Fresh Focus: Marketing Food Safety and Food Security – Part II

Last month, we briefly discussed marketing your food safety and security plans through your web site, newsletters and advertising. Let’s go a bit further this month and examine how you can “audit” your own facility and what one industry member is doing to promote their program.

When making a presentation to a client or a potential client, they will ask about your food safety and security plans. Most companies are receiving visits by different independent third party auditing companies, so you might as well market what you are doing to address these important topics. When a decision-maker visits your facility to finalize a deal, these two points can make or break your business.

Take time today, before these visits, to imagine you are visiting your own facility for the first time. Drive in and take note of things. Were you stopped by a guard out front? Your food security plan should have someone posted to keep unwanted people out. Is anyone at your front desk when you come into your office area…or can you just wander in? Security includes your employees! Do visitors (and employees) need to wear identification badges? The checklist should go on and on.

Strive for No Surprises

When hosting a visitor in your facility, they will observe small things that you just won’t see on a day-to-day basis. The best way to avoid surprises is to be prepared everyday by having good procedures. Start before entering the production area. Everyone should wash their hands and don hairnets and beard nets (if necessary). Then walk through the footbath(s) and into the production area. Your facility should be as clean as possible at all times so there are no surprises. This means the floors, equipment, fluorescent lights and ceiling tiles, too.

What does all this basic information have to do with marketing? It’s one thing to say you have a food safety program in place. It’s another to have your customer actually observe it. Marketing includes taking visitors on tours. What better time to identify your food safety and security procedures by actually observing them in action.

Talk to your customers (and this includes industry suppliers and customers as well as your product’s eventual end-users) about what you are doing to provide the best in food safety so they have a greater level of confidence in your products. Your web site can talk to both industry clients AND to your end-users.

Ready Pac – Ready for Anything

One personal experience I had included being stopped outside the Ready Pac Produce, Inc. facility in Irwindale, CA, years before food safety and security became important. Remember, back in the 1990’s, this was not an issue…but it was at Ready Pac. I wasn’t allowed to park inside the fenced-in area adjacent to the building (in a driving rainstorm, by the way). I had to park pretty far away, as there were other visitors ahead of me that day.

Dennis Gertmenian, the founder and chairman of the company, explained it to me. He said that by having a guard outside the parking area, and having him not only check my identification, but also call into the office to be certain I did have an appointment with the person I said I was seeing, they were eliminating risk. Dennis was always ahead of the curve. Once inside, I was escorted around the plant to see exactly what else they were doing to keep their produce safe.

Consumers assume the food they buy is safe. In nearly every case, it is. But why not take the extra steps necessary to ensure the public that you are doing everything possible to provide them with safe produce. Educate them! If you don’t believe me, just check out the Ready Pac web site ( Right on their home page it says “Food Safety Comes First”, then below that it asks you to, “Click here for the latest update on our Food Safety Program.”

Commitment to Quality – Not Just a Slogan Anymore

When we talk about quality, most people think quality of the produce. Food safety is a very important aspect of achieving quality. From the raw materials that are procured to the people on the cutting and packing lines, quality needs to be stressed from top management down. Dennis Gertmenian said it very well – “We will provide the highest quality fresh-cut produce on a national basis. Our valued associates are innovative and driven to exceed the expectations of our customers and consumers.”

Advertisers are also touting food safety. Just take a look at some of the headlines from last month’s Fresh Cut magazine. “Food Safety Starts While Crops Are Being Grown,” touts one ad. “Automation of Water Disinfection. Essential for HACCP & Food Safety.” said another. A third tells you that “Cleaner Cuts, Longer Life, Happier Customers” are important.

What this tells me is that you are missing a wonderful opportunity if you’re not touting your own food safety and security plans. Take a look around you…what differentiates you from your competition? If you both produce fresh-cut items, it may be that your food safety and security program is the key to gaining – and keeping – customers.

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