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Managing the Supply Chain for food operators

Pelican currently manage the procurement and supply chain on behalf of a multi-site catering operator who was experiencing product quality issues, with products which have deteriorated during the chill supply chain.

With the supplier confident that they had a robust delivery and chill chain process in place, Pelican undertook to investigate the issue further to resolve the customer issue.

Running a smooth catering operation is essential to any food-led business. If a business is experiencing problems with product quality it can directly impact on their profitability, as food quality is accepted as a fundamental component to happy customers.

Supply chain management is one of Pelican key areas of expertise, something we have been managing on behalf of clients for over 29 years. In this article we share, how Sue Tompsett, Pelican Supply Chain Manager, resolved a real client issue:

The facts of the issue

Over a number of weeks our client had noticed that some of the semi-skimmed milk they were receiving was going off before the use-by date.

The dairy supplier said that they had not received any other complaints and they have vigorous processes within their chill supply chain in place that they follow.

Audit of the supplier’s chill supply chain

Sue turned up at the dairy depot at 2:30am in the morning (yes, you read that correctly) to carry out an independent review of the diary supplier’s end-to-end chill chain process, from the picking point of the products to the client’s delivery points.

At 2:48am, Sue recorded that the depot air temperature was 19.5°C, the delivery vehicle temperature was 2°C and the milk temperature (before the vehicle left the depot) was 4°C.

The industry guideline for milk safety is 5-8°C. All the milk was stored at the bulkhead where the refrigeration was coldest and furthest away from ambient air condition.

Delivery point checks

The client’s delivery was the 7th drop on the supplier’s route, and there were four delivery points for the client.

Sue checked the temperature of the delivery vehicle at each delivery point, and the milk remained between 4°C and 5°C.

The 1st delivery point received the milk at 5:11am.  At the point of delivery, the semi skimmed milk was 4°C and the skimmed was 5°C.  The milk was delivered directly into the loading bay refrigerator.

The 2nd delivery point received the milk at 5:25am and the milk was wheeled straight into the walk-in refrigerator.

The 3rd delivery point received the milk at 5.40am and the delivery was left on the kitchen worktop as requested, as the night porter would put these into their refrigerator.

The final drop was made at 5:55am – the delivery was left, at the storeman’s request, on the loading bay for the day staff’s arrival at 6:00am. Sue went back to check at 6:30am and the delivery had been put away.

During her visit Sue observed that, at one of the outlets, catering staff were leaving two bottles of milk next to the barista coffee machine for over 30 minutes, while waiting for customers to arrive before putting it back into to the fridge.


In this case it was clear that the issue of milk going off before its use by date was down to the way it was handled by the staff at the client’s sites ie: at the third delivery point and when the staff left the milk out sitting next to the hot coffee machine.

During an exceptionally long and hot summer, caterers need to be more diligent in the way they are handling milk and other fresh chilled or frozen products to avoid similar issues.  Milk will deteriorate very quickly if left in ambient conditions for any length of time. The shelf life will only be valid if the milk is correctly handled and kept refrigerated.


Sue shared the findings with the client and then they jointly briefed the catering team on best way to handle the milk during the heat wave.

As the customer has a 6 days per week delivery service with the supplier in their contract, it makes sense to change to smaller quantities in more frequent deliveries.

As a result of this hands-on approach, which is the standard at Pelican Procurement Services, Sue identified the issue and was able to provide added value recommendations to improve our client’s operation and ultimately improve their customer’s experience.

How can Pelican help you

We provide full post-tender management – ensuring clients receive high level of service, quality and best value price for the whole duration of the contact.

If you would like to discuss your needs and learn how we can support you and your teams – please call 01252 705214 or email

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