Electronic data interchange is an integral component of the Efficient Consumer Response in frozen foods, retailers and wholesalers told SN.
EDI enables manufacturers and distributors to gain access to a retailer's inventory. This helps them evaluate how a product has moved in the past and, therefore, how it will perform in the future, retailers said. As a result, products are replaced exactly when needed.
"We don't have to carry as many weeks on hand because [manufacturers/distributors] know when we're going to need products," said Barry Gay, distribution manager for Fleming Cos., York, Pa.
For retailers, distributors and manufacturers, there is a cost savings associated with ECR, said Pat Ressa, vice chairman of the logistics council of the American Frozen Food Institute, McLean, Va. "You warehouse less, which increases your product turns, and anytime you do that your cash flow is better," Ressa said.
EDI helps retailers facilitate efforts to share point-of-sale information, which is crucial to the success of ECR, said Dennis Madson, vice president of education for Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va.
Dreyers/Edys Ice Cream, Oakland, Calif., is using POS information electronically transferred from Hughes Family Markets, Irwindale, Calif., and Giant Food, Landover, Md., to distribute its products more efficiently, said Mike Corby, the company's direct-store delivery director. Giant Food and Hughes Family Markets could not be reached for comment.
Other retailers and wholesalers are just beginning to take advantage of the more open exchange of electronic data.
"We get more accurate planograms and information to make better decisions, which has to help sales," said Bryan Ryckeley, grocery and frozen food buyer for H.G. Hill Stores, Nashville, Tenn.
The information exchanged among retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers improves product selection, added Ryckeley. "It helps weed out some of the older items and get the new ones in faster," he said.
EDI has resulted in faster product turnover and improved the ordering process, said Barry Fultz, frozen food buyer for Fleming Cos. in York, Pa.
"You can react quicker to things than you could when you were using telephones and faxes," said Fultz.
"It cuts out a lot of the middle people, too. A lot of times you had to go through brokers or sales reps, and now you go directly to the source," he added.
Bozzuto's, Cheshire, Conn., is also using EDI to improve its ordering system, according to Serge Chevalier, director of distribution.
"It's more on-line; it's direct," said Chevalier.
Though some frozen food vendors are using EDI, Chevalier said a number of them are still behind in the process. Currently, he added, about 60% of Bozzuto's frozen food vendors are on-line.
"I don't think it's as developed as on the dry grocery side," agreed Cor Karaffa, vice president of distribution for Certified Grocers of California, Los Angeles. "It's a small number of vendors that are moving forward with continuous replenishment."
But for manufacturers who subscribe to EDI, there are benefits because "EDI continues to be an important vehicle for improving our product supply service to the retailers," said Pat Quarles, manager of public relations at ConAgra Frozen Food, Omaha, Neb.
"The improved reliability in the delivery of our products has allowed us to improve the order cycle time, fill rates and inventory turns," Quarles said. EDI, she added, also helps retailers communicate their promotional product needs to ConAgra.
Certified Grocers of California uses an Ad Reserve System, sent through EDI, to communicate promotional product needs with its retailers, according to Eleanor Bennett, merchandise manager.