food traceability tools

Food and Beverage Manufacturers: An Introduction to Food Traceability

If your company makes and sells food and beverage products, it’s important to know where your ingredients came from.

That’s not exactly surprising news. After all, some degree of ingredient traceability is required by law in many countries, including the United States.

However, many food and beverage manufacturers are going well beyond minimum compliance requirements when it comes to food traceability. They’ve found that access to detailed sourcing and tracking info makes it easier to run their companies and sell their products.

Plus, new advancements in technology can give food and beverage producers access to even more insights into how their food and drink products were made.

If you’re new to the complexities of following ingredients through a complex supply chain, here’s an introduction to ingredient traceability.

The Benefits of Food Traceability

Why put forth the effort and expense of tracing your ingredients more carefully? Here are few of the primary benefits:

  • Identify the source of potential contamination quickly – Remember all of the romaine lettuce E. coli scares and the scrambling it took to understand where the outbreak had originated? In the meantime, romaine lettuce was pulled from shelves across the country at great cost to suppliers and distributors. Having proof of where your food came from might pave the way for retailers to keep it on the shelves when similar products are deemed unsafe. And in the less-likely event that it’s your own food product that’s contaminated, being able to reach the customers who purchased it might just save lives.
  • Prevent imposters and counterfeiting – More reliable traceability data makes it easier for retailers and manufacturers to ensure that certain food products or ingredients actually came from where the company claims they did.
  • Analyze the supply chain for insights and improvements – With more data, manufacturers can analyze how much time it took for a product to go from the source to the consumer, and how that affected the end result of the food product. They can analyze how much their customers like certain ingredients, or how much they like the product when ingredients are sourced from certain places or handled in certain ways. They can reduce waste and save money by using forecasts and seasonal data to buy food more strategically.
  • Make your products more appealing to consumers – Consumers are increasingly interested in understanding where their food comes from. Some consumers are interested in their food because they want to ensure their own health by avoiding allergens, pesticides, or other contaminants. Others are adhering to religious dictates that prohibit contact with certain types of food. Still other consumers want to support brands that reflect their values by supporting local farms, independent food producers, or farms that treat their workers and animals fairly. This piece from FoodDive cites a recent report from Label Insight and the Food Marketing Institute that found that 75% of consumers say they’ll switch to a brand that provides more in-depth product information, beyond what’s provided on the physical label. That’s a big increase from 2016, when just 39% agreed they would switch brands.

Thankfully, leaders in the tech and food manufacturing worlds have come up with several solutions that help food manufacturers and distributors trace food and ingredients more effectively.

Food Tracking Basics

As we wrote in our post on 5 Types of SaaS For Food and Beverage Companies, most ERP software for Food and Beverage Manufacturers has supply chain and ingredient tracking features built-in. However, there are also programs dedicated exclusively to food traceability.

This software helps food and beverage manufacturers manage not just product origins and sourcing, but also other aspects of inventory. For example, it may track perishable food materials with limited shelf-life or special storage needs to make sure they’re stored and transported safely.

According to Software Advice, these are some of the other primary features of food traceability software:

  • Order management – Users can enter sales orders efficiently online, and view inventory data and customer purchase histories.
  • Traceability – Programs can track lots of food and ingredient lots by serial number from supplier to manufacturer to customer.
  • Recall management – Users can use the software to plan and simulate future recall events.
  • Recipe management – Users can manage and order ingredients and quantities that are required to produce a food or beverage product.
  • Quality control – Users can monitor quality control factors for specific suppliers, customers, and products.

Recent Advancements in Food Traceability

We already mentioned that many of the software programs designed for food and beverage manufacturers have some ingredient traceability features. But as technology advances, food and beverage manufacturers will have access to features that allow for even more accuracy and insights. Here are a few of those features.

  • Blockchain accountability – Apps like OriginTrail and Bext360 take ingredient tracking ability even further by using blockchain technology to confirm with certainty where any given lot of food has been. The use of blockchain ensures that transactions and events cannot be falsified.
  • DNA tracking for food ingredients – The company SafeTraces uses a device to insert a DNA-level “edible, invisible barcode” into food products. Users can use the codes to track each individual piece of produce. The process even works for liquids. SafeTraces product codes can be linked to registry systems for seamless data access.
  • Measuring ingredients’ social cost and environmental footprintAtSource was developed by food supplier Olam Industries to help buyers calculate the full social and environmental impact of their products. AtSource’s digital dashboard can calculate things like water usage, carbon emissions, and country-level risk screening for supplies and ingredients.
  • Flavor tracking through the supply chain – In 2019, the flavor tracking app FlavorWiki announced that it would partner with food traceability app to show users how their products’ flavors change throughout each step of the supply chain.

Staying in Compliance

As we mentioned earlier, tracking some information about food and ingredients is required by U.S. law.

According to this food safety attorney, in order to comply with the The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, you’ll need to show “where your ingredients came from, the products in which those ingredients were used, and your customer to whom you shipped them.” There are additional traceability requirements if you process foods using ingredients sourced from overseas.

However, the cornerstone of FSMA compliance is a written food safety plan, which summarizes the safety hazards and threats that are “reasonably likely to occur within your products,” and the plan to prevent and respond to each one.

The specifics of these plans can vary based on your facility’s needs, and you’ll definitely need to construct your own with the help of an attorney with industry experience.

However, when it comes to visitor management, your food safety plan should include initiatives to limit and monitor visitors and to keep a close eye on deliveries.

For that reason, many modern food and beverage manufacturers are using visitor management software such as The Receptionist to check visitors in and analyze their activity.

To learn more, hear how food and beverage companies have used visitor management software successfully, and download The Complete Guide to Visitor Management for the Food & Beverage Industry, head over to our Food and Beverage industry page.

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