Being a brand owner, you will automatically be passionate about your product quality and want the best! I will aim to guide you through how to manage this systematically to give you the best chance of success and ultimately great consumer experience
When creating your food or beverage product, it is key to understand your “gold standard” but equally important to understand your acceptable and unacceptable standards.
The easiest way to achieve this is to develop a “Quality Attribute Standard” for your products. Let’s talk about this.
Typically, this document defines your expectations, the manufacturers expectations and ultimately the consumer expectations. What do you need in this?
TASTE COLOUR WEIGHT
MOUTHFEEL APPEARANCE PACKAGING CODING
For the purposes of concept stage, define your Gold standard only. I’ll explain why later
It is important when selecting a manufacturer that you go with someone who understands the processes needed to make your product. This will aid your chances of repeatability.
Choose a manufacturer with a recognised accreditation – BRC, SALSA or ISO 9001.
This will ensure that you deal with a reputable manufacturer who has systems in place to manage your business
Ensure you have a service agreement in place which details your expectations on the following:
- Approved Ingredients from reputable suppliers
- HACCP plan for your product
- Product specification agreed by both parties
- Quality Attribute Standard
- Complaints procedure and associated costs
- Disputes procedure – this should detail what happens when both parties don’t agree and usually describes the use of an independent professional for a second opinion
- Contacts for Quality – “Who” is the person to talk to
- A Meeting schedule at least 6 monthly where you discuss your business and product with the manufacturer
MANAGING ONGOING QUALITY
Once you have chosen your manufacturer you will then set about managing day to day quality from a series of measures to help you monitor the factory
- We have spoken about contracts and Quality Attribute Standards(QAS). These must be agreed prior to starting production with the manufacturer.
- Product specification – This will include your QAS, micro testing, shelf life, HACCP, nutritional requirements, raw materials and packaging /coding standards. These are the basics of what you need agreed. This should be signed by both parties. Tolerances are hugely important when doing this and must be reflective of the machinery you are manufacturing on. So many brand owners think it will be the same as the kitchen in the factory. This simply isn’t the case on large scale up. Agree acceptable and not acceptable at this point
- Generate some basic Key Performance Indicators which will be shared monthly/ Quarterly to ensure you continually monitor your factory. Typically, these would be Complaints, Supplier Complaints, GMP (Good Manufacturing practice), Service level and Micro. It is important to agree these with your manufacturer
- Finally go and have a look periodically. This can be in the form of an audit or just a visit report shared with manufacturer
- There is sometimes a need to engage a professional in circumstances where you don’t understand the process, they can negotiate with the manufacture with their experience and get a better outcome
COMPLAINTS -YOU DON’T WANT THEM BUT THEY CAN BE USEFUL
Using a manufacturer with an accreditation will automatically mean they have a complaints procedure in place but let’s take a look at this in 2 parts
Having a complaints procedure agreed by both parties ensures both the brand owner and the Manufacturer are protected
- Complaints procedure with the manufacturer
- Complaints procedure with the retailer
BRAND OWNER – MANUFACTURER – This will form part of your service agreement
Typically, a complaints procedure will detail the following:
What constitutes a complaint
Category of complaint
Traceability (The ability to track your product through the factory)
Response time and responsibilities
The manufacturers liability insurance amount and what is covered
Typically, if the manufacturer is negligent then they will meet the associated costs for the complaint HOWEVER this area is always subjective so agreeing a specification and Quality Attribute Standard is imperative in ensuring you narrow your subjectivity. In your service agreement, there should be a written “Disputes” clause to allow you to challenge any decisions made by the manufacture
Whatever decision is made you would want a complaints investigation completed by the manufacture and returned to you within 10 days maximum. With “Quality & Taste” most manufacturers will log these but no necessarily investigate them individually and these are called “Perception”
Finally ask for their recall procedure. Never a nice thing to happen but when it does ensure you have an agreed procedure with the manufacturer
RETAILER – BRAND OWNER
This is usually clearly defined in your contracts with retailers and whilst this does make it easier it can sometimes be reasonably expensive. Retailers will always charge administration to deal with your complaint and with categories like foreign bodies these can be charged at up to £50 per complaint, however, you can recharge this to your manufacturer if you can prove it originated from the manufacture. Again refer back to the service agreement with your manufacturer. All retailers differ in costs but when you enter into an agreement with the retailer make sure you understand these, which categories are included.
Recall charges, where you have a failure in the system and there is potential to harm the consumer, are hugely expensive. These range from circa £5,000 to £25,000 so make sure you take this into consideration when looking at insurance… but watch out for the excess as these can be high in themselves leaving you to pick up the costs
Customer complaints are also a very useful tool to improve your products with feedback so don’t look at them as all bad!
One thought to leave with you …………
“Agreeing as much up front as possible is the best way to manage expectations going forward”