Chinese dairy giant sources Sunderland research for global expansion plans

Dr Derek Watson visits the Mengniu Dairy Group

Published on 30 October 2018

One of China’s leading dairy producers looking to enhance its operations and export globally has sought the advice of a Sunderland academic whose research on food safety is receiving worldwide recognition.

The University of Sunderland’s Dr Derek Watson has been investigating how food industry manufacturers from Greece to Central America can develop a positive food safety culture by adopting his industry-based model totrain enlighten; which puts business practices under the microscope and lays the foundations to run more effectively and efficiently.

The billion-dollar Mengniu Dairy Group, looking to export its products to new global markets, invited Dr Watson to one of their sites in Inner Mongolia to see first-hand their technology and facilities in action, present to staff and make recommendations.

Dr Watson, a senior lecturer in the University's Institute of Business, Law and Tourism spent a week with the company identifying any areas for improvement and how they can embed the British Retail Consortium Food Standards into their own practices.

A spokesperson for Mengniu Dairy Group, which manufactures milk, yogurt and other dairy products in mainland China, commented: “Dr Watson provided an excellent insight concerning how the totrain enlighten model on food safety culture and the potential adoption of the British Retail Consortiums Global Standards could enhance our operations and our potential to export. Whilst interviewing staff he was able to identify core themes for further investigation and as such we have asked Dr Watson to submit a proposal to deliver a two-week food safety management development programme for our senior management in the UK at the Sunderland campus.”

Dr Watson explained: “I was honoured to be invited by Mengniu Dairy Group, the size and scale of their operations is incredible. It’s also a huge coup for the university that multi-national companies see the value in our research at Sunderland.

 

“The totrain enlighten model, developed in conjunction with totrain focuses on behavioural aspects. After giving my feedback the company was really impressed with the issues identified and now want to support with a development programme which they can be successfully implemented. We’ll also work on how they can embed British Retail Consortiums Global Standards in their organisation.”

He added: “In turn all this collaborative work will be fed back into the modules I teach on campus, which benefits the students immensely, from a cultural, management practice, quality assurance and innovation aspect.”

The enlighten model’s principle aim is to encourage food manufacturing organisations to complete a Food Safety Culture Questionnaire which assesses the level of compliance, best practice and in particular manufacturers’ behavioural short-falls within their organisations. The detailed questionnaire, is handed to all employees, and designed on the four C’s Model: Control, Co-operation, Communications and Competence. Data from the questionnaire is analysed, followed by one-to-one interviews and focus groups, before being validated, and the results presented at each stage to their executive before a final report is produced. 

Dr Watson explained: “Having looked at the current literature, Government reports, and food manufacturers practices, we designed a food safety assessment model which traces and triangulates core issues affecting businesses with regards to food safety cultural compliance.

“There are many illnesses and deaths linked to food safety, therefore it’s critical from a moral standpoint that organisations ensure, as far as is reasonably practical, that they develop a positive food safety culture, which is compliant. The totrain enlighten model developed in conjunction with totrain enables food manufactures to measure its food safety cultural compliance, which is in line with anticipated requirements by the British Retail Consortium’s Global Quality Standards.”

As part of his trip to Inner Mongolia’s capital city, Hohhot, Dr Watson, met with the province’s Food Industry Chamber of Commerce. He was also invited to give a keynote speech on innovation at the University of Inner Mongolia, which he says was highly interactive and informative, adding: “the staff and students I spoke found the talk really informative especially on how we deliver research-informed teaching at Sunderland. As a result, the university wants set up links between our two institutions, exploring dual award degrees and staff exchanges.”

Mr PengShou Zhong, Vice President Art Education Secretary of the Party at the University of Inner Mongolia, commented: “Dr Watson’s keynote speech on Innovation was both highly informative and engaging to an audience of 300 delegates. Dr Watson was able to share his global research and commercial impacts that added a refreshing and unique approach our international Keynote invitations. We certainly hope that we can foster a closer relationship with the University of Sunderland and we look forward to follow up discussions with our international departments.”

British Retail Consortium Global Food Standards:

The company was founded in 1996 by retailers who wanted to harmonise food safety standards across the supply chain. Today they are globally recognised across both food and non-food categories and operate the most rigorous third party certification scheme of its type.

About Dr Derek Watson

Dr Watson is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, founder of the Faculty ‘Business Clinic’ and the Doctoral lead for the University’s ‘Research Fridays’ programme. Dr Watson has experience of mapping skills requirements in emerging sectors. He also has extensive links and networks as a result of sourcing and embedding external engagement opportunities across the curriculum, with an international portfolio of clients and contacts, such as the British Cabinet Office, Indian Government Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Dubai Police and Canon International.