The C Words: Compliance and Certification


In pulling on my big girl business power pants – with an amazing belt of course - I am learning a few things: in the food business, you can’t just pretend to be big. You have to actually be big. And to be big and run with the big playahs, you need to check a couple of very important boxes: compliance and more importantly, certification.

While I have been ball rolling, moving the sales needle, trying to find a commercial kitchen and sorting packaging all in an effort to appear big and super professional, I was utterly and blissfully unaware of the big boulders I needed to move in order to grow the company successfully.

Compliance is necessary – like getting along with your best friend’s husband, even when he is a complete douche. It assures distributors and the end consumers that you are creating a product that is safe and traceable; that you are adhering to safety standards around food production and reducing risk to a safe level; that at a moment’s notice, you can identify exactly where your ingredients are from, recall with ease. It’s necessary. I get it.

Certification is the stuff other levels are made of. I am talking about HACCP and this is when food gets super sexy. Insert eye roll. HACCP is an internationally recognized slew of standards around the effective control of food safety. Being ‘Hazard Anaylsis Critical Control Point’ certified takes massive commitment and hoop jumping - it influences where the product is made, assembled, packaged, sold. It means you not only need to be wearing your big girl power pants, you need to top said pants with a hairnet, lab coat (without buttons or pockets) and latex gloves. Certification chic.

 I am already Food Handler certified and will be working in a regularly audited kitchen. I am now requesting (at $10 a pop!!) certifications for all of the raw ingredients I use – they verify nutritional information, provide origin and possible contaminant warnings not always featured on the final packaging. Next will be developing a sophisticated system for tracking cases of product (READ: one big ass spreadsheet that assigns a unique code to each batch) in the event of a recall.

The truth is that the big players - the distributors - will not play with you UNLESS you are certified. UGH. Baby steps. Baby. 

The end game would be to have a co-manufacturer that would manage all of this for me, leaving me more time for power pants and less time for hairnets. But alas, you can’t be big unless you are big in this business. I am not big. Sassy. But not big.

Michele Parent