Certifications are a constant challenge in assuring food quality and safety, especially for smaller producers with limited resources, says Brent Robinson, director of operations at Endangered Species Chocolate.
But that hasn’t kept the Indianapolis, Ind., company from achieving both high food standards and exceptional corporate citizenship that involves donating 10 percent of net profits to support conservation programs for species, habitat, and humanity.
“One of our biggest challenges is the supply chain complexities. This involves everything from potential risks and their mitigation, resulting in brand protection while meeting the ever-changing consumer needs. That’s probably our biggest hurdle,” Robinson says.
Shelby Troyer, the quality programs manager at the chocolate manufacturer, says sustaining quality standards also can be a struggle.
“In the food industry, the biggest struggle that a lot of companies are seeing is sustainment,” she says. “You can obtain certifications but the issue is sustainment long term, keeping those programs alive every day.” And she says Endangered Species Chocolate is able to do that.
For its high level of quality and safety, Endangered Species Chocolate was recently named the winner of the 2019 Food Quality & Safety Award in the small business category.
The award honors the dedication and achievement of organizations making significant contributions to uphold the highest food standards supported by quantifiable results. This year, a panel of industry judges concluded that Endangered Species Chocolate and Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, which won in the large-business category, demonstrated impressive efforts in their technology, certifications, training, regulatory compliance, and risk reduction.
Endangered Species Chocolate, founded in 1993, has close to 50 employees and two locations in Indianapolis. In 2018, it added 26,000 square feet of satellite warehouse space at a second Indianapolis location. The company is committed to supporting conservation efforts worldwide through its annual Give Back program, which has donated more than $1.7 million over the last three years to conservation partners around the globe.
Sustainability Inside and Out
Endangered Species Chocolate produces and sells 28 different flavors of all-natural chocolate bars that vary in size. They are made from beans purchased from fair trade sources where the income benefits local communities. Part of the company’s goal is to work with fair trade businesses that pay a fair wage and offer humane working conditions.
All of the company’s chocolate bars and treats are named after an endangered animal. Consumers can read about the plight of the animal inside each label.
The company publishes an impact report on its activities every year. This year’s partners for its GiveBack program of 10 percent of net profits are the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and the National Forest Foundation.
To keep quality and safety measures high, Endangered Species Chocolate has added technology in several areas throughout the past year.
One is its metal detection program for quality checks on all finished products on its three production lines. The program includes screening products for potential ferrous, non-ferrous, and stainless steel metals. Metal detection is now included in its food safety plan as a critical control point, and as the technology evolved, it has greatly reduced false rejections.
“Metal could be introduced anywhere, in stainless pipes and tanks, in-line screens, pumps with gears, and in the foil in which some of the candy is wrapped,” says Troyer. “The metal detectors are calibrated to detect small amounts of metal.”
The company has also improved its work-in-progress procedures. In the past year it automated steps in its carton packaging system that reduced the number of necessary employees. Those employees now work in other parts of the company, Robinson says.
That procedure automation, which is part of the continuous improvement program, increased efficiency by 10 percent and reduced waste from 3 percent to 1 percent in its first year of production. The system automatically folds cartons rather than having them folded less accurately by hand, Robinson says. The carton system also decreased potential food contact and contamination from humans through its automated conveyor belt.