Tag Archives: business

Tatiana Bravo, INTURN
FST Soapbox

Looking Ahead: The Digital Supply Chain and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods

By Tatiana Bravo
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Tatiana Bravo, INTURN

The global supply chain is changing. The fast-moving supply chains that power many of the world’s top businesses are being transformed before our very eyes, as companies all over the globe compete to beat their competitors through digitalization.

What we’re now seeing is the emergence of a digital supply chain, with processes powered by innovative and exciting new ideas turned into software.

As we look ahead to the coming months and years, we can expect to see incredible changes affecting the supply chains of all manner of businesses. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that any business that’s serious about competing on the global stage will have no choice but to embrace these innovations and go digital.

So, what exactly can we expect to see from the digital supply chain in the near future, and how might these changes affect fast-moving consumer goods?

Advanced Analytics

The potential of analytics is incredible, particularly when you look at supply chains.

Recent years have seen data rise to the forefront of many business leaders’ concerns. Increasing numbers of companies have started to pick up on the impact that informative data can have on their strategies, and ultimately their chances of ongoing success in the marketplace.

The supply chain is no exception to this rule. As the power of analytical software improves, businesses will be clamoring to gain access to, and make use of, the huge amount of data that’s now available.

We’re likely to see those managing data put under increasing amounts of pressure to use that data effectively, helping to inform decisions that impact supply chain processes and limit wastage. This data will also be invaluable in determining the real impact of critical supply chain decisions and informing future strategies.

The Emergence of AI
AI is the next big thing in business, and it’s set to transform the way the digital supply chain works. Artificial intelligence is now emerging as a hugely powerful tool, capable of helping businesses to make the right decisions for their supply chains.

As the potential of AI improves, we can expect to see its impact felt more widely throughout global supply chains. Look out for AI being used to inform businesses on changing customer preferences, disruptions in supply chains, increasing costs and other obstacles to product delivery. Artificial intelligence will predict future problems before they occur, giving business owners plenty of time to steer clear of potential pitfalls and keep things moving.

AI will also prove invaluable when it comes to anticipating the purchasing habits of existing customers and establishing the value of new leads and potential purchasers. If used effectively, this information could have a dramatic impact on the success of a wide range of different businesses—particularly those focused on fast-moving consumer goods.

Automation of Supply Chain Tasks

Automation itself isn’t a new idea, but the way it’s being used in digital supply chains is.

In the coming months and years, we’re likely to see automation transform the way supply chains work. The automation of processes will help businesses to cut costs, improve efficiency and eliminate any skills gaps by which they may be affected.

Supply chain tasks are being automated with the help of something called robotic process automation, or RPA. This form of automation is even smarter than traditional automated processes.

Informed by software bots or AI, RPA is a significant step forward in the world of digital supply chains. It’s highly scalable, incredibly effective and, importantly, it’s been proven to be hugely reliable. So, even businesses dedicated to the very highest standards of quality are now beginning to automate processes using RPA.

Climate Change Challenges

Climate change continues to be a hot topic in the news, and supply chains are likely to feel the impact of these concerns.

Consumers’ purchasing habits are increasingly led by environmental considerations. It’s therefore important that companies consider the environmental impact of their supply chain processes and provide visibility on these, for those who have an interest.

It’s expected that issues surrounding sustainability will become ever more critical in the future. Inevitably, supply chains will be impacted. Companies making use of digitalization will be best placed to prepare for the challenges of sustainability, reducing waste and making speedy adjustments to their processes as and when required.

A Shift in Transportation

The digitalization of supply chain processes has given ecommerce companies and online retailers the edge over traditional high street retailers. And this has led to a shift towards online shopping, which shows no sign of waning. As we continue into 2020 and beyond, we can expect to see more and more consumers choosing to shop online, and that’s going to have a knock-on effect on the transportation of goods.

Experts are predicting a transportation crunch, when demand begins to outstrip the availability of transport for online goods. This is likely to lead to a shift in how goods are transported, which could well align with changes to logistics designed to improve sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint of products.

Changes in Trade Agreements

Changes in trade agreements between many of the world’s leading economies are likely to impact supply chains in the future. With Brexit looming and trade issues between the United States and China continuing, it’s important that companies remain aware of how political decisions might affect the way they work.

