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When Food Companies Get Their First Taste of Recalls

Food companies have many challenges to deal with on a regular basis: cost controls, the frequently changing health concerns of consumers, the need to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace, and more. In the midst of all those factors, the potential for a product recall may not be top-of-mind, especially for smaller companies and those who haven’t experienced a recall before.

The top causes of food recalls, such as the discovery of potential bacterial contamination or undeclared allergens, happen fast. One minute, production is running smoothly. The next minute, crisis hits. Companies may be unaware of how quickly regulators – not to mention the public – expect food recalls to be executed, causing delays that can only exacerbate the situation. It is crucial for companies to develop a robust recall plan and test that plan through mock recalls so they can act quickly when a recall hits.

Aside from acting too slowly, another common pitfall for companies that are new to recalls is underestimating the consumer response. In some cases, a recall will receive widespread media attention and trigger major retailers with loyalty programs to send direct notifications to customers who purchased the affected product – sometimes hundreds of thousands at a time. When that happens, hold times can skyrocket, often reaching well over an hour.

Experienced recall partners can look at the scope of the issue, the types of retailers affected, the hazards involved, and many other factors to properly estimate the call volume in advance. It’s important for companies to take this advice. With a scalable contact center in place, the number of agents can be quickly ramped up to meet the demand – sometimes as much as tenfold – but not before serious damage is done to the brand. The long-term cost that can result from an inadequate response is often far worse than the initial investment in adequate staffing. For smaller, cost-conscious companies, recall insurance can help offset the expenses. Some insurance plans have a recall rider, but they may not be sufficient, depending on the size and impact of the situation. 

Hundreds of food recalls happen every year to companies of all sizes. Some have been through the process dozens of times before, but many are recall rookies. Their ability to emerge from the crisis depends largely on their level of preparation. While no one wants to imagine the possibility, it is better to be ready than wait until a customer complaint or routine testing leads to a recall.

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