Secret Sauce for Food Industry Brokers: What it Takes to Thrive

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2017 by Global Food Safety Resource

By John Kukoly

Brokers have always played an important role in the food industry, supporting activities ranging from sourcing components, acting as agents and distributors, arranging the repacking and distribution of food products, importing and exporting, and even providing financial services. In short, they have been a vital link in an ever-growing, increasingly complex and demanding industry where food safety issues are even more important than ever. Their assistance can be invaluable.

There is an oft-misguided perception that food brokers can play a secretive role as well, and are unwilling to give their customers information for fear they will go direct to the source. This concern is rarely validated. Let’s face it, Alibaba, and even Google, and similar B2B sourcing venues, provide everyone a level playing field in sourcing; there are no secrets anymore.

Ontario Food Terminal

Photo Courtesy of: Ontario Food Terminal

The industry is evolving, of that there is no question. For those dealing with the market in the United States, FSMA makes it clear that brokers must be both a conduit for product, as well as a source of information about the product, and the manufacturer. Similarly, within the BRC Global Standards (known as the most rigorous of the GFSI benchmarked programs) brokers are expected to fully support a customer’s risk based supplier approval program. In the European Union, in light of the horse meat scandal of a few years ago, brokers and their ability to support the production of safe food products have come under increasing demands for transparency and support. In addition, one of the newest directions the industry is taking is into block chain technology, where information becomes an integral part of the delivery of product.

In today’s, and tomorrow’s market, as the world of food safety evolves, brokers who can provide a host of services, beyond the simple transactional, will be the winners. Enhanced offerings will include things like:

• Risk based supplier approval
• Florigen supplier verification
• Product technical expertise
• Supplier site verification visits
• Collection and provision of supplier documentation
• Geographical sourcing, expertise, and risk assessment information (critical in assessing food fraud likelihood)
• Additional services, like repacking, labelling, label approval
• Language support, and expertise in foreign regulations

As in any industry, those that can provide not just a product, but the services required around it, will rise to the top. Many will no doubt rise to the challenge, and some will be left behind.

About the Author
John Kukoly is Americas Director at BRC Global Standards, where he oversees the organization’s marketing and operations across the Americas. He has more than 25 years of management experience in the food production and certification industries, having held roles in production, quality, engineering and auditing.

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