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Food safety and quality

Our commitment to quality means we always strive to fulfil the promise we make to our consumers and customers every time they buy our premium brands.

Our approach

We design and produce brands in a way that ensures they are always safe to drink and that they meet the expectations of our consumers. By doing so we protect both our brands' and the company's reputation.

We do this through our rigorous Global Quality Policy which applies to all Diageo businesses and majority joint ventures. All our products go through a full regulatory review prior to launch. Food safety legislation varies from country to country. Our global quality standards are designed to match or exceed local market regulations.

We look at quality in two ways:

  • The intrinsic quality of the product, characterised by the quality of the design, the packaging materials used and our choice of raw materials
  • The extent to which each product conforms or deviates from our very high standards.

Our rigorous quality systems and high standards are designed to address the entire spectrum of quality from reduction of the smallest 'defects' such as a tiny label tear to the prevention of any quality 'incidents'. We aim to improve our quality performance continuously by setting stretching annual targets, a clear strategy, and by building the capabilities needed to achieve our vision of Zero Defects.

The legal requirements for labelling vary from country to country and range from minimal guidance to strict product naming conventions (often driven by country of origin legislation) and health warnings. However, in every market, we always include a 'drink responsibly' reminder on every single one of our bottles, with a reference to


We are proud of the improvements in quality we have made this year. We are determined to drive improvements through all stages of our value chain, from product design to our manufacturing processes and finally through to our customers and consumers.

This year, we focused heavily on improving quality during the manufacturing process - reducing defects - an area where we can have the biggest impact on packaging quality.

We also gather and act on customer and consumer complaints through our consumer care lines and customer networks across North America and Europe, where we aim to respond to all concerns within three days. This year we launched a consumer care centre in Mexico with a freephone number for our Latin American consumers, and we want to enhance our customer care services into other markets across Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific. Where we don't currently have a local customer care infrastructure, people can reach Diageo through their retailers or through our website. In total this year we received and responded to 37 customer complaints per million units sold.

Complaints data is analysed and reported monthly in each of our regional supply centres. We focus on the top three to five complaints. For example, one of the major categories of complaint in Scotch whisky is harmless particulate matter such as bits of cork or tiny specs of char from oak barrels. Natural cork debris is one of the major causes of particles. To eliminate this issue we have developed an agglomerate cork closure that has the natural characteristics of cork, but does not shed particles. This has eliminated a whole category of complaint.

Key metrics

We are seeking to raise our product safety and quality standards even further by extending our existing accreditations to include the international quality and food safety standards, ISO 9001 and FSSC22000. Last year we introduced a new quality standard, the Global Finished Product Standard, which sets higher goals for the quality of our products. It tightens our specifications on a range of quality features that matter to our consumers, such as the straightness of a label or the maximum size of a glass imperfection. This helps our plants check for and reduce packaging defects. We have also stretched our quality targets again for the coming year and 2015, which we will report on next year.

This year our total number of defects was 200,000 parts per million (ppm), a 52% decrease from last year, and we had 41 quality incidents, a decrease of 75%. We are pleased with our improvement and will continue to focus on meeting our high quality expectations. There have been no fines, warnings or penalties related to food safety this year.

One of the biggest remaining areas of challenge is in Africa, where our stringent global standards can be difficult to achieve in a region dominated by reusable bottles.

Africa accounts for over 50% of our total quality defects, so this has a large impact on performance. If we exclude performance in Africa, the median of total defects reduces to 25,000 ppm. This year we put a programme in place in Africa to reduce defects by 50% in the coming year. We are determined that our African customers and consumers should experience the same high standards of quality as every other market across the world.

2012 quality performance
Quality issue Description Result since 2011
Total defects* Individual defects identified on isolated products 52% reduction
Critical defects* Individual defects identified on isolated products 83% reduction
Total quality incidents** Quality failures affecting batches of products rather than an isolated bottle 75% reduction
Internal incidents** When the incident is identified before the brands leave our plants 81% reduction
External incidents** When the incident is identified by customers or consumers 45% reduction
Customer and consumer complaints Gathered through customer care processes 5% reduction

* A defect refers to an individual fault on a single product unit. We define a critical defect as something that is unsafe or illegal. For example, a product code may not be legible.

** An incident tends to relate to an entire batch. The possible causes of a quality incident vary, but might be: the liquid does not taste right; particles may be visible in the products; or the wrong label may have been applied.

Tapping into employee pride

We support our quality ambitions by putting in place rigorous quality systems and processes, but getting it right every time comes down to our people. We are working hard to inspire employees and ensure that each and every one of our people, whether they are labelling bottles of Johnnie Walker in Scotland, blending ingredients at Baileys in Ireland, or ensuring the safe delivery of canned Guinness from Dublin to Tokyo, work their hardest to preserve the quality of our brands. This is where our greatest improvement opportunity lies.

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