The four most-improved retailers – who Tacon said had been subjected to increased scrutiny or enhanced engagement – were Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and the Co-op. 

Tacon said she no longer had any single top issue of concern, but that she would continue to monitor the performance of all retailers in relation to delay in payments, forecasting and promotions. 

Delayed payments was listed as the number-one most complained about issue by suppliers in 2018, followed by issues around forecasting, de-listing and variation of supply chain procedures without reasonable notice. 

Aldi top on compliance

Aldi was rated the supermarket which was best complying with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, followed in order by Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. Iceland finished bottom of the list, behind the Co-op.

In terms of supplier perceptions of which stores conducted relationships fairly and in good faith, Aldi was again voted the best, ahead of Waitrose and M&S. Iceland and the Co-op again occupied the bottom two positions. 

The Adjudicator also concluded its investigation into the Co-op this year, stating that the retailer needed to take a “very different approach to Code compliance”. “I have made robust recommendations for urgent action and I will be helping Co-op to change its approach by monitoring closely how it implements those recommendations,” Tacon said.

Of the results, Julie Ashfield, managing director of buying at Aldi, said: “We are incredibly proud to have topped the GCA’s annual survey every year since its inception six years ago. This reflects the close relationship we have with suppliers, which is built on mutual trust and understanding.

“The partnerships we have established with our suppliers over many years allow us to source the very best products for our customers.

“As we move towards our long-term target of 1,200 stores by 2025, this presents an opportunity for our suppliers to grow with us too. We currently source from more than 1,000 British businesses and look forward to working with many more in the coming years.”

For the year ahead, Tacon said: “There will be no letting up. As well as assessing the response on the monitored top issues I will be working closely with Co-op to ensure it fully implements my recommendations and I will be sharing the learnings with retailers and suppliers. 

“During the year the government will also conduct a second statutory review of the GCA’s performance to cover the period April 2016 to March 2019 and I encourage all those with an interest in the work of the GCA to give their views.”

Tacon also confirmed that she will be stepping down as Adjudicator next year after seven years in the role. 

Suppliers call for Amazon to be regulated by Groceries Code Adjudicator

Yorkshire Post – 24th June 2019

Amazon. Pic: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Food and drink suppliers have called for online giant Amazon to come under the watch of the grocery industry regulator.

Amazon and Boots were the two retailers which received the most requests from suppliers to come under the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, according to its annual survey.

The finding comes as adjudicator Christine Tacon admitted that there is more scope for the Groceries Code of Conduct to cover more than the 12 retailers currently facing scrutiny by the code.

There were calls from 12 grocery suppliers to scrutinise the conduct of Amazon, while 10 suppliers wanted to introduce Boots to the remit of the code. There were a number of other recommendations for retailers including Home Bargains and Booths.

Over the past 12 months, the competition regulator, the Competition and Market Authority (CMA), forced Ms Tacon to scrutinise B&M and Ocado under the code of conduct.

B&M, which recently withdrew its attempt to appeal against the CMA decision, was ranked the worst of the 12 major grocery retailers for its overall compliance to the set of industry standards, according to the survey of suppliers.

Only 25 per cent of suppliers said that B&M met the expected standard of conduct “consistently well”, according to the survey.

Tesco also saw itself slide slightly in a leaderboard of the overall conduct by the retailers, after some retailers commented to say they were “unhappy” about how its multimillion-pound merger with wholesaler Booker led to confusion.

Ms Tacon, inset, said, however, that responses from suppliers have been their best yet, with a significant reduction in the number of suppliers impacted by delayed payments.

The Co-op was the retailer which improved the most over the past year, according to the survey, months after the GCA announced the retailer breached the grocery code.

The survey also highlighted fears from suppliers that they may face repercussions from retailers for raising concerns, after 43 per cent of suppliers said they are not sure if they would actually report issues to the GCA. Ms Tacon, who has now entered her final year in the role, said there is still a significant future for the GCA amid questions over whether it is necessary as compliance officers within retailers take on more responsibility.

She said: “The statutory review is taking place, but I am absolutely sure they will see the importance of the role, because of the positive response we have had from suppliers. We received more survey responses from suppliers than ever. Suppliers don’t want their policemen against bad behaviour being taken away, even if retailer behaviour has significantly improved.”

The UK food and grocery industry is forecast to grow by £24.1bn, or 12.5 per cent, by 2024, bringing the market to a total value of £217.7bn, according to the latest forecasts from research organisation IGD.

Groceries Code Adjudicator to step down

Food Manufacture – 24th June 2019

Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Christine Tacon is to step down from her role at the end of her current term in June 2020, delegates at the GCA Annual Conference heard.

Read the full article here.

 By Rod Addy

Christine Tacon: suppliers can learn from GSCOP-regulated retailers on payment terms

The Grocer-  30th May 2019

The regulated retailers have told Tacon that being code compliant has improved their internal efficiency.

Read the article here.

As next GCA league table looms, here's what suppliers need to look out for

The Grocer – 29th May 2019

money notes

In six years, Tacon’s collaborative approach has  improved retailer compliance and seen millions returned direct to victim suppliers. It is not just working, it has become the envy of many other countries

On 24 June, at the Grocer Code Adjudicator’s annual conference, we will see the new league table of retailer compliance.

It is based on 1,200 entries in this year’s survey, and if you don’t know about it, be aware your retailers take a huge interest.

I can remember writing that Christine Tacon’s collaborative approach would take years to work, and calling for fines. Six years on, not only do we see it working, it is the envy of many other countries. In five years of the survey, the best-case retailer compliance scores have risen from 90% to 97%, while worst-case compliance has risen from 58% to 84%. It’s a testament to the GCA’s philosophy of ‘encouragement vs penalty’, motivating retailers to clean up their act.

As a GSCOP trainer I know the code is utterly vague. But a highlight for me is that the GCA used this vagueness to find a home for any wrongdoing in its loosely worded paragraphs. Also, Tacon has not fined any retailers, knowing the money would go to the Treasury. She has insisted instead that millions be returned direct to victim suppliers.

I recently asked Christine about the highs and lows of the role and she told me: “The highs are suppliers saying ‘thank you’. Many people say things have changed so much for the better in five years, even though the market gets ever tougher. That’s why I do the job. The low is receiving criticism for not doing what I can’t do!”

This later comment refers to the fact that whilst six BEIS ministers have mostly stayed out of her way, including Jo Swinson and Anna Soubry, Defra and others have constantly pressured to extend the role down to farmers, demonstrating a complete misunderstanding of the code and its role.

A frustration for the GCA has been suppliers’ reluctance to engage due to the ‘climate of fear’ of reprisal. Even now the office only gets about three calls a week. So, ready to try new things, the GCA’s first webinar went ahead in April.

So for suppliers: go to the 24 June GCA conference and meet the retail code compliance officers, who will be staying after lunch for 10-minute sessions. Make the league table a top-to-top agenda item. The retailers’ top brass are serious about it. And sign onto the next webinar, on 3 July, to get involved in the live interaction.

The league table, though, has been remarkable.

Iceland, which has been on or at the bottom, is changing its trading terms for simplicity to impact better supplier engagement and move up. Morrisons introduced a supplier charter after having its knuckles rapped to remedy its ‘bottom end’ reputation.

At the top, Aldi has been ahead all five years of the table. Perhaps it has an advantage with the simplicity of its business, but I know that the Aldi senior team is proud to be at the top of that list, and eagerly wait to see if they have remained. Yes, they play hard in negotiation, but they are fair in implementation – that’s how it should be.

And my predictions? Aldi will indeed remain at the top of the league. Fallers will be Tesco and Co-op, and the risers will include Iceland.

David Saples

IOD Director Of The Year Finalist

Groceries Code Adjudicator Announced as IOD London and South Director of the Year Awards Finalist 

Christine Tacon has been shortlisted for the public sector director of the year at the 2019 IoD London & South Director of the Year Awards. 

The finalists were chosen from the hundreds of directors that entered or were nominated across nine different categories. 

The expert judging panel will now convene to decide the overall winners to be announced at the awards ceremony on Thursday 20 June 2019 at the iconic 116 Pall Mall, the home of the Institute of Directors.

David Stringer-Lamarre, IoD London Chair said: “After a year of BREXIT ups and downs for business, it’s inspiring to see so many UK directors leading the way in good governance, leadership & business performance.”

The winners from each of the thirteen categories will be automatically entered into the UK finals of the IoD Director of the Year Awards, providing the finalists with additional exposure and profile on a national stage as the ‘best of the best’ in British business.

Visit www.iodawards.com/london-south for a full list of finalists and details on how to attend the event.

 

 

The Times: 16/05/2019

MPs upset as groceries watchdog rejects extra powers

The grocery regulator has clashed with MPs after they accused her of not being willing to take on powers that would provide more extensive protection to supermarket suppliers.

The business, energy and industrial strategy committee expressed frustration with Christine Tacon, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, after she said she did not need any more powers and resisted offering a view on a number of issues affecting suppliers.

In a testy hearing yesterday Ms Tacon told MPs that they were being “dismissive of what has been achieved” and that she was being asked for opinions on “areas I am not working in”.

The GCA was set up in 2013 to improve the treatment of suppliers. Ms Tacon regulates the treatment of suppliers by retail companies with an annual groceries turnover of more than £1 billion.

Ms Tacon, 59, said there had been improvement on every metric she looked at, and only two of the 12 retailers she regulates were performing worse than the most compliant was five years ago.

“You will not find a supplier in the country that supplies the regulated retailers that doesn’t say there’s been a dramatic change,” she said. “We are the envy of very many other countries.”

Since 2015 the GCA has had the power to fine supermarkets up to 1 per cent of their annual sales. It has run two inquiries, into Tesco and the Co-operative Group, but has yet to levy a fine. The Tesco inquiry covered a period before its fining powers were granted.

Ms Tacon told MPs she intervenes informally “all the time” on behalf of suppliers , including an instance in 2015 where Ms Tacon asked David Potts, the chief executive of Morrisons, why “lump sum” payments were being demanded to “hit half-year figures”.

She said this “stopped overnight”, with Morrisons conducting an internal investigation using a third party and paying money back to suppliers. Ms Tacon was responding to MPs who were asking for her views on issues such as lengthy payment terms and downward price pressure put on suppliers, issues that she said were outside her remit.

Ms Tacon said her remit could be expanded to cover more retailers so there was a “level playing field” but told MPs: “I do not believe I need more powers.”

Rachel Reeves, committee chairwoman, said suppliers being treated properly went beyond the code. She added: “It is perhaps a bit surprising that six years into your role you’re happy the powers you were granted then are the right powers for a very different market.”

Peter Kyle, the Labour MP, said: “It’s really extraordinary to hear a regulator say they don’t need any new powers . . . particularly in a market where we know exploitation of suppliers is rife.”

Sir Patrick McLoughlin, a Conservative MP, said it was a “pity” when Ms Tacon admitted she had not had any discussions with the Competition and Markets Authority over the proposed merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda.

James Hurley

Watch the full committee hearing here.

 

Farmers Guardian: 03/05/2019

Gender equality: Why British agriculture is in need of a culture change

With gender equality in the workplace rising up the agenda, Christine Tacon spoke to Olivia Midgley about why she thinks agriculture is in need of a culture change.

 
 

Throughout her 40 years in business, Christine Tacon has enjoyed senior roles at some of the world’s biggest companies, including Mars, Vodafone and Anchor/Fonterra.

