(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the April/May 2018 issue.)
The food industry has defined expectations for today’s brands that reach beyond what was once expected by either consumers or third-party certifying organizations. Food safety must be at the forefront of each brand’s priorities, but it must also be demonstrated in more ways than might be expected.
As shoppers become more educated about the industry, the foods they are feeding themselves and their families, and the statements they are making with each purchase at the grocery store, true brand authenticity must be present. Through a strong brand story, companies can endear themselves, their products, and the team that makes their products to their consumers. Inherent and intricately woven within the fabric of this all-consuming brand story is true transparency that demonstrates superior food safety and cultivates trust between brand and shopper.
Consumers hold the power of today’s food world in their hands. With buying decisions centered on transparency being made daily, brands that align with shoppers’ values are in a position to thrive.
The following are five areas that food brands struggling with food safety and compliance within their manufacturing plants may be avoiding.
- Lackluster general manufacturing procedures are paired with relaxed staff training. As your plant is upgraded, your staff also need to be aware of each update. Detailed training and rigorous risk-based preventative measures should be taken. Consider employing outside consultants to assist in the evaluation and implementation of best critical practices. This will ensure an objective view when approaching this imperative topic.
- Plant manufacturing teams are working in silos. By using the resources at your disposal, your plant can learn and improve from its team members. In doing so, you can expand your thinking and processes to better adapt to your present challenges.
Open up a dialogue with other professionals in your field and fellow team members to put yourself in a position to better adapt to your present challenges. Well-balanced plants work to disband silos and work with cross-functional teams to shed new light on current issues.
- Machinery within the plant is performing at status quo. For the sake of greater specification control and verification, state-of-the-art machinery is an investment leading companies should consider. The experience each shopper will have when they add your product to their basket is one that they will carry with them long after they have enjoyed it. The machinery used within the plant should encourage consistency and supreme quality control, so that experience is one they want to repeat.
- Third-party certifications are taken for granted. One thing should be apparent in a plant that enlists strict food safety protocols. That is, an intricate attention to safety protocols on the part of each team member. Your cross-functional teams can play a pivotal role here by putting food safety at the core of all they do. Furthermore, third-party certifications, such as SQF, are effective ways to enhance your food safety management and product quality while instilling trust within your consumers.
- A lagging supply chain that throws a wrench in plans for innovation. The food industry is moving quicker than ever; flexibility and agility are the keys to bringing confidence to the supply. Your manufacturing plant should be enlisting greater optimization of the supply chain to ensure more consistent supply and stricter adherence to your quality standards. Planning with efficiency and addressing the needs of both your consumers’ and retail partners’ needs while controlling costs requires both robust technology and strong leadership, especially at the plant level. Innovation happens when supply chain leaders are focused on the company’s overall business goals and armed with visibility.
The gravity of brand authenticity, brand story, and food safety is the first step with which today’s industry leaders must grapple. However, it truly begins at the plant level. With superior practices in place, the crucial groundwork on which loyal consumer relationships are built is laid.
A sustainable, energy-conscious, and efficient manufacturing process is, undoubtedly, a key to demonstrating to consumers that your company’s values align with theirs. From the people employed within the plant to the ingredients sourced, every detail matters. Leading plants are constantly improving their processes to provide consumers with the best experience possible.
Not only are clean nutrition labels and simple ingredients being demanded, but so are transparent food production practices. The quality and integrity of the work done at the manufacturing plant is critical in maintaining one’s place among a competitive industry. Defining success at the plant level ultimately boils down to the relentless pursuit of constant and never ending improvement.
Plant operations are under a microscope, viewed equally as important to the transparency of a brand as its nutrition label. There are certain key elements that do their part to elevate plant manufacturing so that it is run by proactivity and is in a continuous state of improvement.
Food manufacturers should know that informed consumers interested in healthy, artisanal, and convenient food are more frequently driving the latest manufacturing methods. Although encouraging the industry to grow by great strides, this is also coming with its own set of challenges, and many brands have had to identify how to serve shoppers without becoming reactive.
Delli Colli is marketing manager for Expresco Foods. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.