- Two separate reports from The Wall Street Journal show a Nestle's bid for high-quality coffee beans fall short due violence in South Sudan, and Honest Co.'s choice to drop a supplier and launch a new product after consumer outcry over use of a specific ingredients.
- Nestle has sourced its coffee beans from South Sudan since 2011 as the coffee industry looks to direct supplier relationships in order to ensure in-demand high-quality beans, but the country's violence forced the company to temporarily cease relations due to high risks, according to the Journal.
- In separate news, consumer outcry over Honest Co.'s use of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) has roiled the cleaning product company for two years now. Honest had pledged to avoid the chemical and marketed its products as SLS-free, but recent reports that its replacement supplier's ingredient, sodium coco sulfate, also contained high levels of SLS led the company to announce a product reformulation last week. However, the Journal reports the company is currently facing various lawsuits over its alleged dishonesty.
Brands we know and love are often vulnerable, despite performance. If the supply chain is affected by forces outside the manufacturer's control, little can be done to save a beloved product.
Forging connections with the vulnerable in war-torn countries can be an excellent source of PR, specially as coffee-drinkers look more closely at the origins of the coffee bean, but when production and supply become unreliable, buyers are forced to seek other resources. Quality and consistency of products are affected and little to nothing can be done to reproduce the original exactly as consumers prefer. The situation in Sudan emphasizes the risk involved in supply chain management: any weak link can affect the finished product.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether Honest knew of its supplier's use of SLS within sodium coco sulfate. If they did, the company underestimated how invested consumers can be over the issue. If they did not, it shows the importance of verifying suppliers' ingredients during the procurement process.
As consumer expectations grow and companies attempt to meet the increased demands, Nestle's and Honest Co's experiences show two sides of the same coin, connected by the reality of supply chain risk.