How to set finished product quality attributes

The level of finished product quality can be the difference between a happy customer and one that complains. On top of producing a safe food product, your customer may also dictate the way your finished product quality is presented.  Welcome to HACCP Mentor! In this post, I dive into how to set the quality attributes of your finished product.

Food quality compliance

The rules around finished product quality have been traditionally found in ISO management standards, namely 9001. Now however, there is a significant proportion of food retailer standards that require some level of quality compliance. So what is quality anyway? There are many definitions of quality and can be as varied as: a degree of excellence, conformance to requirements, through to freedom from defects or delighting customers.

For me, I think that quality can mean different things to different people.  I like consistency – knowing that I am going to get the same product over-and-over again. Unfortunately, my local coffee shop fails when it comes to consistency. Sometimes the drinks are so hot you can’t even drink them, other times they are cool. Half the time they forget to add in the flavoured syrup that I pay for. (mini rant over). What I think is good quality, you may think is bad quality. This in itself, can make it very difficult for QA managers to actually define their own finished product quality attributes.

Common finished product quality attributes

There are many different finished product quality attributes that a food product may possess. These are generally known as organoleptic characteristics and can include colour, shape, size, smell or odour, taste or texture. Nutritional profile and wholesomeness of the food may also be considered.  Your finished product specifications may already include finished product quality attributes. If not, now is the time to decide what they should be.

Customer satisfaction

When making this decision, I always try and think like the customer. What would they like to see, feel, smell or hear when they are purchasing or consuming our product? If you are a big enough food company, customer research may have been undertaken to give you these answers. If not, common-sense should provide guidance. You can also complete a search for ‘food sensory profile’ and discover plenty of examples relating to the types of food you may manufacture.  Your customer may also provide you guidance on their expectations.

Monitoring your finished product quality

Like anything we do in this world of food compliance, you will need to have a monitoring program.  This will help to identify if your business is complying with your finished product quality attributes. Don’t forget your record keeping to verify to monitoring has taken place. Depending on what compliance standards you have implemented, you may need this as part of your external audit.

Safety V Quality

Before I wrap this topic up, I just want to emphasise the importance of food safety. It should always be the guiding priority for your food business. To put this into context, achieving a certain finished product colour should not be prioritised over cooking the food to the correct temperatures.

How do you define quality in your food business? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

17 thoughts on “How to set finished product quality attributes”

  1. Food quality is defer than food safety. Food quality such as good testing of food, salt, spicy. Food safety means free the food off hazards such as microbiological, chemical, physical and alergics

  2. Food quality is most important factor to make customers satisfied and it is also important food producers are HACCP certified.

  3. Dr. Mohamed Keshta

    Amanda thank you for the valuable information and we are define quality as exceeding customer expectation with safety as a priority

  4. All said is very much required and vital.To my POV, along with the basic design or the wish of the manufacturer or designer to offer the consumer in the product should also be included in Quality Standards or specifications and checks.Many a time the entire Quality compliance gets dragged towards the statuary requirements and customer feed backs, and deviates the product from the original design or theme in offering. many great ideas and authentic offerings gets lost in absence of the focus on compliance check to the authenticity or the basic idea of the product.

  5. Our products (powdered cellulose based fibers) have clearly defined particle distribution, density, color, and ash content. Our specs reflect those requirements, and they are the quality parameters which determine if a product is released or held. The other part of the release/hold coin is the food safety requirements.

    It is always good to have the pass/fail requirements written down and to document the actual results of your testing. It makes it easier for you to prove that you subjected the product to your criteria. And it helps you see the history of a particular product.

    Our products lend themselves to these type of criteria, but it is important to decide what qualities will be used to say that this product moves to the customer and another one does not.

  6. Always enlightening posts from you Amanda, you are great source of valuable information, keep the fire burning


    James Mulenga

    1. Amen James, Amanda’s ideas helps me to double check myself in what we do in our warehouse.Love to read all her post.

  7. We try to deliver the quality product to our customers that I would want my customers to deliver to me if I was their customer.That is why our business started in 1934 is still here.

  8. We actually say that Food Safety is the number 1 priority of Quality since the definition of Quality is meeting a customer’s expectations. All customers expect the food they buy to be safe. Then other quality attributes fall under different priority levels. Items that would instantly make a customer upset such a shorting on count, off-flavor, improperly sealed package are the 2nd level priority. 3rd level priority are less noticeable issues such as off-color and piece size. 4th level priority are minor issues such as package might have some wrinkles or be sealed at a slight angle than straight across. We have zero tolerance for 1st level (food safety) issues. Very low tolerance for 2nd level issues. Low tolerance for 3rd level issues and the least strict tolerance for 4th level issues.

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