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.
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.