Digital supply chains provide enhanced flexibility for companies, enabling organizations to quickly adapt to changes that could be outside of their control. So, companies that continue to provide a fast and reliable service despite changing trade agreements could well gain an edge over less efficient competitors as time goes on.

Companies making full use of digitalization will be best placed to make the most of new opportunities, and avoid supply chain disruption as a result of changing trade agreements.

Security Concerns

While businesses are beginning to realize the potential of the data that’s now available to them, consumers too are opening their eyes to the data that they share with the world. And this increased awareness has led to consumers being newly concerned about the data they reveal, and how secure that data is once it’s been shared.

Companies looking to make full use of the digitalization of supply chain processes will be incredibly reliant on data to maximize their efficiency. For this reason, it will be vital that companies establish trust with their existing customers and new prospects.

Security measures should therefore be top of the agenda for forward-thinking businesses. Companies that fall foul of security breaches and data losses are unlikely to be trusted with consumers’ data going forward, and this could have a detrimental impact on the efficiency of their digital supply chains in the future.

Digitalization is sweeping through the supply chains of companies all over the planet, and its potential is mind boggling. The automation of supply chain processes has already transformed the way supply chains are managed, massively increasing the speed and efficiency of a huge number of different companies.

In the future, we’re likely to see further improvements to digital supply chains, as companies begin to make better use of artificial intelligence and robotics. Look out for supply chains managed by AI-powered software and RPA, and get ready for astounding productivity from early adopters of these exciting new technologies.

Michele Pfannenstiel, Dirigo Food Safety
FST Soapbox

Quality Assurance and Food Safety in Cannabis-Infused Products

By Michele Pfannenstiel, DVM
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Michele Pfannenstiel, Dirigo Food Safety

The legal cannabis-infused products industry is growing with impressive and predictable rapidity. But because the rollout of new regulations occurs in an awkward and piecemeal fashion, with stark differences from one state to another, and sometimes even one county to another, uncertainty reigns.1 Many entrepreneurs are diving headlong into the nascent industry, hoping to take advantage of an uncertain regulatory environment where government audits and inspections are rare. These business owners will see quality assurance and product safety as burdens—costs to be avoided to the greatest extent possible.

I have seen this time and time again, even in the comparatively well-regulated food industry, and it is always a mistake.

If you find yourself thinking about quality assurance or food safety as a prohibitive cost, annoyance or distraction, I encourage you to change your thinking on this issue. The most successful businesses realize that product safety and quality assurance are inextricably linked with profitability. They are best thought of not as distractions, but as critical elements of an efficient and optimized process. Proper QA and safety are not costs, they are value.

Food safety and quality assurance should be seen as important elements of the process that you undertake to enforce the high standards and consistency that will win you repeat customers. The fact that they guard against costly recalls or satisfy meddlesome auditors is only a bonus. Realizing this will make your business smarter, faster and more profitable.

Learn more about the science, technology, regulatory compliance and quality management issues surrounding cannabis at the Food Labs / Cannabis Labs Conference | June 2–4, 2020If today you cannot clearly communicate your product standards to your employees and to your customers, then you have some work to do. That’s because quality assurance always begins with precise product specifications. (A good definition of “quality” is “conformance to specifications.”) How can you assess quality if you don’t have a definitive standard with which to evaluate it? My consulting firm works with food businesses both small and large, and this is where we begin every relationship. You might be surprised how often even a well-established business has a difficult time naming and describing every one of its products, let alone articulating objective standards for them.

This may be doubly difficult for fledgling businesses in the cannabis world. Because the market is so new, there are fewer agreed-upon standards to fall back on.

When we help businesses create specifications, we always look at the relevant regulations while keeping in mind customer expectations. In cannabis, the regulations just aren’t as comprehensive as they are for conventional food and agriculture. Laws and guidelines are still in flux, and different third-party standards are still competing for market dominance. Different states have entirely different standards, and don’t even agree, for example, whether cannabis edibles should be considered pharmaceuticals or food. To some extent, it’s the wild west of regulation, and as long as the federal government remains reluctant to impose national guidelines, it’s likely to remain so.

