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Wholesaler Up Close: M.J. Baker Foodservice

M.J. Baker Foodservice Ltd has been successfully trading for 17 years and is one of the West Country’s leading independent foodservice wholesalers for both public and private sector catering companies.

Launched in 1999 the company prides itself on competitive pricing, its large product ranges and its dedicated and efficient team. Aiming to work with customers to meet their needs and build strong partnerships within the industry.

Complying with European Legislation

The dramatic change in European legislation in December 2014 (EU Food Information Regulation No. 1169/2011 (FIR) / Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIC)) meant that caterers, foodservice and various other companies within the food industry had to change the way they present all food allergen information on labels and had to be able to provide information on the 14 major food allergens.

M.J Baker Foodservice’s Operations Director Jo Baker was very proactive in her approach to the changes and knew that although this was a change in regulation that wouldn’t affect her business directly, she knew that it was going to have a big impact on her customers, who are all catering companies.

She said: “Beforehand there was no legal requirement to display allergen and nutritional information. However when the legislation came into place we recognised that this would be a real issue for our customers, who are all in the foodservice industry.

“As a business you have two options, to continue doing what you’re doing and ignore the dramatic change in regulation that could catch out your customers, or make a small investment to work with them and make sure they’re suitably prepared.

“We were introduced to Erudus through being a Fairway Foodservice member and were delighted after they told us what they could do and just how quickly they could go ahead and seamlessly implement a process to help our customers.

“As a business you have two options, to continue doing what you’re doing and ignore the dramatic change in regulation that could catch out your customers, or make a small investment to work with them and make sure they’re suitably prepared.

What is Erudus?

Erudus was developed specifically for the food industry working with caterers, wholesalers and manufacturers together. Since its launch two years ago it has quickly become the front-running industry solution with an easily accessible and cost-effective system to retrieve exact nutritional data on thousands of products.

The system specialises in picking up the 14 major food allergens in products meaning all users can source information quickly and easily allowing them to comply with EU food Information Regulation No.1169/2011 (FIR) and Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIC.)

Just like it’s used on the M.J. Baker Foodservice website. Erudus is fully integrated into your company website, meaning that you’re not directing your customers to any third-party sites and also encouraging them to visit your website too, driving traffic in the process.

To help the process even further, Erudus also supplies free downloadable marketing material to get the word out to your customers about your new system, including website banners, allergen logos, posters and social media material.

A solution for the food service industry

Once logged in online, Erudus works as an online database displaying all the company’s products and ensuring every single item is categorised, checking for 14 major allergens, special dietary requirements (eg Vegan or Halal) and technical specifications whilst providing a comprehensive nutritional breakdown on every product listed.

Jo said: “Once we started working with Erudus we couldn’t believe how quick the process was to implement.

“With very little effort from ourselves and within a short space of time we had a full database featuring all of our products. They were all appropriately catalogued with their allergen and nutritional information.”

Customers access information instantly and easily Jo said: “The system is part of our website and actually the second tab alongside our homepage that we encourage customers to click on.

“To get the information they need customers can simply visit our site, fill out a short form with their details and then generate their own unique log-in for access to all of the information they need about our products.

“Alongside this, if a customer has any query about a product or is looking for a particular specification, the information is right at their fingertips. It’s also mobile and tablet friendly meaning our customers can log-on wherever and whenever 24/7.

“In fact many of our customers that work late nights and events, check the system from about 2am in the morning when starting to think about the next day’s dish.

“To achieve something like this within my own company I’d have to employ a round-the-clock customer service team 24/7.

“To achieve something like this within my own company I’d have to employ a round-the-clock customer service team 24/7.

“With the sheer volume of people logging on and carrying out a number of searches we’ve estimated this would have cost us nearly £2,000 per day to cope with enquiries. Let alone the added cost of holidays and plus having to expand our headquarters for further desk space.

“It’s a very small price to pay for a system that is saving ourselves and our customers so much time and effort and also providing that extra level of legal security for everyone who buys through us.”

Customer service at its best

With M.J. Baker Foodservice being a wholesaler, the company could have easily left it to its caterers to source allergen and nutritional information for themselves.

Instead Operations Director Jo wanted to work with the company’s customers and be proactive in bring the industry together to make sure they could all comply with the strict EU guidelines.

On top of this by providing this service to her customers there is also the increased chance of them continuing to coming back to the company for its products because of the ease and speed of obtaining nutritional information for its labelling and service.

As soon as a customer logs in they can search using any product name, GTIN, Suppliers Product Code and even our own M.J.Baker product codes, this instantly shows a full list of search results.

Then on selecting a product, this brings up its summary (Image left; Example product specification from the ‘Allergen & Nutritional Data Search’ tool) reference intake and allergen key, giving information on the typical values per 100g mirroring what can be seen on the front pack of the product.

Underneath that is the full list of ingredients and nutritional information alongside dietary information.

All of the information can be printed or downloaded as a PDF, sets of products can also be downloaded in PDF or CSV file formats too.

Wholesalers such as M.J. Baker Foodservice also have the added option to populate the purchase history area, which makes it even easier for them to access the allergen and nutritional information from the products they’re using.

A potential legal nightmare

Jo said: “The database is continuously in development behind the scenes with automatic updates happening on every product and year upon year it just gets better and better for our customers.

“We know that if a new legal requirement is on its way that Erudus is already ahead of the game, refining our system to comply for ourselves and our customers.

“In short Erudus has completely obliterated a potential legal nightmare. Without the system, our customers would be sourcing this information for themselves, having to go back to each individual manufacturer to get the correct details.

“Food specifications also change very frequently and are hard to keep up with. For example, if production of a certain product moves to a factory where they also handle products with nuts. The allergen information ‘may contain nuts’ must be added to the products labelling and caterers must be aware of this to feedback to their customers. Failure of this could be massively detrimental and even lead to prosecution.

“By using the system this means all legal responsibility falls with the manufacturer whose duty it is to supply full correct information for the system.

“In other words, it’s data we and our customers can trust implicitly. Unlike more common practices, data is not re-entered multiple times as information is passed down the supply chain. Nor is it taken from the web. Consequently the risk of error is both minimised and mitigated back to its rightful place – the brand owner, who know their items best.”

“The system has every single one of our products listed with allergen information, nutritional information, local product listings and special dietary requirements flagged up on every item.

“It really is as close as you will get to grasping the nutritional and allergen information of every product in the world.”

Being part of the solution

This is an industry-wide problem and Erudus is committed to providing its services as an industry-wide solution.

Jo said: “We are delighted as a company in the industry to be part of the solution, and we would not hesitate to recommend Erudus to other wholesalers.

“It really has given us and our customers peace of mind when using any products, taking away the risk of any potential legal issues and providing a no-headache solution through a competent self-service system.

“Erudus is exceptional at filling a requirement and we really can’t thank the full team enough for putting this system in place so quickly and efficiently.

“We really look forward to seeing further developments and working together in the future.”