She is also renowned for spearheading the transformation of Co-operative Farms, taking the business from a £6 million loss, to a £6m profit. The business was later sold to the Wellcome Trust for £249m in 2014.

Now, alongside her role as Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA), she helps other women negotiate the world of business, specifically in food and agriculture.

Drawing on her family’s own experience has been a key driver. Her mother, probably driven by the shortage of food in the post-World War Two years, wanted to work in agriculture and joined the Land Army before taking her agricultural degree. She worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, advising dairy farmers on how to increase milk yields. But that work soon came to an end when she married Christine’s father at the age of 29.

Mrs Tacon said: “She had to give up her job, because the civil service expected women to resign on marriage. Unbelievably, that rule existed in the Foreign Office until 1973.

“Listening to her made me determined I was not going to choose between work and family. And certainly I was not going to have someone else make that decision for me.”

Mrs Tacon was drawn to science and engineering and worked for various companies while working her way up to director level.

While sexism was, at times, present in the workplace – she was once told to wear a skirt instead of jeans while working in a high precision zinc die casting factory – she does not feel her gender has ever been a barrier.

Diversity

She said: “I resolved that I did not want to change the person I was to fit in. We need women at senior levels to change the dynamic, not to become men in skirts. Coming at the job in a different way is what diversity is all about.”

When Mrs Tacon had her first child she was the only female director of global firm Redland. The company had to introduce a maternity package especially for her.

“Nowadays there is a more generous statutory maternity pay policy and many businesses have policies that go further than this. How things have changed in two generations, from losing your job if you married to shared paternity leave,” she added.

Mrs Tacon feels ‘lucky’ to have been confident in her own ability and was always happy to challenge the way things were done. Even when working in large multinational businesses, she succeeded in effecting change.

“I never considered that I had been disadvantaged throughout my career due to being female,” she added.

“On the contrary; I think I have often been noticed for being a competent female.”

Recent role

It is an attitude she has brought to her most recent role as GCA.

As the Government’s regulator, she has the power to investigate code breaches and fine up to 1 per cent of turnover – £0.5 billion for a retailer such as Tesco.

Rather than using a ‘big stick’, she said she has always taken a measured and business-like, collaborative approach.

“There could, of course, be some correlation here that women prefer non-confrontational styles. I have only done two investigations in five and-a-half years,” she said.

“But I have achieved significant change through what I deemed as a collaborative approach working with the supermarkets I regulate. I showed them how I wanted them to change rather than trying to catch them out.”

Looking ahead

In the future, Mrs Tacon thinks some businesses may need a shift in culture in order to support women – and that will take time.

She said: “The culture needs to change. But it will not change overnight. The law is on our side, but we all have to help make baby steps of progress, nudging business forwards.”

Mrs Tacon believes nurturing new talent is important. She runs the Women in Food and Farming group, which helps members develop skills and knowledge in what is still a male dominated industry.

She also chairs MDS, a not-for profit business which recruits and trains graduates in the food sector, many of them young women.

But she also admits to have been ‘gender blind’ in the past and even declined invitations to join groups to promote women.

“I wanted to be accepted for what I did, not because I was female. But I now believe that was an arrogant approach. Just because I had the confidence to be myself in a man’s world, does not mean that everyone shares that same confidence.”

Olivia Midgley

News from the Adjudicator

Report of the investigation into Co-operative Group Limited

Read the full report here.

The Times: 26/03/2019

Co-op escapes fine despite adjudicator’s scathing criticism

The grocer was told to make “major changes” to the way it deals with suppliers

The Co-operative Group has avoided a fine from the grocery regulator despite being found guilty of “widespread” failings in how it treated its suppliers.

A year-long investigation by the Groceries Code Adjudicator found that the supermarket had dropped suppliers’ products without due notice, levied unfair charges on them and unreasonably varied their supply deals.

Christine Tacon, the adjudicator, ordered the Co-op, which prides itself on its ethical behaviour, to introduce “major changes” to the way in which it engages with suppliers but stopped short of making the group the first to be fined for breaches of the legally binding code of practice, which covers Britain’s 12 largest grocers.

Ms Tacon, 59, said that the Co-op’s actions were “not malicious” and that it had repaid suppliers, which had been charged fees unfairly. The Co-op is Britain’s largest mutually owned business by membership and had sales of £9.5 billion in 2017. Its grocery arm is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, with more than 2,500 stores.

The investigation was only the second inquiry by the GCA since it was set up in 2013 and the first since it was given the power to fine supermarkets up to 1 per cent of their annual sales.

Ms Tacon was highly critical of the Co-op’s “serious” mistreatment of suppliers, saying that they had been dropped or seen their sales volume cut with “no notice or short, fixed-notice periods that were not reasonable”.

While many suppliers managed without suffering a significant financial blow, others incurred large costs, including one that suffered a £200,000 hit, she found. Large and small suppliers alike were mishandled, Ms Tacon said, as compliance with industry rules had become a “box-ticking exercise” while the group was trying to recover from a crisis that began in its banking arm in 2013. “Quality control” fees were also applied without justification.

Ms Tacon said that weaknesses in training, policies and processes for the supermarket’s buyers and “poor functioning” of the group’s IT system contributed to the problems.

Jo Whitfield, 50, chief executive of Co-op’s food business, has apologised to suppliers and refunded £650,000 to those affected. She said: “We were focused on rescuing the Co-op and doing right by consumers but we should have also given more thought to the potential impact those planned changes would have on our suppliers. We tried to move more quickly than our systems, processes and people could handle.”

Ms Tacon ordered the Co-op to make changes to its governance, audit and IT systems and to overhaul training of its buyers, and improve the way in which it communicates decisions to remove products with suppliers.

The group will have to pay the £1.3 million cost of the investigation as well as associated costs.

Behind the story
Supermarket buyers who didn’t understand legally binding industry rules. Suppliers dropped without fair warning. Fees charged without explanation. A creaking IT system that left staff unable to do their jobs properly (James Hurley writes).

As the groceries code adjudicator Christine Tacon found, the Co-operative Group’s supply chain failures were “serious” and “widespread”. So why no financial penalty?

Ms Tacon has been in her role, which was created to improve supermarkets’ treatment of suppliers, for almost six years but the Co-op is her first formal investigation since she was given the power to impose fines. She says the Co-op’s transgressions were “not malicious” and that its agreement to repay wronged suppliers and to implement a series of improvements is a much better outcome for the industry than simply issuing a fine that would go to the Treasury.

Yet these outcomes need not be mutually exclusive and a fine might be a good signal to send to errant supermarkets.

The Grocer: 26/03/2019

GCA got the right result on Co-op code compliance breaches

Read the full article here.

by Ronan Hegarty

The Grocer: 13/12/18

How the Tesco Fraud Case Improved Supplier Relations

Read the full article here

 

The Times: 02/11/2018

Ocado and B&M join grocery code

Ocado’s turnover has passed £1 billion despite it having no stores of its ownThe supermarket industry watchdog is to start monitoring how Ocado and B&M Homestores treat suppliers after their respective annual turnovers passed the £1 billion mark.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that Ocado, the online grocer, and B&M, the cut-price retailer, would be bound by the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which governs how suppliers are treated to avoid abuses of power.

For example, retailers bound by the code cannot make changes to the terms of supply retrospectively and must provide notice and give reasons when cancelling a supplier’s contract.

Compliance with the code is managed by the independent Groceries Code Adjudicator, led by Christine Tacon. Her office was set up in 2013 with powers to oversee the behaviour of ten supermarket groups, arbitrate on disputes and fine errant grocers. Its biggest investigation was into Tesco, the country’s largest grocer, which it found guilty of “serious breaches” of industry rules in 2016 as it sought to flatter its financial performance

Peter Hill, the CMA’s head of remedies enforcement, said: “These rules mean that suppliers are protected from unfair business practices, and retailers can trade with confidence on a level playing field. Businesses supplying Ocado and B&M will now also benefit from this protection.”

The decision to bring them within the code will bolster J Sainsbury’s argument that it needs to complete its merger with Asda, which will come under scrutiny by the CMA, to stay ahead of the competition.

B&M declined to comment. Its shares closed up 7 ¼ p at 424p. Ocado did not respond to requests for comment. It closed down 8½p at 846¾p.

 

Simply Supply Chain: 30/10/2018

Amazon sells over £1bn in ‘grocery’ products… but remains unaccountable to GSCOP

Letter to The Grocer, October 2018

Dear Sir

As reported last week in The Grocer ‘Women in Agribusiness Award’ the USA appear to have recognised Christine Tacon, The Grocery Code Adjudicator’s, impact on the UK Grocery retailers more fully than some of our own institutions….

As a representative of all chilled suppliers, I chair the Drop and Drive Claims Workgroup; we have been a direct beneficiary of Christine’s support to promote our campaign to eliminate unsubstantiated deductions as part of her drive to reduce delays in payments, and have seen these fall by up to 90% for those engaging in the Good Faith Receiving programmes available.

The GCA’s remit is currently under review with a number of additional retailers who sell more than £1bn in ‘Grocery’ products likely to be included, and therefore required to operate according to Christine’s established interpretation of the Grocery Code.

The definition of ‘Grocery’ is itself apparently open to interpretation and I understand the CMA is still trying to assess what sources of data are eligible to help determine whether a retailer should be included in the expanded remit. The ‘blurred line’ applies to those retailers who offer a range of products that include those found in the established grocery retailers, but whose sales are not included within the current definition of ‘grocery’ sales as captured by market research reports.

One such retailer which has avoided inclusion to date is Amazon. As a consumer, its excellent customer service and range of products is clearly extremely attractive and a significant proportion of its £2bn sales in 2017/18 must surely fall into this broader definition of grocery. As a supply chain consultant working with manufacturers and retailers, I have yet to encounter an organisation that appears to be in breach of so many elements of the Grocery Code, and so reluctant to communicate, let alone work with, its suppliers to correct its own data errors that appear to be the root-cause of many of their trading conformance breaches, which they so liberally fine suppliers for, without opportunity for redress.

We have seen how effective Christine has been with the 10 retailers who are working diligently to conform to the Grocery Code. It would be remiss if suppliers missed the opportunity to write to the CMA sharing the evidence of their sales to Amazon consumers (both directly and indirectly) in the UK, so that the CMA are made aware of the true sales of ‘grocery’ products through its platform. Only then can they be bound to the same standards that the rest of the retailers are now adopting, because it is the ‘right thing to do’ ethically and commercially.

I urge you to pick up your pens and contact the CMA immediately, as this opportunity may not present itself again for another few years, by which time it could be too late.

Jonathan Kittow

CEO Simply Supply Chain

The Grocer: 12/10/2018

Amazon should face Adjudication over conduct, claim suppliers

Read the full article here: Amazon Article

Demeter Award of Excellence

Women In Agribusiness Demeter Award of Excellence 2018

 

Hailed as a “dynamic businesswoman who has had a major impact in agribusiness and the food sector”, Christine Tacon is credited with transforming the largest farmer co-operative in the UK from operating at a huge loss to ending with an $8 million profit, and a $30 million increase in revenue. She also took on the role as the first ever sector regulator in the UK, bringing fairness to the relationship between direct suppliers and the country’s 10 biggest supermarkets by enforcing a Groceries Supply Code of Practice. Her success in pursuing breaches of the Code has been proven in annual surveys that show issues experienced by suppliers have been cut in half, and the number of retailers complying with the Code has risen dozens of percentage points.