The wild west may be a good place for the unscrupulous, but it’s not good for business owners that care about the health of their customers and the long-term health of their brand. Don’t take advantage of confusing quality and safety standards by doing the least possible to get by. At some point there will be a scandal in this country when a novel cannabis product makes dozens of customers sick, or worse. You don’t want it to be yours.

With cannabis-infused products, there is a unique additional factor at play: The strength of THC and other psychoactive compounds. Again, there are few agreed-upon standards for potency testing, and relatively little oversight of the laboratories themselves. This allows labs to get sloppy, and even creates an incentive for them to return inflated THC counts; at the very least, results may hugely differ from one lab to another even for identical products.2 Some labs are ISO 17025 accredited, and some are not. Using an unaccredited laboratory may prevent your efforts to create consistent and homogeneous products.

Even in comparatively well-regulated states, such as Colorado, it is ultimately your responsibility to create products that are safe and consistent. And in the states where the politicians haven’t even figured out which department is regulating cannabis products, your standards should be tougher than whatever is officially required.

And so we look to the more established world of conventional food and agriculture as a guide for the best practices in the cannabis industry.

Hazards

The most constructive way to look at food safety, and the way your (eventual) auditors and regulators will view it, is to look at your product and process from the perspective of the potential hazards.

Some day, when regulation finally gets sorted out, you are likely to be asked to implement a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) safety system. HACCP framework recognizes three broad categories of hazards:

  • Physical hazards: Foreign material that is large enough to cause harm, such as glass or metal fragments.
  • Chemical hazards: Pesticides and herbicides, heavy metals, solvents and cleaning solutions.
  • Biological hazards: The pathogens that cause foodborne illness in your customers, such as E. coli, and other biological hazards, such as mycotoxins from molds.

All of these hazards are highly relevant to cannabis-infused product businesses.

The HACCP framework asks us to consider what steps in our process offer us the chance to definitively and objectively eliminate the risk of relevant hazards. In a cannabis cookie, for example, this might be a cooking step, a baking process that kills the Salmonella that could be lurking in your flour, eggs, chocolate or (just as likely!) the cannabis extracts themselves.

A good HACCP system is merely the capstone resting atop a larger foundational system of safety programs, including standard operating procedures, good manufacturing practices, and good agricultural practices. It’s important to use these agreed-upon practices and procedures in your own facility and to ensure that your suppliers and shippers are doing the same. Does your cultivator have a culture of safety and professionalism? Do they understand their own risks of hazards?

HACCP offers a rigorous perspective with which to look at a process, and to examine all of the places where it can go wrong. The safety system ultimately holds everything together because of its emphasis on scrupulous documentation. Every important step is written down, every time, and is always double-checked by a supervisor. It sounds like a lot of paperwork, but it is better viewed as an opportunity to enforce consistency and precision.

When you thoroughly document your process you’ll create a safer product, run a more efficient business, and make more money.

References

  1. Rough, L. (2016, March 4). Leafly’s State-by-State Guide to Cannabis Regulations. Retrieved from https://www.leafly.com/news/industry/leaflys-state-by-state-guide-to-cannabis-testing-regulations
  2. Jikomes, N. & Zoorob, M. (2018, March 14). The Cannabinoid Content of Legal Cannabis in Washington State Varies Systematically Across Testing Facilities and Popular Consumer Products. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22755-2
Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Stay Audit-Ready, Anytime with Integrated Pest Management

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

The unlimited supply of food sources that manufacturing facilities provide can make pest management a daunting task, especially with the scrutiny of third-party auditors, government regulators and customers. These high standards, along with yours, mean that diligence is a key ingredient in the recipe for pest management success.

Why is this important? The steps you take to prevent pests, and how issues are resolved if pest activity is detected, affects the overall credibility of your business. After all, pest management can account for up to 20% of an audit score.

Auditors look for an integrated pest management (IPM) plan, which includes prevention, monitoring, trend reports and corrective actions. If you want to stay audit-ready, all the time, implement the following five principles.

