A FOOD INGREDIENT MANUFACTURER
Why Meeting The Highest Standard Is So Important
Sourcing ingredients is one of the top priorities for any food businesses from stocking a kitchen to packaging products delivered direct to retail. In recent years, it’s become increasingly important with consumers sizing up where things are made and from what. First a confession, I work for an ingredient manufacturer and yes I want you to buy our ingredients above all, but don’t turn the page yet. We ourselves source ingredients and have to also go through the tedious task of sizing up vendors and understanding how their products fit into our semi-finished products ensuring the desired quality each time. We want our brand to be shoppers last stop, so when it comes to assessing an ingredient manufacturer, we hold our company and others up to the highest of standards and so should you. Here’s the Top 10 things you need to consider:
1. Company Background & History
I know it might seem trivial but with so many distributors, importers, manufacturing agents and a plethora of other middle men and facades, do you really know the company you are thinking of purchasing from? How long has the company been around and does it have proven success? How do they create and/or source their ingredients? In today’s content driven world, you can’t believe everything you read so understanding who and what type of company you are partnering with is imperative. Consider going a step further and asking for customer references and testimonials – third parties always help close the gap on whats it’s really like to work with a company.
2. Manufacturing Facilities
Just because a company has an office in a country doesn’t mean they are manufacturing (or even warehousing) there. Knowing where the manufacturing facilities are located is telling of items such as lead time, quality, logistics, and returns and replacements. It’s not a bad thing to have manufacturing facilities out of country but you need to then be aware of all the details to bring the product in and the timeframes, which the company should be able to guide you on. Just remember to ask, don’t be naïve and assume the stork delivers the goods from Never Never Land.
3. Manufacturing Certifications
Food safety is of the utmost importance and the standards at which food products are manufactured are imperative. Ask about the company’s efforts to adhere to quality standards in the country and through the entire logistics process. Do the facilities meet local and federal standards? Ask what additional certifications the facility has to protect the goods that are in place? Also inquire about specific dietary certifications such as Kosher and gluten-free, you should understand current and future capabilities as the market changes and evolves. The more checks and balances the company has in the place, the better your business can feel about serving safe food.
4. Product Testing Capabilities
Once the products are manufactured, it’s important to understand what the process in place for testing the safety and quality of the products is. Is that testing done in-house or out of house, and by whom and what tests? Are there capabilities to test throughout a product’s shelf-life or is testing more reactive if a problem is detected? Yes, this is all very scientific, but an imperative step to gain the confidence that what you put in front of your patrons is tried, tested and true.
5. Length of Time
A general guideline of turnkey operations from ordering to manufacture to delivery should be available from the manufacturer. Yes, it will be an estimate but the manufacturer should have information regarding everything from the time to produce and current schedule available to the customs and documentation lead times. Transparency on lead time is important. A company may be booked in terms of their manufacturing and that’s not necessarily a bad sign because they may be in demand, but be willing to be flexible – companies can’t produce things overnight and if you expect something expedited you should also expect to pay for it. We all know the fees for overnighting that birthday gift you forgot – it doesn’t matter the industry if you are late in the game, it will cost you.
6. Staff & Support
We all hate the endless computer automated phone systems – how many numbers do you have to dial to actually get someone on the phone? And if you happen to get someone, do they speak your language? The point is, a partner is someone who is accessible and there to assist and answer questions when you need them. Does the company have people, real people, hired and knowledgeable about the products and services they provide? Are there layers, if you have problems at this level; is there someone you can go to? And, is the company proactively reaching out to you. It’s not just about being responsive, but being visible other than during the hard times.
7. Shipping & Warehousing
How is the company going to get their goods to you? How do they stock the items you need? Understanding how companies handle the logistics and tracking of your goods is very important, especially if you have special instructions and shipments. First it’s up to you to share these needs, but it is then up to the company to come up with a plan of action for your goods. If you store at the company, how do they notify you when stock gets low or is nearing best by dates? If there are backorders, are they communicated and do they offer alternatives? Your business can’t be successful if the products aren’t available so you must comprehend how products will reach you when you need them.
8. Marketing Presence and Support
This isn’t everything, but a telltale sign of how a company is doing is how they represent their brand, provide information and support their customer’s success. Does the company have information about their product; does that information go beyond a basic description and include recipes, how-to’s and images of the product? The company should have a website and various ways to contact and interact with them. Are they present in your industry and supportive of initiatives? The more visible and active a company is in the industry and media, the less they can hide things.
Today, there are companies that sell, and then there are companies that sell and educate. The difference is huge because a company that cares how their ingredients are being used and presented to an end user is the one that is concerned with quality. In a perfect world, every company should educate the users on the best and most efficient ways to use their products. Training is the key to success and companies employing this tactic are a step ahead.
Has the company provided all the information they can to you? Have they answered your questions to the best of their abilities and voiced that they will work on the answers they don’t have? We live in an age where anything and I mean anything can be uncovered about products and companies. If you don’t feel that a business is being transparent with you, then you need to question the validity of it. Companies don’t always have the answers but they should be willing and able provide solutions and ideas every step of the way.
Finding the right partner in any venture is a process requiring careful review and consideration to locate your perfect fit. Your success depends on the success and diligence of others, so don’t be afraid to review all these areas with the next potential partner. And if you find the companies you talk to are falling short, then come talk to me.