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Putting Food Safety & Quality First in Your Co-Manufacturer Search

Putting Food Safety & Quality First in Your Co-Manufacturer Search

There are multiple approaches to finding the right co-manufacturer for your food business. We want to save you the pain and heartache of going down a dead-end path in your co-packer or co-manufacturer search by evaluating if the co-manufacturer can meet desired food safety and quality standards.

Assess Co-manufacturers food safety and quality. Handshake.

Food Safety and Quality Steps Prior to Contacting Co-Manufacturers

  1. Have the process of making your product defined by a Research and Development (R&D) team and have your product tested for shelf-life and food safety by a third-party ISO 17025 certified laboratory if it is deemed to be necessary for your product.  Some co-manufacturers offer this service, however, other manufacturers want you to have your process approved by an outside process authority prior to working with them.  Some universities and laboratories offer process authority services. 
  2. There may be unforeseen challenges when scaling up into the production environment and not every co-manufacturer will be equipped to handle your product and process. Ask co-packers if they have experience making products similar to yours and find out if they have a process for new product trials. 
  3. Understand the key processing elements that are necessary to make your product.  If there are elements of making your product that cannot be changed make sure to highlight this in communication with co-manufacturers.  For example: Do you need the co-manufacturer to have Reverse Osmosis filtered water? Is there a specific pasteurization process that you need to have for your product?

Information you will Need to Provide to Co-Manufacturers During Your Initial Search

The following are examples of information that co-manufacturers may want you to include in your initial contact. 

  1. Manufacturers have minimum order quantities (M.O.Qs).  Be prepared with an idea of the annual number of units or volume that you will be ordering from the co-manufacturer. 
  2. Provide information to the potential co-manufacturer about the necessary processing steps to ensure food safety. Ie: If your product requires Ultra-High Temperature (UHT) processing or High Pressure Processing (HPP), be sure you provide this information up front to see if they have those capabilities.
  3. Do the containers need to be of a certain size or shape?
  4. You may need to share technical information, such as the pH of your product. 
  5. What is your desired timeline? 

Food Safety Certification Databases to Aid your Co-Manufacturer Search

It’s important that you trust the co-manufacturer to make your product when you aren’t there to observe. One way to accomplish this trust is to select a co-manufacturer that regularly undergoes third party food safety & quality certification audits. 

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is the highest level food safety & quality certification scheme available.  The benefits of utilizing a co-manufacturer with GFSI third-party certification is that their audit scores and product types are searchable on databases for that scheme. 

GFSI Certified Site Databases

Assessing Co-Manufacturers Without GFSI Certification

Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification scores are not available on a database, however, co-manufacturers may share GMP certification information at your request. Select a co-manufacturer who specializes in making similar products with similar processes.  

It is common practice to request that the co-manufacturer send samples to the brand owner at a specified frequency so that they can do a quality check (ie: one case per quarter) or alternatively, the co-manufacturer may be required to do quality checks during production and send the data to the brand owner. 

If the co-packer or co-manufacturer that you are interested in doing business with has not gone through a GFSI audit, then you may want to hire a qualified third-party consultant, such as, Kellerman Consulting to complete an on-site assessment of the co-packer’s facility and issue you a detailed report.

HACCP Plans for Co-Manufacturers

You may find that your product already falls under the co-manufacturer’s existing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan or co-manufacturers may request that you provide them with a HACCP Food Safety Plan for your product.  Food safety consulting companies, such as Kellerman Consulting will write and implement a HACCP Plan for your product to help you get started with the co-manufacturer of your choosing. 

Questions About HACCP Plan Costs, Timelines And Requirements?

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