Tacon also is the chair of Management Development Services, a recruitment and training provider for graduates of the food and produce sector, and non-executive director of Anglia Farmers, a $350 million farm-purchasing co-operative. Additionally, she is the founder of Ladies in Agriculture, created to facilitate networking and mentorship opportunities.

 

The Grocer: 31/08/2018

Christine Tacon wins Women in Agriculture Award of Excellence

Tacon

Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon has won a major international award for her “dynamic” work.

Tacon, who took up the role in 2013, was nominated by peers to receive the Women in Agribusiness Demeter Award of Excellence in the US.

The honour, which will be awarded in her absence in Denver, Colorado, later this month, recognises those who have achieved excellence in their field or demonstrated an “extraordinary contribution to the agribusiness industry”.

Tacon, who ran the Co-op farming business for more than a decade, was said to have transformed it from operating at a huge loss to ending with an “$8m” profit, and a “$30m” increase in revenue. She is now conducting an investigation into its treatment of suppliers.

The WIA added: “Her success in pursuing breaches of the Code has been proven in annual surveys that show issues experienced by suppliers have been cut in half.”

Tacon is also the chair of Management Development Services, a recruitment and training provider, and non-executive director of Anglia Farmers.

Ian Quinn

The Grocer: 29/06/2018

As retailer behaviour improves should the Adjudicator go harder or go home?

The Grocer: 28/06/2018

Holland & Barrett accused of ‘tarnishing’ Groceries Code

The Grocer: 25/06/2018

Sainsbury’s drops behind Tesco for code compliance

The Grocer: 21/06/2018

Adjudicator hits out at retailer and supplier use of ‘costly’ arbitration process

The Grocer: 21/06/2018

Extended Adjudicator remit confirmation will soothe Burnley and Coupe’s aches

The Grocer: 15/06/2018

Adjudicator role changes could cause a clash with retailers

The Grocer: 02/05/2018

As suppliers face Sainsbury’s-Asda squeeze, who can help them?

Adjudicator Christine Tacon said today that size did not matter when it came to the prospect of her protecting suppliers from a combined Sainsbury’s and Asda behemoth. 

“Size makes no difference to my ability to regulate them,” Tacon told members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee when asked by chairman Neil Parish what she planned to do to stop the companies “stitching up” their supplier base.

In fact, the Adjudicator even suggested to MPs that the small matter of the combined giant taking up more than 30% of the market might actually work in her favour.

 

“With my penalty powers I have the ability to fine in a way that’s going to hurt.

“One per cent is a lot of money for them,” said Tacon. “In fact I would argue that the larger a retailer the more they are likely to embed IT and processing systems towards being Code compliant.”

Tacon told MPs she hoped the result of the merger, if it goes through, might be to see Asda move from the bottom of the Adjudicator’s league table of behaviour to sit alongside Sainsbury’s close to the top. But the MPs seemed to fail to grasp the grim reality as far as suppliers are concerned.

That is that the Adjudicator is pretty much a spectator when it comes to stopping Sainsbury’s and Asda from what another member of the committee described as, in none-too-parliamentary terms, “screwing suppliers into the ground”.

Although at times she must have felt like she was speaking to a brick wall – and you could argue it would have just about the same impact – Tacon made it clear that price negotiations have always been outside her remit.

Mike Coupe has already suggested Asda and Sainsbury’s will be able to reduce prices by 10% across many everyday products, by making full use of their ability to squeeze their top 100 suppliers – 85% of which are the same for both companies. So is there anything to save those suppliers from Old Man Depression?

Worryingly, if you are one of them, the only sunshine on the horizon would appear to be the possible intervention of the CMA.

But when it launches its investigation into the proposed takeover, to what extent will its thinking be based on this issue of potential unfair treatment of suppliers, rather than the traditional grounds of reduced competition for consumers?

Most experts seem to think that, as with previous takeovers, the issue of store crossover and a potential reduction in consumer choice will be at the forefront of the CMA’s probe. This could result in Sainsbury’s and Asda being forced to sell off stores. (Though who will buy them, given the way the race for bricks and mortar space among supermarkets has ground to a halt, is up for question.)

But will the probe give equal priority to the potential threat of a serious lessening of competition, due to the impact on suppliers?

Will the impact of a Sainsbury’s-Asda “duopoly” on suppliers’ margins, their ability to put money into innovation and more fundamentally the reduction in the number of their routes to market, be a deciding factor?

As with a lot of the CMA’s rationale, there is very little in black and white to suggest how the authority may look beyond pins on the map to decide whether the merger gets the go-ahead.

But for those suppliers wondering how they will face up to not just one, but two grocery giants with 30% of the market, don’t expect the Groceries Code Adjudicator to be able to ride to your rescue. Whether MPs get it or not, she is powerless to intervene.

Ian Quinn

The Grocer: 30/04/2018

How scared should suppliers be about the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger? 

Sainsbury’s doesn’t much like its suppliers. Harsh, perhaps. But it’s got form, going back years, particularly on the branded side, where it’s regularly gone out of its way to drive customers towards own-label lines, through ad campaigns, till vouchers and other mechanics.

It’s also appeared the most irritable and threatening (at least publicly) towards suppliers who chose to engage with the discounters over the years.

Oh, and Sainsbury’s was the only major multiple not to participate in The Grocer’s Supplier of the Year 2018 competition (the winners, announced last week). You might think it would want to give some credit to its best-performing suppliers. And buyers from nine of the top 10 multiples responded (as well as many other smaller retailers, wholesalers and buying groups). But not Sainsbury’s. It’s above such niceties, apparently.

So it was no surprise to hear Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe identify suppliers as the greatest source of leverage in its shock merger with Asda. While insisting there will not be job cuts at Sainsbury’s and Asda (Coupe said its experience with Argos, which now employs more people than it did prior to the acquisition, was instructive), and with no store closures planned thanks to its “sweetheart” geographic fit, that puts the onus on suppliers to achieve the 10% price reduction on everyday lines that it’s held out as the most juicy and public-facing component of its ‘sharpened’ proposition.

Suppliers would deliver £350m of net synergies out of the £500m total he explained. But the gross synergy figure is much higher, in order to fund that 10% price reduction.

Yet he insisted the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger was a “great deal” for suppliers, driving greater efficiency, streamlining supply chains, enabling differentiated ranges, and the opportunity to grow sales via a more attractive proposition that would simultaneously boost footfall.

Unfortunately, lots of suppliers don’t buy that, and have been contacting The Grocer (and other media channels) to voice their concerns.

Coupe was at pains to point out he expected these synergies to come from “large, multinational suppliers, who make spectacular returns on equity and are very, very profitable. What we are trying to do is to identify synergies from those suppliers and reinvest them into UK customers.”

In other words, Coupe will take on those beastly, big, foreign suppliers on behalf of British customers.

Extra volumes

Also, the synergies would result not from seeking price reductions as a reward for extra volumes, he explained. Rather, they will come from “harmonisation” or “equalisation” of terms. The due diligence process – hosted via an anonymised, third party ‘black box’ process, to avoid competition abuse – has given both parties “a pretty good idea of the buying synergies”, he said.

“We know the arithmetic. What we don’t know is who’s buying better where. That’s all stuff to work through. But what we know is that equalising prices on the same products, the money’s there.”

He added: “We think we will be a force for good, not just in how we compete, but in terms of resilience and the capacity to compete on any number of fronts.”

How Sainsbury’s chooses to use these synergies, ie the “fronts” on which it chooses to compete, is likely to be crucial.

As we’ve seen with Aldi and Lidl, their success has come primarily from competing in areas that are NOT dominated by large, multinational suppliers. In other words, on meat and fish, fruit and veg, which are dominated by smaller players, here and abroad.

Coupe insisted at the media conference this morning that Sainsbury’s had “good supplier relations and supported British producers extensively” but that hasn’t stopped the NFU from expressing its concerns vociferously. And it’s hard to square his insistence on the excellent “cultural fit” between the two businesses and Asda’s strong admonishment by the Groceries Code Adjudicator last year over supplier bullying.

The other awkward issue for Coupe is the margin that Sainsbury’s has always expected from its suppliers. As suppliers have regularly told us, part of the reason Sainsbury’s cannot seem to compete with the discounters is the gross profit it expects to make: it often buys more cheaply but sells at a higher price, they tell me.

A ’protect choice’

On the other hand, the Sainsbury’s-Asda transaction would “protect choice”, Sainsbury’s argues, on the basis that as a supplier you’re likely to flog a far wider range of goods via a thriving full-service supermarket than if you backed the discounters with their limited ranges.

That’s long been the argument Sainsbury’s has held for supplier support.

But “while everyday value items – those that supermarkets use as benchmarks and shape price image – are likely to drop,” says James Brown, head of the retail and consumer goods practice at pricing specialists Simon-Kucher, “beyond [these lines] the impact is not at all clear.”

The question is therefore: can the CMA trust a more powerful supermarket to act on behalf of the consumer across the piece, or will it use its heft there to close off competition more generally?

Over the next 12 to 18 months, that’s what we’ll find out.

Adam Leyland

The Independent: 30/04/2018

The Sainsbury’s-Asda merger goes to the heart of what we can expect from post-Brexit Britain

The business world seems to have been taken aback by the revelation of plans for a merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda, despite the proposal being seemingly well-advanced.

If the union proceeds, it appears likely that the separate brands will nonetheless be retained, which is a shame if you were hoping to shop at Assbury.

Plainly the retention of two such household names in the retail sector will ensure continuity of identity for customers – and for in-store staff. It may also be an advance sop to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is likely to initiate an investigation into a deal that will have a significant impact on the supermarket sector.

As things stand, Sainsbury’s and Asda both have about a 15 per cent share of the UK’s grocery market. Their combined clout will put them ahead of Tesco, which has been pre-eminent for years and currently has a market share of nearly 28 per cent.

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, is the man who will lead the merger. Amid scepticism about the likelihood of staffing cuts and the possibility that less competition in the sector could actually push prices up, Coupe has been sounding positive notes. No stores will close, he says, and no in-store staff will lose their jobs (which must be reassuring to those working in the accounts department). What’s more, prices will actually come down, he contends, “by around 10 per cent on many products”.

In short, the all-important customer will benefit. Nothing for the CMA to see here.

Unions, of course, will have something to say about that, as they go into bat for employees at risk of redundancy. There will also be considerable anxiety among supermarkets suppliers, many of whom have already been squeezed by the buying power of a dominant Big Four (Morrisons being the fourth).      

It is less than a year since Asda was identified by the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) as the worst major UK supermarket insofar as its treatment of suppliers was concerned. In September, the company repaid hundreds of thousands of pounds that it had demanded up front from suppliers in return for agreeing to stock products, after the GCA’s criticism.

A year before, Tesco had been on the sharp end of a GCA report after it found the firm had knowingly delayed payments to suppliers. Morrisons came under fire in 2016 too.

Sainsbury’s has built a stronger reputation, which may bode well in the merger talks. The other firms all say they are improving supplier relationships after those recent hiccups, which may suggest that the introduction of the GCA as an independent – but government-backed – regulator in 2013 has been effective.

Given that research last year by accountancy firm Moore Stephens found that 150 suppliers were forced to close in 2016 as a result of “predatory practices” by supermarkets, it is clear that further improvements are essential.

