Making it real with a cup of coffe and and an ear of corn.

The bite  of sweetness from the raw "just picked" corn was a welcomed balance to the bitter black coffee I was drinking.  It is 7 AM  in Ann Harbor, Michigan (4 am Pacific Time, the zone I’m still on) and I am tasting my way through the farmer’s market with a few peers.  We are here for a round table meeting of a small group called the National Supply and Value Chain Network. But some of us couldn’t help starting our day chatting with farmer’s and literally enjoying the fruits of their labor. A reminder that at the end of day, the goal of our Network is to bring  back and preserve the flavors of the American family farm.

I am at this meeting representing Bon Appétit, as a model of what is possible in the business world when it comes to changing the traditional supply chain (a network of business related enterprises through which products move from production through consumption) for the betterment of our world.  But I am also here as a Board Member of the Association of Family Farms, which I believe at this point to be the sole vehicle ready and set up to launch a nationwide change through the creation of regional "values-based" chains that can meet increasing market demand.

The concept of "values-based"  food chains is one that fascinates me, because it proposes an entire new paradigm of doing business.  The traditional supply chain model is typically based on win-lose terms.  Relationships within these chains are constructed as competitive, where  each company seeks to buy as cheaply and to sell as expensively as possible (the Wal-Mart model). The concept of values-based chains differs in that the relationships are based on common values, strategic partnerships and framed in win-win terms.  The talk about values-based food supply chains has been buzzing in academic circles for several years as a conceptual model   All indications is that the market place is ready for this paradigm change and this Network I am a part of is very engaged in making it real.

We talk a lot about changing the supply chain at Bon Appétit. And so far we’ve done this on our own in a variety of ways.  Some of it was slow and organic like our contribution to local purchasing, which grew to $55M last year. Some changes took place almost overnight, like our influence on the Compass Group to adopt a sustainable seafood policy, taking more then 1 million pounds of Atlantic Cod off the market..almost overnight.

We are anxious to continue our influence in transforming the food supply chain, based on sustainable values. I am anxious to move it forward and to work aggressively towards making it real in a much bigger way…coffee and corn for breakfast being just one of benefits.

submitted: marc a zammit;director culinary support and development