Quality Assurance – A Brand Opportunity?

October 24, 2011 By

Lydia Hunziker, BComm, CNP
Manager of Communications and Client Services, Dicentra Inc.

The second annual Food Regulatory and Quality Assurance Summit was held in Toronto on October 19th and 20th, 2011. In just its second year, the conference is an example of the growing need in the food and beverage industry for access to updates and forums on the latest changes to the regulatory environment. It also provided a few interesting examples of how a strategic approach to regulatory changes can create brand marketing opportunities.

The two day conference presented a wide range of speakers from the food industry and government including Cargill, Walmart, Nature’s Path, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration. A common topic was the implementation of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards for food safety (www.mygfsi.com). Developed in 2000, these international food safety standards have been updated regularly and have led to the development of four formally benchmarked food safety standards programs. However, it is the move of companies such as Walmart and, in Canada, Loblaws, to demand their suppliers to be GFSI compliant that has caused the surge in the formal implementation of any one of these four programs.

Roger Bont, Global Quality Assurance Director of Cargill, presented on the initial challenges and successful results of the implementation of the FSSC22000 standard across 1,400 facilities in 66 countries. Mr Bont attributed the success of the program, which led to less audits, greater efficiencies and better quality products, to the approach Cargill took at the senior management level. Rather than being viewed as a “QA Program” it became a company brand program, discussed in all departments including marketing. At Cargill, the commitment to food safety and the implementation of the GFSI standards became an important part of the dialogue for all staff, from senior executives to front line workers. It was this commitment that ensured a successful program both in terms of raising internal QA standards and seizing the opportunity to strengthen the quality image of the Cargill brand.

Another company, Ethical Bean Coffee, has used their traceability program as a key part of their marketing program. Lloyd Bernhardt, President and CEO, discussed the competitive advantage that transparency, ethical sourcing and traceablity have given his premium coffee product. Each bag of Ethical Bean Coffee comes with a QPR code, scannable by mobile phones. The code links them to a website full of detailed information about their specific purchase. While standing in the grocery aisle a customer can visit the farm their coffee beans were picked from, view interviews with the farmer and his family, and get the highlights of the roasting technique from a coffee specialist. This ‘traceability program’ could be seen as a creative QA progam, but its true value is in building powerful brand loyalty.

As regulations continue to change in many industries, it is clear that leading companies with strategic and creative approaches will be able to turn QA programs into brand opportunities. ‘Regulatory strategy’ may just become a new source of fresh marketing ideas and long term business growth.

For a strategic approach to scientific and regulatory affairs please contact our experts at Dicentra.

Dicentra provides regulatory and scientific solutions for accelerated business growth. We specialize in the areas of natural health products, dietary supplements, foods, cosmetics and OTCs. We can be reached at 1-866-647-3279 or at dicentra.com