In this context the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger could, then, provide an opportunity. Certainly it will be so heavily scrutinised that there is a hefty imperative for management to show that it can develop relationships with suppliers that are symbiotic rather than confrontational.

Indeed, the treatment of food suppliers goes beyond questions about the present corporate cause célèbre. It even goes beyond the ethical requirement per se of supermarkets to behave responsibly. Rather, it goes to the heart – or at least could go to the heart – of what kind of Britain we are going to get post-Brexit.

After all, even allowing for the ongoing uncertainty over the withdrawal process (and the faint possibility of the UK not departing), it is surely time that we began to consider how we can resolve the identity crisis that has beset Britain in the last two years. For that to happen, both sides of the debate need to consider what a UK outside the European Union will look like.

In that future, agriculture, food and corporate fairness are all potentially important components, drawing on a historic strength, a present obsession and a sense of fair play that underpins many people’s idea of Britishness (and could do with a reboot).

Sainsbury’s and Asda, as two of this country’s best known and biggest brands, should consider their future with this backdrop in mind, not simply in the context of efficiencies, market share, share price and profit.

If they don’t, perhaps our future is with Europe after all – if Lidl and Aldi have anything to do with it.

Will Gore

NAMNEWS: 23/04/2018

Tesco Working To Ensure Booker Is GSCOP Compliant

Tesco is urgently working with buyers at Booker to ensure its newly enlarged business is compliant with GSCOP rules.

With the Code currently only covering the top 10 supermarkets in the UK, Booker’s activities have not previously been covered by the Adjudicator, Christine Tacon.  However, having worked hard to improve its dealings with suppliers since the 2014 accounting scandal, Tesco is reported to have called for a “culture change” amongst buyers in the Booker operation.

Sources close to Tesco, quoted by trade magazine The Grocer, said talks have been held with Booker’s buyers as part of its ‘Joining Forces’ integration programme. They added that Booker’s previous behaviour had been allowed to go “under the radar” as the wholesaler operated outside the scope of GSCOP. However, they said Booker’s tactics as part of Tesco would now flout laws set up to protect suppliers, as it is in effect the same business.

Tacon told The Grocer she that was meeting with Tesco’s management imminently to discuss how Booker would become GSCOP compliant. She is quoted as saying: “I asked Charles Wilson about this on day one of the merger and he said it was day one and too soon. It’s no longer too soon, they are running out of time and I need some answers.”

The Grocer: 18/04/2018

Morrisons Boost Supplier Transparency with Online Portal

Morrisons has announced the launch of a new online supplier portal it claims will boost transparency and long-term relationships with its supplier base. The retailer said the move was a response to concerns from suppliers and followed other moves to simplify trading relationships in its supply chain.The free portal would include all commercial agreements stored in one, secure place, visible to both suppliers and Morrisons at the same time, it said.
It will use the portal for all information flow, handovers, delivery, approvals, reminders, filing and retrieval.

The new set-up will also include details such as promotions, cost price changes and agreements to invoice.

Morrisons said suppliers would be able to use the portal to access and view the progress of invoices; check whether invoices have been received; check if any queries need resolving; and whether invoices have been paid.

The move follows pressure from Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon, who in December urged all supermarkets to launch dedicated supplier helplines in 2018 to deal with issues such as delayed payments and disputed invoices.

Tacon called on retailers to follow the likes of Tesco and Asda in setting up dedicated helplines, as some suppliers feared raising matters such as compliance issues or delayed payment direct with buyers could lead to the threat of delisting.

Morrisons has more widely looked at how it deals with its suppliers following a probe by Tacon in 2016, which exposed demands for lump sum payments of up to £2m, though Morrisons escaped without a fine.

Other measures made by Morrisons to make its supplier relations simpler and more transparent since then include reducing the types of supplier income from 37 to three, revamping its supplier agreements and removing many of the charges that suppliers previously paid, such as for customer complaints.

Morrisons claimed it had been particularly successful in improving the number of suppliers paid on time, a figure it says is now at 99%.

“Three years ago, suppliers told us we could be easier to work with and we responded by setting out ambitions to buy and sell simply and establish lasting relationships with them,” said Michael Gleeson, Morrisons food trading director.

“Measures, such as our supplier portal, will make it easier to work with Morrisons and the initial response has been very positive.”

Gleeson added: “We will continue to listen to suppliers’ views and respond wherever possible.”

Ian Quinn

Articles written for the press

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September 2011 – Trying to make a difference

Recommendations arising from Defra’s fruit and vegetables task force review (Christine chaired the supply-chain subgroup).

February 2011 – Investing in farming’s future

A response to the Future of Farming, a three-year study headed by Professor Sir John Beddington

December 2010 – Byte-sized glad tidings to you

The advantages and disadvantages of technology in farming

October 2010 – Some time off for farmers

A comment on the long hours culture in farming

July 2010 – We are in a risky business

Managing risk in a high risk industry

May 2010 – The spirit of co-operation

The UK is competitively disadvantaged as a result of poor co-operation

March 2010 – Giving credit where it’s due

Engaging employees and getting their feedback

January 2010 – Getting the message right

Tailoring the message, for example on the issues of bovine TB, to the audience

December 2009 – Capturing the imagination

Enticing the next generation into farming

October 2009 – Leaving nothing to chance

Weather and the volatility of farming

August 2009 – Creating a lasting brand

Branding farming produce

June 2009 – Hive activity shapes future

Looking after the bees

April 2009 – There are no easy fixes

Good old fashioned soil management vs. off the shelf solutions

Financial Times: 12/04/2018

EU eyes crackdown on unfair practices by powerful food buyers

Brussels is proposing a crackdown on powerful food buyers that force predatory terms on small suppliers, in a move to protect producers that has alarmed some large European retailers. 

Phil Hogan, EU agriculture commissioner, will on Thursday unveil a package of reforms to ban “unfair” contract terms and empower national authorities to police the conduct of big buyers such as supermarkets and food production companies. 

The proposal would set minimum standards so member states can take action “to protect the more vulnerable [suppliers] in the food chain,” said Mr Hogan in an interview with the Financial Times. “If there are not unfair trading practices happening, then they [buyers] have nothing to fear,” he added. 

 

Many small-scale food producers, such as dairy farmers or fruit growers, work on tight margins and have little bargaining power when they deal with the large companies that buy their products. This leaves them vulnerable to being squeezed on contract terms they have little choice but to accept.

These small suppliers are also hesitant to complain for fear of being labelled a trouble maker or excluded from future deals

Unfair trading practices have been on Brussels’s agenda for some time, but the EU has avoided intrusive regulation. Instead, it has developed a voluntary code of conduct called the supply chain initiative, which outlines fair business practices throughout the supply chain and helps resolve disputes. 

 

Political gestures do not make for good or better regulation. This directive will not do anything to help farmers – Christian Verschueren, EuroCommerce director-general

However, some EU member states have gone further at a national level — which is one reason the European Commission thinks further action from Brussels is justified. 

Mr Hogan singled out the UK’s groceries code adjudicator set up four years ago as “a wonderful example” of what can be done.

The body monitors the 10 largest UK food retailers and their relationships with their direct domestic and international suppliers. They work with companies to address concerns but can also consider confidential complaints, make binding recommendations and levy fines of up to 1 percent of annual turnover.

After an investigation of Tesco’s payment terms in 2015, it made recommendations that all UK retailers had to implement. It recently launched a second investigation into practices at the Co-operative Group.

The EU’s proposed approach has worried some buyers, who fear it will distort the market without helping farmers in practice.

“The Commission has not produced any evidence of a structural problem or of the utility of EU legislation in resolving it,” said Christian Verschueren, director-general at EuroCommerce, an association representing retailers and wholesalers. “Political gestures do not make for good or better regulation. This directive will not do anything to help farmers.” 

The commission proposal would ban unilateral or retroactive changes to contracts and outlaw taking longer than 30 days to pay suppliers of perishable products. Another group of arrangements would only be acceptable if both buyers and sellers agreed. 

Member states would also have to designate a national enforcement authority to hear confidential complaints, launch investigations and examine suspect practices.

This national enforcer would be able to fine big buyers who unfairly trade with small and medium-sized food suppliers, defined as a company with less than 250 employees or €50m annual turnover. The size of any fines would be left to member states. The rules will cover all small suppliers, both those inside and outside of the EU.

Farmers’ representatives welcomed the proposal. “We favour strong enforcement led by an independent authority able to initiate and conduct investigations and apply deterrent sanctions in case of non-compliance,” said Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general at farmers association Copa-Cogeca.

“We want to ensure that the food supply chain works better and this needs to be done through legislation at EU level as we have clearly seen that voluntary approaches alone do not work.”

Rochelle Toplensky

The Grocer: 15/03/18

 


 

The Grocer: 19/2/2018

Taking Tacon down the farm was never going to wash

It’s no wonder farming groups are disappointed by the government’s decision not to extend the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, to cover primary producers.

Going back now at least three years, they have been strung along by successive governments into holding out hope that the Adjudicator might be ordered to descend like an avenging angel to stop them being bullied by the big, bad supermarkets.

But, in reality, even the most ardent of campaigners on the issue must have seen the writing on the wall long ago: that this was to become yet another broken government promise.

What might be more difficult for them to accept, however, is the fact that the government is, albeit after some absurdly drawn out and bungled handling, making the right decision.

It was in January 2015 that former PM David Cameron expediently dangled the carrot in front of farmers when, in the midst of a crisis over milk prices and under pressure from the Efra committee, he promised to look at extending Tacon’s remit.

Yet, despite repeated signals along similar lines, the government took until October 2016 before it eventually launched a call for evidence on the issue.

Now, nearly a year and a half later, it has come to the conclusion that there is “no clear evidence” of the need to expand the GCA’s remit to new turf, at least as far as primary producers are concerned.

It’s easy to see why the likes of the NFU and a variety of other farm campaign groups were attracted to the idea of the Adjudicator’s role being expanded. Having seen a vast improvement in the behaviour of supermarkets towards suppliers on a whole range of key issues, despite the glaring lack of formal investigative action by Tacon, why wouldn’t indirect suppliers welcome coming under her umbrella?

Yet bodies such as the BRC always strongly argued that trying to bolt on extra powers flew in the face of the raison d’être of the Adjudicator, and had warned that they were certainly not about to cough up to fund any such extended remit, as they do the current system.

Tacon herself has also made no secret of her opposition to the idea and it’s a pretty sure-fire bet that the government would be looking for a new person to fill her shoes right now should they have decided the other way.

An impossible ask

The Adjudicator rightly argued that what suppliers had in mind was an impossible ask, not just in the scale of what her already lightly manned office was being asked to do, but also because of the fundamental change in remit.

She pointed out that at their heart the calls were concerned with supermarket prices, something that the GCA was never set up to police.

Not only that, but it’s been apparent for years that extending the remit would require a fresh CMA investigation and, potentially, primary regulation, which would not only take years but, against the backdrop of Brexit, is about as unlikely as it gets.

In contrast, the decision announced last week to get the CMA to look into expanding Tacon’s remit to cover other retailers (and wholesalers) outside the top 10 supermarkets makes much more sense.

The Grocer exclusively reported way back in October 2016 that this was the course the government was more likely to go down. And while it again looks like it could be a painfully long process, there is much greater logic for the CMA to approve this direction of remit extension.