Open Lines of Communication

A successful pest management partnership is just that: A partnership. Create an open dialogue for ongoing communication with your pest management provider. Everyone has a role to play from sanitation to inspection to maintenance. For example, if there are any changes in your facility, such as alteration of a production line, let your provider know during their next service visit. During each visit, it’s important to set aside time to discuss what was found and done during the visit, including new pest sightings and concerns.

Communication shouldn’t be limited to the management team; your entire staff should be on board. During their day-to-day duties, employees should know what to look for, and most importantly, what to do if they notice pests or signs of pests. Reporting the issue right away can make a huge difference in solving a pest problem before it gets out of hand. Also, most pest management providers offer staff training sessions. These can be an overview of the basics during your next staff meeting or a specialized training on a pertinent issue.

Inspect Regularly

A thorough inspection can tell you a lot about your facility and the places most at risk for pests. Your pest management provider will be doing inspections every visit, but routine inspections should be done by site personnel as well. Everyone at the site has a set of eyes, so why not use them? This way, you can identify hot spots for pests and keep a closer eye on them. Pests are small and can get in through the tiniest of gaps, so some potential entry points to look out for are:
• Windows and doors. Leaving them propped open is an invitation for all sorts of pests. Don’t forget to check the bottom door seal and ensure it is sealed tight to the ground.

  • Floor drains. Sewers can serve as a freeway system for cockroaches, and drains can grant them food, water and shelter.
  • Dock plates. A great entry point for pests, as there are often gaps surrounding dock plates.
  • Ventilation intakes. These are a favorite spot for perching, roosting or nesting birds, as well as entry points for flying insects.
  • Roof. You can’t forget about the roof, as it serves as a common entry point for birds, rodents and other pests.

Another thing to look for is conducive conditions, such as sanitation issues and moisture problems. These are areas where there may not be pests yet, but they provide a perfect situation that pests could take advantage of if they aren’t dealt with. Make sure to take pictures of deficiencies so that can be shared with the maintenance department or third-party who can fix it. You can also take a picture of the work when it has been finished, showing the corrective action!

Keep It Clean

Proper sanitation is key to maintaining food safety and for preventing and reducing pests. You need a written sanitation plan to keep your cleaning routine organized and ensure no spots are left unattended for too long. The following are some additional steps consider:

  • Minimize and contain production waste. While it’s impossible to clean up all the food in a food processing site (you are producing said food!), it’s important to clean up spills quickly and regularly remove food waste.
  • Keep storage areas dry and organized.
  • Remember FIFO procedures (first in, first out) when it comes to raw ingredients and finished products.
  • Clean and maintain employee areas such as break rooms and locker rooms.
  • Ensure the outside of your facility stays clean and neat with all garbage going into trash cans with fitted lids.
  • Make sure dumpsters are emptied regularly and the area around them kept clean.

Monitoring

Monitoring devices for many pests will be placed strategically around your facility. Some common ones are insect light traps (ILTs), rodent traps and bait stations, insect pheromone traps and glue boards. It’s important to let employees know what these are there for and to respect the devices (try not to run them over with a fork lift or unplug them to charge a cell phone). These devices will be checked on a regular basis and the type of pest and the number of pests will be recorded. This data can then be analyzed over time to show trends, hot spots, and even seasonal issues. Review this with your pest management provider on a regular basis and establish thresholds and corrective actions to deal with the issues when they reach your threshold. The pest sighting log can also be considered a monitoring tool. Every time someone writes down an issue they have seen, this can be quickly checked and dealt with.

Maintain Proper Documentation

Pest management isn’t a one-time thing but a cycle of ongoing actions and reactions. Capturing the process is extremely important for many reasons. It allows you to analyze, refine and re-adjust for the best results. It’s a great way to identify issues early. Also, it’s a critical step for auditors. Appropriate documentation must be kept on hand and up-to-date. There’s lots of documentation to keep when it comes to pest management and your provider should be keeping all of that ready—from general documentation like your annual facility assessment and risk assessment to training and certification records, pest sighting reports, safety data sheets and more.

The documentation aspect may seem like a lot at first, but a pest management provider can break it down and make it easier. It’s absolutely necessary for food and product safety and will become second nature over time.

