A company whose founding dates as far back as the original 13 states and Martha Washington’s handwritten apple pie recipe has been named winner of the prestigious 2022 Food Quality & Safety award for small businesses.
The award, presented annually by Food Quality & Safety, honors the dedication and achievement of organizations that make significant contributions to upholding the highest food standards supported by quantifiable results. This year, our judging panel deemed that King Arthur Baking Company, born in 1790 in Boston but now headquartered in Norwich, Vt., distinguished itself from other businesses in the category with its investment in technology and a strong food safety culture.
The company’s food safety culture, which is backed by a distinctive model of employee ownership, is so strong that the company almost doesn’t have to wait for an outside audit to identify areas of improvement, says Robin Beane, senior director of manufacturing, quality, regulatory, and safety for the company. “From the group of people who manufacture the products to the people on the front line, they have a keen eye toward anything that is out of place,” she says. “They’re always raising their hand that they saw something in a raw ingredient or a piece of fiber from a bag that shouldn’t be there. They pay very close attention to the quality and safety of our products.”
Learning from Each Other
Beane says the company uses external experts and a highly trained quality team, in addition to employees who are well trained in quality, to train its employees. She herself is also a food safety instructor who teaches a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) course from the International HACCP Alliance (IHA).
The company teaches the IHA HACCP course internally to a diverse group of employees using its own products and examples to increase the understanding of HACCP principles and food safety within the company. More than 50 employees at all levels of the company have passed the IHA course. All employee training is documented, implemented, and includes annual refresher courses. Beane says the quality assurance team is already highly qualified through its members’ many years of experience in the food industry and educational backgrounds that include microbiology, nutrition, and culinary arts.
IHA HACCP training includes developing, maintaining, and monitoring food safety plans and setting corrective action procedures and critical control points. It also includes personal hygiene for handling food products and food contact surfaces. Employees are taught good manufacturing practices and are instructed on food handling, food processing and equipment, sampling and test methods for raw materials, packaging, work-in-progress and finished products, allergen management, and environmental monitoring. They also are taught how to detect food fraud, which Beane says is a growing problem, especially in the face of supply chain disruptions. The facility is also Safe Quality Foods (SQF) certified, which includes an additional training component and meets FDA training requirements for a preventive controls qualified individual (PCQI).
The annual training program is presented in three separate sessions so employees can acquire a thorough education and have time to discuss what they learned with each other. Beane says that this approach has increased understanding of the company’s policies, programs, sanitation, and other operating procedures among employees.
The company says the training empowers each employee to “own food quality and safety every day” as they produce products. Through key performance indicators, King Arthur has seen a reduction of scrap, a significant increase of first-time-right metrics, and other improvements. Before developing the comprehensive training program, the company says, there was too much costly scrapped raw materials, and with increased training and tracking through KPI metrics, a reduction in waste has been realized.