The glaring need is, of course, for suppliers to be protected against possible abuses of buying power by the looming merger of Tesco and Booker, should the merger be approved by shareholders next week.

Beyond that, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, at the very least, to support widening the Adjudicator’s powers.

It simply makes no sense that Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco are policed by Tacon, but the same is not true for the likes of Boots, Ocado and, surely at some point down the line, Amazon.

The Adjudicator was set up to ensure supermarkets’ power over suppliers did not lead to an “adverse effect on investment and innovation in the supply chain and ultimately on consumers”. So it makes no sense to persist with this artificial divide.

As for indirect producers, while it’s easy to have sympathy for farming groups, which are rightly suspicious that the government’s new £10m package of support will be anything other than sticking plaster, sadly they have been pinning their hopes for too long on a solution that was never going to happen.

Ian Quinn

The Grocer: 27/11/2017

Time for a new approach to food assurance

Does anyone remember the Efra Committee episode where Neil Parish et al tried to get Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon to answer questions on farmgate prices, despite the fact her role doesn’t have anything to do with meat and dairy farmers, or pricing?

Well, if you thought that was uncomfortable viewing, try and get hold of the tapes of the Committee’s latest inquiry into 2 Sisters and standards in poultry processing. If Parish and co’s cringeworthy questioning of Tacon was reminiscent of a bad reality TV show, their interrogation of FSA CEO Jason Feeney and others responsible for UK food safety and assurance was as relentless as The Revenant.

Their final report on the inquiry was equally damning, describing the current UK food assurance system as patchy, full of loopholes and easy to game.

In fairness to the MPs, I think most of the British public would share their outrage that, nearly five years on from Horsegate, we are dealing with yet another meat industry scandal. And just like with horsemeat, the evidence suggests this wasn’t a misdemeanour by a dodgy backstreet butcher – it was a major failure in process at one of the UK’s biggest meat suppliers, which has every accreditation under the sun.

And while horsemeat was at least brought to public attention by regulators, this latest scandal was only uncovered thanks to a tenacious undercover journalist. Had the Guardian and ITV not chosen to investigate the plant, it might still be operating in the same way.

That’s a sobering thought. And – in the words of Efra’s report – it should be a wake-up call, not only for accreditation firms but for the entire food industry.

Everyone – from food safety experts to industry leaders and trade unionists – seems to agree the current system of assurance is broken. We are in the ridiculous situation where the UK food industry is more audited than ever – which is ultimately driving up prices for the consumer – but no one is any safer than before.

In the words of Dawn Welham, technical director at Authenticate IS and president elect of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, any competent business can pass an audit. But to keep our food safe, we need to separate out the businesses that continue to do the right thing when no one is looking, from those who don’t.

It’s time for a new approach, and some much more probing questions.

Carina Perkins

 

Food Manufacture: 20/07/2017

Food Suppliers ‘Must Open Up About Retailer Abuse’

Suppliers were “finally opening up” but could still be “more forthcoming” in coming forward with their issues with retailers, Christine Tacon claimed.

Writing in her Annual Report and Accounts for 2016-2017, published at the end of June, Tacon reassured suppliers’ that their identities would be protected. “Trade associations have an important role to play in this they could do more to assist the flow of information to my office,” she added.

Tacon’s concerns followed the publication of an annual GCA survey of direct suppliers that signalled an improvement in relations with retailers for the fourth year running.

Read the full article here.

Farmers Weekly: 19/07/2017

‘Climate Of Fear’ Must Be Tackled In Grocery Market

The supermarket watchdog is making significant progress tackling unfair trading in the grocery supply chain, but more must be done to tackle the “climate of fear” that stops suppliers speaking out.

That is the conclusion of the government’s statutory review of the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA), which also said the GCA had led to a positive “cultural shift” among supermarkets in the way they treat their suppliers.

There is, however, more to be done,” – Margot James, minister for small business.

Read the full article here.

Groceries Code Adjudicator Annual Conference Report

Annual Conference 2017 – press release-1

Groceries Code Review

Significant Cultural Change In Supermarket Industry

Small Business Minister Margot James has welcomed a positive relationship change between supermarkets and their suppliers, as she publishes the first Statutory Review of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) today.

The review, which considered independent findings from YouGov alongside responses from trade associations, supermarkets and suppliers, found that the GCA, Christine Tacon CBE, has been effective in exercising her powers and enforcing the Groceries Code. Suppliers reported a positive change in their relationship with large retailers, as well as a major reduction in unfair trading practices. The number of suppliers who complained about being charged to remain on supermarkets’ supplier lists fell from 30% to 9% between 2014 and 2016, while problems with incorrect deductions from invoices fell from 47% to 30% over the same period.

A number of respondents praised Ms Tacon personally, with one citing her “wealth of knowledge and skills”. Another commented that she “holds an in-depth knowledge of the sector that is hugely beneficial.

“This review highlights the excellent work of the Groceries Code Adjudicator over the past three years. It is vital that Government and the GCA continue working together to prevent unfair treatment of smaller suppliers.

“Poor supply chain practices have no place in an economy that works for all, and I want to thank Christine for her achievements in levelling the playing field and ensuring fair treatment of suppliers and retailers alike.” – Small Business Minister Margot James

Notes to Editors:

  • Established in 2013, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, is the UK’s first adjudicator of the groceries industry, overseeing the relationship between the 10 largest supermarket chains and their suppliers.
  • In June 2017 Ms Tacon was reappointed for a second term in the role, in which she is responsible for ensuring large supermarkets treat their direct suppliers fairly and lawfully.

Press Coverage: The Grocer

How the Adjudicator has changed grocery

The Groceries Code Adjudicator’s annual conference in Westminster carried additional significance this year as it marked the end of Christine Tacon’s first term and raised questions about the organisation’s long-term direction and future remit.

The organisation has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the grocery sector. Among the standout headlines in the latest GSCOP survey was that the number of suppliers experiencing potential breaches of the code has fallen by almost a third since 2014. The proportion now stands at 56%, down from 62% last year and a high of 79% in 2014.

There has also been a significant reduction in supplier complaints on thorny issues such as forensic auditing, unjustified charges and lump sum payments. But although the survey numbers are impressive, they don’t fully reflect the positive impact the GCA has had on grocery in the four years since it was launched.

Arguably, its most important achievement has been to bring about a change in culture and behaviour. It has encouraged supermarkets to reassess their relationships with suppliers to ensure there is a collaborative benefit for both parties.

The GCA has been effective in highlighting poor or unfair practices across the sector, which has resulted in a number of retailers changing the way they work with suppliers. This, in turn, has increased trust and transparency levels across the wider industry.

It was particularly pleasing to see a record number of suppliers participate in this year’s survey, including more than 500 suppliers to our business.

This is a clear indication that suppliers have the confidence to raise issues with the Adjudicator, which bodes well for the long-term future of Aldi and the wider sector.

From a retailer’s perspective, healthy supplier relationships that benefit both sides make sound commercial sense. This has been our approach ever since Aldi opened its first UK store more than a quarter of a century ago.

We believe in open, honest dialogue with our suppliers to give them clarity and stability in their dealings with us. This builds long-term relationships and allows us to provide great products to customers and a fair deal for our suppliers.

In practice this ensures that our suppliers do not make any financial commitments without a prior agreement from us on cost, specifications and volumes.

It means our suppliers are not placed under financial strain in supporting unnecessary bogofs, multibuy promotions or charges for better positioning of goods or increased shelf space. This keeps our sales volumes and buying patterns with suppliers stable and predictable through the year.

Thanks to this approach, we have topped the GCA’s survey for the fourth consecutive year, an achievement we are incredibly proud of, and one we are committed to maintaining by working together with our suppliers.

We believe the spotlight that has been focused on the relationships between retailers and suppliers is positive and something that the GCA deserves a huge amount of credit for.

Tony Baines is MD of corporate buying at Aldi UK

Read the article here

 

CCH Daily: 30/06/2017

People in the news.

Consumer Minister Margot James has announced the reappointment of Christine Tacon CBE as the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA). Having held the role since its launch, Tacon has overseen significant progress in compliance with the Groceries Code. In 2015 she investigated alleged Code breaches by Tesco, which resulted in the supermarket adopting fairer payment practices and improved transparency in all its dealings with suppliers.

Read the full article here

Farmers Weekly: 26/06/2017

Supermarket treatment of suppliers – the good, bad and ugly

Asda and Iceland have come bottom of a league table ranking UK supermarkets on fair trading practices with suppliers, while Aldi and Sainsburys have come top.

Read the full article here

Horticulture Week: 26/06/2017

Unfair packaging charges reduced says adjudicator, but payment delays still troubling

Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Christine Tacon says the latest polling data from supermarket suppliers “demonstrate major progress across key issues” during her four years in the role. But she says payment delays remain a major issue.

 “The overall fall is welcome, but the more dramatic data comes from looking at supplier experience of issues that I have identified among my Top Five, and where I have used collaborative or more formal regulatory action to drive change.”

The figures show a fall in suppliers experiencing:

  • “forensic auditing”  – from 45% in 2014, to 12% in 2017;
  • “margin maintenance” requests, from 36% in 2014 to 10%;
  • unjustified charges for consumer complaints, down from 37% to 12%;
  • unfair packaging and design charges, down from 24% to 11%;

 “Suppliers have found the issue of packaging and design charges to be an irritant for years. Recently a supplier in the fresh produce industry told me that that they had been trying to resolve the problem of overcharging in this area for more than 10 years. But within 18 months of me focusing on the problem he was pleased to say the issue had gone away.”

 

Read the article here

The Guardian: 26/06/2017

Asda is named worst supermarket in treatment of suppliers.

Asda has been named as the worst of the UK’s major supermarkets in its treatment of suppliers. It dropped below Morrisons, which was bottom of the list last year, as the Bradford-based chain took action to improve its performance according to a survey of more than 1,200 grocery suppliers by the industry watchdog.

“We’ve listened to the GCA and worked to improve our ways of working with suppliers to ensure we’re doing our job in the best way we can. This includes ensuring our smaller suppliers are paid within 14 days, simplifying our processes, and eliminating some of our supplier charges and audits. We will also be introducing further changes, including the expansion of a dedicated helpdesk to ensure our suppliers have a single point of contact to raise any concerns.”

Christine Tacon, the grocery code adjudicator who enforces the rules and has the power to fine retailers, said that she was generally pleased with progress since she came into office four years ago. She said more suppliers were getting involved as they found that she was able to bring about real change in the grocery market.

 

Read the full article here.

Fresh Produce Journal: 26/06/2017

Groceries Code Adjudicator agrees to a further year in the post, while new survey suggests her work is having a major impact

Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon has confirmed that she will continue for a further year, while the new government evaluates the role’s remit.

“The overall fall is welcome, but the more dramatic data comes from looking at supplier experience of issues that I have identified among my Top 5 and where I have used collaborative or more formal regulatory action to drive change” 

She named her new Top 5 issues as delayed payments, forecasting, promotions, payments for better positioning and ‘pay to stay’.

“Suppliers have found the issue of packaging and design charges to be an irritant for years. Recently a supplier in the fresh produce industry told me that that they had been trying to resolve the problem of overcharging in this area for more than 10 years. But within 18 months of me focusing on the problem he was pleased to say the issue had gone away.”

“I see this as a sign that the collaborative approach that I have promoted has been a real engine of change and is achieving positive results across all retailers. I am delighted that suppliers are seeing the benefits of this change.”