Matrix Sciences and Savour Food Safety International

Matrix Sciences Acquires Savour Food Safety International and Savor Safe Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Matrix Sciences and Savour Food Safety International
Gina Kramer
Gina (Nicholson) Kramer, executive director of Savour Food Safety International

Matrix Sciences International, Inc. has announced the acquisition of Savour Food Safety International and Savor Safe Food, organizations that provide consulting, auditing and training services in food safety and quality, and product development.

“Gina and her teams have built two strong companies with outstanding reputations that come from providing a unique level of service to their customers,” said Robert Wiebe, CEO of Matrix Sciences, in a company press release. “This strategic investment adds to the scope and depth of our Advisory business and has real linkage to our other services. ” Gina (Nicholson) Kramer is the executive director of Savour Food Safety International and also a member of Food Safety Tech’s Editorial Advisory Board. She will continue to serve in the same role and said the acquisition will not change how Savour Food Safety does business. However, the deal will give the firm access to new services, including laboratory testing, process validation, environmental monitoring program assessments, and R&D and sensory testing. “Matrix Sciences is creating an unparalleled team of expert services to provide customers with resources of a large company while maintaining a very focused, personalized approach to service for every client,” said Kramer.

Matrix Sciences has operations nationwide to address the needs of food and beverage industries and has grown through acquisitions of Richter International and Neumann Risk Services as well.

Gina (Nicholson) Kramer will be moderating Salmonella Detection & Control Sanitation Workshop at the 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo.

US Foods

$1.8 Billion Cash Deal: US Foods to Acquire SGA’s Food Group of Companies

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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US Foods

This week US Foods Holding Corp announced a deal to acquire the five operating companies, SGA’s Food Group of Companies, for $1.8 billion in cash. SGA’s food companies are Food Services of America, Inc., Systems Services of America, Inc., Amerifresh, Inc., Ameristar Meats, Inc., and GAMPAC Express, Inc. Collectively these companies provide services that include food service for casual and fast casual dining, distribution, produce sourcing and marketing, custom meats, and supply chain planning and logistics.

“This acquisition will significantly increase US Foods’ reach across key markets in the attractive and growing Northwest region of the U.S. and adds one of the most well-regarded regional distributors to our company,” said US Foods Chairman and CEO Pietro Satriano in a company release.

In addition to expanding US Foods’ footprint in the Northwest, the company will leverage the scale of SGA’s Food Group of Companies, which have nearly 33,000 customers, 12 distribution centers and more than 20 private brands. US Foods estimates it will achieve $55 million in annual run-rate cost synergies by the end of FY 2022 as a result of savings in administrative expenses, distribution and procurement.

Matthew Botos, ConnectFood
FST Soapbox

Innovation Fundamentals Start With A Food Safety Foundation

By Matthew Botos
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Matthew Botos, ConnectFood

Food Safety. Two powerful words that hold the key to growth for food and beverage in the Chicago region (Chicagoland) in 2018. And when said differently, they can mean so many different things.

Everyone eats. Is your food safe? Do you want to consume safe food? How do you manage the safety of your food? How long is my food safe (my mom calls and asks this all the time)? All good questions and something that can be terrifying to the thousands of local companies and millions of consumers in any given area. The Chicagoland community understands that availability of proper meals and nutrition can be an issue for certain areas, and we are tackling that as a community in other efforts.

Food safety is impactful to the farmers (growers), manufacturers, and especially consumers. Think about when you walk into a grocery store. Every product you look at is mandated to have some type of food safety risk management plan. The consumers of today and tomorrow are demanding healthier, clean label, safe items. Farm-to-table is more than a trend; it’s a way of life. My belief is that food safety is “basics done well” and there are tens of thousands of professionals in Industry, academia and government working to make this happen. I try to draw the analogy that the food and beverage industry is a like an iceberg—we only really see the tip of that iceberg being the large national names that everyone recognizes. FDA has an estimated 125,000 registered facilities. This does not include facilities regulated by USDA and other unregistered facilities. Therefore, the food and beverage industry iceberg is actually mostly below the water line. It is estimated that 80% of all food companies have less than 100 employees. In my experience, I believe that number is closer to less than 50 employees.