Read the full article here

 

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy: 26/06/2017

Christine Tacon reappointed as Groceries Code Adjudicator

Read the full article here

April 2017 - Watchdog to quiz Tesco on Clubcard firm's 'favouritism'

Evening Standard

April 2017 - Opinion: The future of the GCA

Vegetable Farmer

March 2017 - Supermarkets in 'bullies' quiz

Sunday Mirror

February 2017 - Adjudicator rules payment for shelf space is beyond remit

The Grocer

February 2017 - Adjudicator role extension review to be postponed

The Grocer

January 2017 - Supermarkets up their game in changing trading practices

Farm Week

November 2016 - Irish Farmers' Association event

Morning Ireland Radio interview

RTE News TV report including interview

Irish Times report

AgriLand: Absence of a ban on below cost selling a major flaw
AgriLand: Primary producers often the weakest link in the food supply chain

October 2016 - Widening the GCA net: who should Tacon tackle next?

The Grocer

June 2016 - Morrisons 'Treats suppliers the worst'

The Times

Previous Board and Taskforce Memberships

NED Met Office 2013-2106 (Board and member of Audit and Risk Committee, RemCo andNomCo)

NED Ursula Agriculture 2013-2016 a technology start-up analysing satellite and drone data

Governor Harper Adams University 2012-2106

Chair Food and Drink Engineering Forum 2012-2014 across IMechE, IChemE, IBD, IFST, IET

Chair 2011 Oxford Farming Conference, Director 2009-2011

NED Farmway 2012-2013, a farm supply business which we sold

NED Rural Payments Agency, Audit & Risk Committee member DEFRA 2001-2009

Public Member Network Rail 2012-2015

DEFRA Regulatory Challenge Panel Member 2011- 2015, including legislation on water abstraction

Member Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) Business Advisory Board 2012-2014

Member Rabobank Agricultural Advisory Board 2004-2011

Member Implementation Group of the Strategy for the Future of Food and Farming DEFRA 2003-2006

Sub-group Chair Food Growing in Schools Taskforce to DEFRA, DoE, DoH 2011-2012

Sub-group Chair Fruit and Vegetable Taskforce to DEFRA, DoH 2009-2010

Trustee Forum for the Future 2003-2006

April 2016 - Adjudicator warns extending remit will not resolve farmers' price woes

FG Insight

February 2016 - Tacon sends out clear message to the big retailers

Farming Life

February 2016 - The Grocer Power List 2016

“She’s been dubbed ‘Take on Tacon’. And who can doubt her resolve after her damning report into the ‘shocking’ negotiation tactics of Tesco?”

powerlist_sm

View article

January 2016 - Tesco seriously breached industry code by delaying payments to suppliers, says report

ITV.com

January 2016 - Tesco Prioritised Finances Over Suppliers

Sky.com

January 2016 - Tesco knowingly delayed payments to suppliers

BBC News

January 2016 - Tesco delayed payments to suppliers to boost profits, watchdog finds

The Guardian

January 2016 - Tesco breached Code

Gov.UK

January 2016 - Tesco 'acted_unreasonably' towards suppliers

Fast FT

December 2015 - Tacon slams calls for GCA role in prices row

The Grocer

December 2015 - Stronger regulation will improve supplier relations

Retail Week

December 2015 - I’m a GCA, get me out of here!

The Grocer

June 2015 - Suppliers cry 'foul' over supermarket behaviour

The Times

June 2015 - Tesco at heart of most complaints to watchdog from food suppliers

Yorkshire Post

June 2015 - Supplier survey shames grocers

Daily Mail

June 2015 - Suppliers still unhappy with Tesco's deals, says watchdog

The Independent

ESRC Seminar Series: "Food and Corporations" - City University London 30 March 2015

ESRC Seminar Series:
ESRC Seminar Series: “Food and Corporations” – see session 11

May 2015 - The Agri Brigade

Private Eye

April 2015 - David Cameron responds to a grilling by The Grocer

Full article – part 1

Full article – part 2

Extract covering the Groceries Code Adjudicator

Working for fairness in the groceries supply chain

Working for fairness in the groceries supply chain
Working for fairness in the groceries supply chain.

Feb 2015 - Boring is better than beaten

Farmers Weekly

Feb 2015 - GCA Christine Tacon on Managing Supplier Relationships

CEB Procurement Leadership Council

Feb 2015 - Guest comment in The Promar Digest

Promar Digest

Feb 2015 - Suppliers scared to blow whistle on big retailers

Observer

Feb 2015 - Troubled Tesco faces another enquiry

The Guardian

Feb 2015 - Watchdog warns UK stores over Tesco probe

Financial Times

Feb 2015 - Grocery regulator launches inquiry into Tesco's treatment of suppliers

Supply Management

Jan 2015 - Standing up for suppliers

London Evening Standard

Jan 2015 - Tacon takes on Tesco

The Grocer

Jan 2015 - Tacon with teeth

The Grocer

Oct 2014 - Tacon wants Tesco to review Groceries Code compliance

Aberdeen Press & Journal

Oct 2014 - Watchdog: spill the beans on supermarket abuses

The Times

Oct 2014 - Hidden fees fuel a third of supermarket profits

MailOnline

June 2014 - Groceries Code boss sees gains

Three Counties Farmer

May 2014 - GCA marks first year with major conference and market survey

Fresh Plaza

Toughen up: what Australia’s supermarket code could learn from the UK

This is an interesting opinion piece by Professor Caron Beaton-Wells drawing attention to the weaknesses of the Australian code as compared to the UK model.

""

March 2014 - Food and Farming need women leaders

Country Life: Agromenes

March 2014 - Keeping supermarkets in line

Stuff.co.nz

February 2014 - Supermarkets urged to review forensic auditors' six-year-old-money claims

Southern Farmer

February 2014 - Consuming issues: Tacon's role broader than she thinks

Just-Food

February 2014 - Tacon warns retailers over 'forensic' auditing of suppliers

The Grocer

February 2014 - Elliott & Tacon star turns at UK seminar on supply chain

Just-Food

December 2013 - Fair Food Chain discussed in Brussels

Farm Week

December 2013 - Groceries Code Adjudicator Outlines Powers

Footprint

December 2013 - Groceries Code Adjudicator heads to Brussels

NFU Online

December 2013 - Supermarket watchdog says suppliers avoid complaining

BBC News

October 2013 - UFU meet UK Groceries Code Adjudicator

Farming Life

October 2013 - Unfair supply chain practices tops agenda in UFU meeting

Farm Week 7 October 2013

October 2013 - Stormont Agriculture Committee meet with Groceries Code Adjudicator

Farm Week 3 October 2013

October 2013 - O'Neill discusses concerns with Groceries Code Adjudicator

Farm Week 3 October 2013

October 2013 - No help for farmers from Adjudicator

Farm Week 3 October 2013

October 2013 - UK food industry praises Appetite for Engineering

Food Processing (www.fponthenet.net)

September 2013 - An appetite for innovation, but no investment to feed it

Cambridge Consultants

September 2013 - Catch 22 for women Neds

""Sunday Times 8 September 2013

One Woman's Career - RBS Focused Women presentation

""

Presentation at a Focused Women event (attended by men as well as women) in Manchester to RBS and its guests. See also Recommendations.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator

gcathumb

Presentation explaining the role of the Groceries Code Code Adjudicator.

July 2013 - Adjudicator proposes 1% of turnover fines

The Grocer

July 2013 - Rogue retailers face £500m fine

Farmers Weekly

July 2013 - AgriChatUK - “One hour special with Christine Tacon, Grocery Code Adjudicator”

Tweet-based discussion on AgriChatUK

June 2013 - UK appoints regulator to protect grocery suppliers

Financial Times

June 2013 - UK supermarkets could face big fines, says tough-talking retail watchdog

Knight Frank – The Rural Bulletin

June 2013 - Met Office announces new non-executive directors

Met Office website

Under Pressure

Food Processing

April 2013 – Tacon sets out stall on key role in food chain

The Courier

March 2013 - Supermarkets watchdog gets ready to 'sort out the bullies'

Guardian.co.uk

Stargrazing: technology and its potential impact on water in agriculture

stargrazing

Presentation at Pinsent Masons to city investors.

Current Board and Committee Roles

Groceries Code Adjudicator a BIS Ministerial Appointment (2013-present)
The role was created to encourage, enforce and monitor adherence to the Groceries Supply Code of Practice by the 10 UK grocery retailers with turnover >£1bn in dealing with their direct suppliers. I have the power to launch investigations and to impose sanctions, including penalties up to 1% of UK turnover. The UK is unique in having a regulator and legally binding Code, so I am consulted by the European Commission and other countries facing the same supply chain issues.

  • Considerable public profile achieved, building awareness amongst suppliers to raise issues
  • Pioneered working in a collaborative way as a regulator, as well as using investigative powers
  • Demonstrable success in changing retailer behaviour and improving compliance
  • Completed investigation into Tesco plc
  • 2 arbitrations complete and 2 in progress

This is a 3 day/week position supported by an office staffed by civil servants on secondment.

Chair Management Development Services (MDS) Ltd (May 2016)
An organisation running a 2 year graduate training programme on behalf of its members who are produce growers and processors in the food chain.

Non-Executive Director Anglia Farmers (Co-opted), Chair of RemCo and NomCo (2012 to present)
A £250m farmer-controlled co-operative, co-ordinating the purchase of inputs and products to its 4000 members across the UK. AF has experienced substantial growth over 10 years.

  • Encouraged and established board committees and best practice in talent management
  • Driven joint board and executive strategic planning, focusing on growth

Member Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) (2012, ending 2017)
NERC has a crucial role in directing where research is needed and funded. It includes the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, National Oceanographic Centre, British Antarctic Survey and British Geological Survey.

  • Ensured industry is represented and understood on a board mostly made up of scientists

BBC Rural Affairs Advisory Committee, Chair 3 days p.a. (2005 to present)
The meetings are attended by producers and researchers of programmes such as BBC News, Costing the Earth and Countryfile. Our role is to ensure the programmes remain topical and accurate.

BIS Select Committee approves my appointment to GCA

The Business Industry and Skills (BIS) Select Committee, who have scrutinised the Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill, asked for a pre-appointment hearing to meet the Government’s proposed candidate for the post of Groceries Code Adjudicator. This was a specially convened meeting in the House of Commons, which lasted an hour with questions on my experience and how I was going to approach the role. The full script will be made available, I currently have the draft to correct for typos. It was filmed and mentioned on Today in Parliament

February 2013 - Fresh Produce Journal

This issue of the FPJ covers Christine’s presentation to students at the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing together with an interview following her appointment as Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Fresh Produce Journal (February 2013)

What does the future hold for the UK agricultural sector? - January 2013

Christine was the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, speaking on the topic ‘What does the future hold for the UK agricultural sector?’.

A summary of the talk is included in the ICAEW Farming and Rural Business Group News

February 2013 - BBC Costing The Earth

BBC Costing the Earth

 

January 2013 - Christine Tacon appointed Groceries Code Adjudicator

Media coverage includes:

BBC One Breakfast

Metro

Mirror Online: Supermarket tsar_Christine Tacon appointed Groceries Code Adjudicator

Retail Week: Five reasons why Christine Tacon may prove an astute appointment as Groceries Code Adjudicator

The Grocer: Tacon named as Groceries Code Adjudicator

NFU: Groceries code appointment – NFU response

Farming UK: Tacon appointed as new supermarket adjudicator

Food Manufacture: Christine Tacon appointed groceries code adjudicator

Just Food: UK Groceries Code Adjudicator appointed

Just Food: BRC cautiously welcomes grocery adjudicator Tacon

New Statesman: Five questions answered on the first appointed supermarket ombudsman

The future of satellites in agriculture - December 2012

Christine Tacon - European Space Solutions - thumbnailPresentation by Christine (keynote speaker) at European Space Solutions agriculture session. Details on the ESS conference website.

Interests

Regular participant in London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 1903 AutocarChristine Tacon - London-Brighton-2011, rallied from Paris to Monaco in 1953 Morris Minor and have owned 1929 Austin 7 since learning to drive in it
Narrowboat owner, travelled from Macclesfield to London for the Olympics
Sustainable building: worked on Co-operative Group Eco-Town bid, got planning permissions for “home grown” house on Co-op farm and converted own barn with rainwater harvesting, ground source heating, sedum roof and new building materials

December 2011- "A farmer and a woman" - The new Fellow securing food for the nation

Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Speech to Order of British Empire Lunch - May 2010

Speech to Order of British Empire Lunch - May 2010Given by Christine in response to the given title “Unusual situations I have had to address running the Co-operative Farms”.

Notes on Food Security - May 2011

Notes on Food Security (PDF 232KB, new window)Prepared by Christine in response to Professor Sir John Beddington’s Foresight Report into the Future of Food and Farming.

Lincoln Food Lecture

Shaping Up (PDF 1.5MB, new window)

Address by Christine to the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society Annual spring lecture.

Awards/Education/Interests

Honorary Professor, Harper Adams University 2016

Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa, Cranfield University 2014

CBE for Services to Agriculture in 2004

Chartered Engineer, FIMechE, FIAgrE, FRSA, FRAgS, Chartered Environmentalist
MBA Cranfield University

MEng and MA Cambridge University, Production Engineering

Fluent French and German speaker, basic Spanish

Vintage and veteran cars: participant in London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in a 1903 Autocar. Christine Tacon - London-Brighton-2011

Enjoy narrowboating, dog-walking, vegetable growing, cross-country skiing and adventure holidays.

Employment

The Co-operative Group, Managing Director Co-operative Farms 2000-Jan 2012
Executive board member Co-operative Food (simultaneous) 2010-Jan 2012
New Zealand Dairy Board (now Fonterra), Commercial Director Anchor Foods UK 1996-2000
Redland Plc, Marketing Director Redland Bricks 1994-1996
Vodafone, Marketing Consultant to National Lottery Bid 1993-1994
Wang UK, Marketing Director 1992-1993
Mars Confectionery, Marketing Manager, Production Planner 1985-1992
Coats Viyella, Quality Manager Dynacast UK, Trainee Dynacast Germany, France 1982-1985

Previous Non-executive Experience

Public Member of Network Rail acting as a shareholder, representing the public interest, holding the Executive and Non-Executive board to account 2012-2015
Chair Food and Drink Engineering Forum operating across IMechE, IChemE, IAgrE, IBD, IFST, IET 2012-2014
Business Advisory Board Member for Living with Environmental Change, a partnership of the Research Councils reporting to BISNED 2011-2014
Farmway 2012-2013, a farm supply business which I led to a sale, completed March 2013
NED Rural Payments Agency, Audit & Risk Committee member DEFRA 2001-2009
Member Implementation Group of the Strategy for the Future of Food and Farming DEFRA 2003-2006
Trustee Forum for the Future 2003-2006
Rabobank Agricultural Advisory Board 2004-2011
Chair 2011 Oxford Farming Conference, Director 2009-2011 Oxford Farming Conference (new window)
Sub-group Chair Food Growing in Schools Taskforce to DEFRA, DoE, DoH 2011-2012
Sub-group Chair Fruit and Vegetable Taskforce to DEFRA, DoH 2009-2010
Member HRH Prince’s Rural Action Programme 2007-2008
Judge 2012 BBC Food and Farming Awards, Farmer of the Year and Big Food Idea (retail/supply)
Member of LWEC Review Panel 2012

 

Executive experience 1982 to 2012

11 years in the Co-operative Group as Managing Director of the Co-operative Farms (now owned by the Wellcome Trust), including a year on the Co-operative Food Executive Board

  • Credited with turning round the farming business, losing £6m p.a, to one of the most respected farming businesses in the UK, in 2011 making £6m profit
  • Integrated production vertically into packing and branded produce in Co-op stores
  • Encouraged co-operation in machinery sharing, input purchasing and focus on R&D
  • Initiated the award-winning “From Farm to Fork” project which has had over 250k school children spend an educational day on a farm and Habitat Heroes, a project enhancing the environment for red-listed species on the farms
  • The farm sold at £50m premium to the value of the land, which I perceive as the value I added

 

12 years in fast moving consumer goods: brand management with Mars Confectionery and Vodafone and Marketing Director at Anchor Foods (now Fonterra)

  • Launched the Tracker brand at Mars Confectionery and created the Milky Way advertising still known to children today (through You Tube). Was one of the first engineers to be recruited into marketing and used my analysis of data to make significant differences in strategy.
  • Created the Free Range butter campaign for Anchor which ran for 15 years
  • Worked as a consultant for Vodafone for a year on their National Lottery bid

 

5 years in engineering with Coats Viyella (Germany, France, UK) and Marketing Director, Redland Bricks

  • 3 years at Coats Viyella in Dynacast, the high precision zinc die-casting subsidiary mainly supplying the motor industry. Trainee then Quality Assurance Manager
  • Redland Bricks was owned by Redland plc, I was the only female director in the plc. I used traditional marketing skills to increase margins considerably in the bricks business.

 

The Co-operative Group, Managing Director Co-operative Farms 2000-2012
New Zealand Dairy Board (now Fonterra), Commercial Director Anchor Foods UK 1996-2000
Redland Plc, Marketing Director Redland Bricks 1994-1996
Vodafone, Marketing Consultant to National Lottery Bid 1993-1994
Wang UK, Marketing Director 1992-1993
Mars Confectionery, Marketing Manager, Production Planner 1985-1992
Coats Viyella, Quality Manager Dynacast UK, Trainee Dynacast Germany, France 1982-1985

October 2012 - BBC Farmer of the Year finalists

Christine was a judge in the BBC Food and Farming awards and can be heard on three broadcasts meeting the finalists vying for the title of Farmer of the Year:
Farmer of the Year finalist: Tom Rawson
Farmer of the Year finalist: Henry Edmunds
Farmer of the Year finalist: Guy Watson

2000-Jan 2012 Co-operative Farms

Transformed the Co-operative Group’s farming business from a £6m loss, £40m turnover in 2000 to £6m profit and £65m turnover

  • restructured and removed layers of management
  • took major decisions such as exiting dairy farming and expanding into fresh produce packing
  • de-risked operations through hedging currency and fuel, selling forwards and introducing risk management principles to the industry

Drove a cultural change within the business

  • integrated Farms with the rest of the Co-operative Group, connecting farmers with Group initiatives, such as educating children and wildlife conservation initiatives, and raising awareness in the Group of the power of the farming business to support the brand
  • achieved the highest employee engagement scores in the Group

Inspired and led the branding of Co-operative Farms

  • led branding of fresh produce packs in store
  • secured extensive PR coverage
  • initiated the multi-award winning “From Farm to Fork” schools education project: over 60k primary school children have spent an educationally structured day on a farm to date

Influenced the farming industry

  • member of the DEFRA sponsored Implementation Group of the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy, setting a new strategic direction for the industry including a requirement for farmers to connect with their markets
  • implemented industry leading Environmental Management System and species protection project (Habitat Heroes)
  • networked with landowners, government, BBC, EU, industry leaders and grower groups leading to demonstrable change in strategy and communication e.g. CAP Reform implementation, cattle movement process to contain TB and advising Countryfile which is now the most watched factual programme by the BBC
  • speaking engagements including the Oxford Farming Conference, 2011 City Food Lecture, numerous farmer discussion groups, TV and radio

1996-2000 Anchor Foods Ltd (now Fonterra)

UK turnover £300m
Sales Director and Commercial Director

Promoted in 1999 to Sales Director of a demoralised, not highly respected sales force. Further promoted to Commercial Director.

refocused the team on the customer, increasing visits to customers at all levels, including other functions, and started a new focus on convenience and foodservice.
introduced tighter disciplines of monitoring performance and much tighter integration with marketing.
started much improved co-ordination with manufacturing to reduce costs across the supply chain, and drove value chain initiative project starting at the customer end.
drove new initiatives to exceed budget, in particular in foodservice and a strategy to dominate own label indirectly.
kept team morale high during a difficult few months of being caught in a price war, followed by complete customer service failure, leading to delistings, compensation claims.
high level of networking through election to regional CBI council, marketing society and an informal group of marketing and managing directors meeting for quarterly dinners.

Marketing Director

Inherited poorly regarded team.

recruited a new team, managing the departure of most of the old, with no dismissals, but setting new standards through use of interim managers and recruits. My successor was one of the new recruits.
developed a new brand equity with the use of ‘Free Range’ for Anchor butter involving advertising, repackaging and extension to new products.
redirected aerosol cream from decline and price focus to growth and added value/interest strategy, increasing profitability by factor of 2.
raised level of consumer insight, increasing depth of strategic thought.
introduced Idea to Market disciplines, throughout the company, including Business Activity Recommendations for all major initiatives.
raised skills in understanding profitability and financial justifications, always in control of budgets.
created new open plan office environment from the ‘archive floor’, breaking down silos of cheese vs butter vs cream and hierarchies as a result, and strong teamwork.

December 2011- "A farmer and a woman" - The new Fellow securing food for the nation

Institution of Mechanical Engineers (PDF 2.3MB, new window)

September 2012 - Anglia Farmers - Non Executive Director

I have been co-opted as a Non Executive Director of Anglia Farmers, the £250m turnover buying group commencing Sept 2012.

Anglia Farmers Limited

September 2012 - Network Rail - Public member

I have been accepted as a Public Member of Network Rail: there are 30 Public Members who act as shareholders, serving a 3 year term commencing Nov 2012.

Network Rail: Our Members

September 2012 - Christine Tacon joins the board of Anglia Farmers 

Anglia Farmers website (PDF 455KB, new window)

August 2012 - Interview with Labour Party researcher

We discussed a range of food and farming issues.

Interview notes

June 2012 - BBC Radio on the hunt for 'big food ideas'

The Grocer

May 2012 - Tacon takes on chair of arable farming venture

The Grocer

April 2012 - The Female FTSE Board Report 2012

Cranfield School of Management – report on progress on women on boards, produced for the Lord Davies ‘One year on’ event

April 2012 - Few regrets from time as Britain's biggest farmer

The Press and Journal

Report of the Fruit and Vegetables Task Force - August 2010

Report of the Fruit and Vegetables Task Force (PDF 474KB, new window)Final report as prepared by DEFRA and agreed by the Taskforce of which Christine was a sub-group chair.

February 2012 - LWEC Review

Living with Environmental Change was set up to coordinate the work of the Research Councils. It is customary to have reviews of effectiveness and I have been invited onto the panel to look into this. It will be an interesting exercise as I have only just joined the Business Advisory Board arm of

February 2012 - Farms chief bids a fond farewell to growing business

Co-operative News

The Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy, Three Years On - Reflections on progress - 2006

Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy  (PDF 75KB, new window)
Report by Lord Curry, Chair of the Implementation Group, of which Christine was a member.