Chicagoland is filled with high-growth companies that are rapidly changing the industry. They have a unique product, it tastes great, and the packaging is amazing. They believe we should all buy their products! When working with these companies, I ask them: What is your pH? What is your water activity? What temperature do you heat your product to and for how long? Do you use preservatives? What is your shelf life? How are you keeping your records? Do you know if your suppliers have safe food? DO YOU have a food safety plan? I have seen plenty of these talented people start to cry.

There should be no fear of food safety, and once you sit down with companies and talk about a step-by-step “basics-done-well” plan, they realize that they can do this. We have strong innovative large, medium and small companies in the region. And the way they come together, through organizations like Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network, gives Chicagoland the competitive edge at being the food and beverage hub for the United States. But none of this can happen without food safety.

For companies, it is simply a matter of telling your story and how you safely make your products. Sometimes companies have to make some changes and they must prepare proper paperwork. These steps are necessary to inform the regulators and the retail outlets who want to know that there are food safety plans in place and the products are safe.

Many companies are moving toward innovative technologies to make food safer. We have companies using high pressure processing to help with shelf life and inactivation of pathogenic bacteria. Some are using chemistry. Some are using unique packaging. The great thing about the Chicagoland community is that we have access to experts in all of these fields that will help companies continue to grow safely. This includes incubators, marketing firms, scientists and international organizations like the IIT’s Institute for Food Safety and Health.

Chicagoland food and beverage companies are world leaders and will continue to be so as long as they start with food safety.

Matrix Sciences

Matrix Sciences Acquires Neumann Risk Services

Matrix Sciences

Matrix Sciences recently announced the acquisition of Neumann Risk Services, LLC (NRS), led by Melanie Neumann, J.D., M.S., according to a press release. Neumann’s venture, NRS, combines a consulting business with a legal practice, focusing in the areas of food safety, food science, food defense, recall & crisis management.

Adding NRS to the Matrix Sciences portfolio allows them to further grow their consulting capabilities, working with Neumann to expand their set of services. She will be building a suite of services targeted at helping companies reap the benefits of their investments in food safety risk management, according to the press release.

In addition to taking the role of Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Matrix, Melanie Neumann will also maintain Neumann Legal Services, a separate but allied legal practice. “I made the decision to join Matrix Sciences because our vision for meeting the changing and unmet needs of the food industry align very well,” says Neumann. “But more than that, our value in how we need to meet those needs make for a great fit.”

Neumann received her law degree from Mitchell Hamline Law School and a Master of Science in Food Science from Michigan State University. Neumann has worked as an attorney in a number of capacities at major food companies throughout the world, building herself a reputation as a prominent consultant, thought leader and adviser in the world of food safety.

Robert Wiebe, chief executive officer of Matrix Sciences, says this acquisition is an important step in their growth strategy. “Melanie and NRS are critical to building a true full-service solution provider,” says Wiebe. “Building on the capabilities and capacity from our acquisitions of Richter International and Northland Laboratories, our portfolio of companies represents a growing and unique partner for our customers in addressing the challenges and opportunities in bringing safe food to market.”

NSF International Acquires Burwater Pacific Group, Expands Reach in New Zealand and Australia

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Yesterday NSF International announced the acquisition of Burwater Pacific Group, a New Zealand-based food safety training, auditing and consulting business. The deal further expands NSF’s food safety and quality services to the food manufacturing and retail markets in New Zealand and Australia. Led by Nigel Burrows, the Burwater Pacific Group will be renamed NSF Burwater and become part of the NSF International Food Safety and Quality Division. NSF Burwater will offer the following services:

  • Technical consulting, including services for new product launches (product development, label review, food control plans, HACCP development, and micro and chemical sampling)
  • Auditing services, including franchise compliance and operational standards review, and third-party regulatory audits
  • Training and development

Food Safety and Sleepless Nights

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Trust in suppliers. From a global perspective, it’s about experiences. Do you trust your suppliers? Do we silo ourselves such that we forget we’re the ones who add value ? Never underestimate the importance of adding value. As business owners, it’s important to completely integrate yourself into the business. Break down the silos and integrate yourself into the business. You can’t expect everyone else to learn your language; you need to learn industry’s language. What else keeps food safety experts up at night?