January 2012 - Farmway Ltd

I am now an Independent Non Executive Director of Farmway Ltd and have had my first board meeting.

January 2012 - Harper Adams University

I have accepted an invitation to be a Governor at Harper Adams.

December 2011- Carr's corner

Crops

October 2011 - Local farmer champions home-grown food

Goole Times

October 2011 - Farmer is Co-op's onion king

Cambridgeshire Times

October 2011- Co-op to promote British farmers

International Supermarket News

September 2011- Co-operative Farms boss steps down

Farmers Weekly

September 2011- Co-op Farms chief resigns

Farmers Guardian

August 2011- Standing out from the crowd

Unknown source

August 2011- Christine's aim is to grow the Co-op's business organically

Greater Manchester Business Week

July 2011- Reasheath provides tailored training for The Co-operative Farms

Macclesfield Express

June 2011- Life in the fast lane

Fresh Produce Journal

June 2011- The Co-operative Group

Sunday Times

Co-operative lifeline for red squirrels in Perthshire

Scotland Food and Drink

Farm hopes more otters will follow in green scheme

Eastern Dailly Press

Plans to save the water vole

Hull Daily Mail 

Owls offered 'super-sized' homes

BBC website

Farm joins trial to boost nature

Leicester Mercury

Blair farm welcomes the 'Habitat Heroes'

Eastern Daily Press

April 2011- Round up: Co-operative Group sponsors online coverage of Oxford Farming Conference

Scottish Farmer

April 2011- In brief: Co-operative financial results

Fresh Produce Journal

April 2011- Co-operative Farms lead the way with a national apprenticeship scheme role

British Farmer & Grower

April 2011- Co-op eyes leading food security role

British Farmer & Grower

March 2011 - Hard worker has loved each minute of a life on the land

Yorkshire Post

2016

November 2016 - Irish Farmers' Association event

Morning Ireland Radio interview

RTE News TV report including interview

Irish Times report

AgriLand: Absence of a ban on below cost selling a major flaw
AgriLand: Primary producers often the weakest link in the food supply chain

October 2016 - Widening the GCA net: who should Tacon tackle next?

The Grocer

June 2016 - Morrisons 'Treats suppliers the worst'

The Times

April 2016 - Adjudicator warns extending remit will not resolve farmers' price woes

FG Insight

February 2016 - Tacon sends out clear message to the big retailers

Farming Life

February 2016 - The Grocer Power List 2016

“She’s been dubbed ‘Take on Tacon’. And who can doubt her resolve after her damning report into the ‘shocking’ negotiation tactics of Tesco?”

powerlist_sm

View article

January 2016 - Tesco seriously breached industry code by delaying payments to suppliers, says report

ITV.com

January 2016 - Tesco Prioritised Finances Over Suppliers

Sky.com

January 2016 - Tesco knowingly delayed payments to suppliers

BBC News

January 2016 - Tesco delayed payments to suppliers to boost profits, watchdog finds

The Guardian

January 2016 - Tesco breached Code

Gov.UK

January 2016 - Tesco 'acted_unreasonably' towards suppliers

Fast FT

2015

December 2015 - Tacon slams calls for GCA role in prices row

The Grocer

December 2015 - Stronger regulation will improve supplier relations

Retail Week

December 2015 - I’m a GCA, get me out of here!

The Grocer

June 2015 - Suppliers cry 'foul' over supermarket behaviour

The Times

June 2015 - Tesco at heart of most complaints to watchdog from food suppliers

Yorkshire Post

June 2015 - Supplier survey shames grocers

Daily Mail

June 2015 - Suppliers still unhappy with Tesco's deals, says watchdog

The Independent

May 2015 - The Agri Brigade

Private Eye

April 2015 - David Cameron responds to a grilling by The Grocer

Full article – part 1

Full article – part 2

Extract covering the Groceries Code Adjudicator

Feb 2015 - Boring is better than beaten

Farmers Weekly

Feb 2015 - GCA Christine Tacon on Managing Supplier Relationships

CEB Procurement Leadership Council

Feb 2015 - Guest comment in The Promar Digest

Promar Digest

Feb 2015 - Suppliers scared to blow whistle on big retailers

Observer

Feb 2015 - Troubled Tesco faces another enquiry

The Guardian

Feb 2015 - Watchdog warns UK stores over Tesco probe

Financial Times

Feb 2015 - Grocery regulator launches inquiry into Tesco's treatment of suppliers

Supply Management

Jan 2015 - Standing up for suppliers

London Evening Standard

Jan 2015 - Tacon takes on Tesco

The Grocer

Jan 2015 - Tacon with teeth

The Grocer

2014

Oct 2014 - Tacon wants Tesco to review Groceries Code compliance

Aberdeen Press & Journal

Oct 2014 - Watchdog: spill the beans on supermarket abuses

The Times

Oct 2014 - Hidden fees fuel a third of supermarket profits

MailOnline

June 2014 - Groceries Code boss sees gains

Three Counties Farmer

May 2014 - GCA marks first year with major conference and market survey

Fresh Plaza

March 2014 - Food and Farming need women leaders

Country Life: Agromenes

March 2014 - Keeping supermarkets in line

Stuff.co.nz

February 2014 - Supermarkets urged to review forensic auditors' six-year-old-money claims

Southern Farmer

February 2014 - Consuming issues: Tacon's role broader than she thinks

Just-Food

February 2014 - Tacon warns retailers over 'forensic' auditing of suppliers

The Grocer

February 2014 - Elliott & Tacon star turns at UK seminar on supply chain

Just-Food

2013

Toughen up: what Australia’s supermarket code could learn from the UK

This is an interesting opinion piece by Professor Caron Beaton-Wells drawing attention to the weaknesses of the Australian code as compared to the UK model.

""

December 2013 - Fair Food Chain discussed in Brussels

Farm Week

December 2013 - Groceries Code Adjudicator Outlines Powers

Footprint

December 2013 - Groceries Code Adjudicator heads to Brussels

NFU Online

December 2013 - Supermarket watchdog says suppliers avoid complaining

BBC News

October 2013 - UFU meet UK Groceries Code Adjudicator

Farming Life

October 2013 - Unfair supply chain practices tops agenda in UFU meeting

Farm Week 7 October 2013

October 2013 - Stormont Agriculture Committee meet with Groceries Code Adjudicator

Farm Week 3 October 2013

October 2013 - O'Neill discusses concerns with Groceries Code Adjudicator

Farm Week 3 October 2013

October 2013 - No help for farmers from Adjudicator

Farm Week 3 October 2013

October 2013 - UK food industry praises Appetite for Engineering

Food Processing (www.fponthenet.net)

September 2013 - An appetite for innovation, but no investment to feed it

Cambridge Consultants

September 2013 - Catch 22 for women Neds

""Sunday Times 8 September 2013

July 2013 - Adjudicator proposes 1% of turnover fines

The Grocer

July 2013 - Rogue retailers face £500m fine

Farmers Weekly

June 2013 - UK appoints regulator to protect grocery suppliers

Financial Times

June 2013 - UK supermarkets could face big fines, says tough-talking retail watchdog

Knight Frank – The Rural Bulletin

June 2013 - Met Office announces new non-executive directors

Met Office website

Under Pressure

Food Processing

April 2013 – Tacon sets out stall on key role in food chain

The Courier

March 2013 - Supermarkets watchdog gets ready to 'sort out the bullies'

Guardian.co.uk

February 2013 - Fresh Produce Journal

This issue of the FPJ covers Christine’s presentation to students at the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing together with an interview following her appointment as Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Fresh Produce Journal (February 2013)

February 2013 - BBC Costing The Earth

BBC Costing the Earth

 

January 2013 - Christine Tacon appointed Groceries Code Adjudicator

Media coverage includes:

BBC One Breakfast

Metro

Mirror Online: Supermarket tsar_Christine Tacon appointed Groceries Code Adjudicator

Retail Week: Five reasons why Christine Tacon may prove an astute appointment as Groceries Code Adjudicator

The Grocer: Tacon named as Groceries Code Adjudicator

NFU: Groceries code appointment – NFU response

Farming UK: Tacon appointed as new supermarket adjudicator

Food Manufacture: Christine Tacon appointed groceries code adjudicator

Just Food: UK Groceries Code Adjudicator appointed

Just Food: BRC cautiously welcomes grocery adjudicator Tacon

New Statesman: Five questions answered on the first appointed supermarket ombudsman

2012

October 2012 - BBC Farmer of the Year finalists

Christine was a judge in the BBC Food and Farming awards and can be heard on three broadcasts meeting the finalists vying for the title of Farmer of the Year:
Farmer of the Year finalist: Tom Rawson
Farmer of the Year finalist: Henry Edmunds
Farmer of the Year finalist: Guy Watson

September 2012 - Christine Tacon joins the board of Anglia Farmers 

Anglia Farmers website (PDF 455KB, new window)

August 2012 - Interview with Labour Party researcher

We discussed a range of food and farming issues.

Interview notes

June 2012 - BBC Radio on the hunt for 'big food ideas'

The Grocer

May 2012 - Tacon takes on chair of arable farming venture

The Grocer

April 2012 - The Female FTSE Board Report 2012

Cranfield School of Management – report on progress on women on boards, produced for the Lord Davies ‘One year on’ event

April 2012 - Few regrets from time as Britain's biggest farmer

The Press and Journal

February 2012 - Farms chief bids a fond farewell to growing business

Co-operative News

July-December 2011

December 2011- "A farmer and a woman" - The new Fellow securing food for the nation

Institution of Mechanical Engineers

December 2011- Carr's corner

Crops

October 2011 - Local farmer champions home-grown food

Goole Times

October 2011 - Farmer is Co-op's onion king

Cambridgeshire Times

October 2011- Co-op to promote British farmers

International Supermarket News

September 2011- Co-operative Farms boss steps down

Farmers Weekly

September 2011- Co-op Farms chief resigns

Farmers Guardian

August 2011- Standing out from the crowd

Unknown source

August 2011- Christine's aim is to grow the Co-op's business organically

Greater Manchester Business Week

July 2011- Reasheath provides tailored training for The Co-operative Farms

Macclesfield Express

‘Habitat Heroes’ campaign – June 2011

Co-operative lifeline for red squirrels in Perthshire

Scotland Food and Drink

Farm hopes more otters will follow in green scheme

Eastern Dailly Press

Plans to save the water vole

Hull Daily Mail 

Owls offered 'super-sized' homes

BBC website

Farm joins trial to boost nature

Leicester Mercury

Blair farm welcomes the 'Habitat Heroes'

Eastern Daily Press

Jan-June 2011

June 2011- Life in the fast lane

Fresh Produce Journal

June 2011- The Co-operative Group

Sunday Times

April 2011- Round up: Co-operative Group sponsors online coverage of Oxford Farming Conference

Scottish Farmer

April 2011- In brief: Co-operative financial results

Fresh Produce Journal

April 2011- Co-operative Farms lead the way with a national apprenticeship scheme role

British Farmer & Grower

April 2011- Co-op eyes leading food security role

British Farmer & Grower

March 2011 - Hard worker has loved each minute of a life on the land

Yorkshire Post

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© 2018 by Christine Tacon