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How to Select a Contract Packer

Why you might consider working with a third party for product assembly


Mass production, jars of food on conveyor belt (blurred motion)
Lester Lefkowitz/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Can you explain the difference between a co-packer and a contract packer for my readers?

When starting a food business, a food entrepreneur should decide early on whether to produce your own products or have a copacker do the work for you. The former requires more upfront capital whereas the copacker

There is no difference between a co-packer and contract packer, different terms for the same service.

First question is do we want someone else to manufacture this? Our business is assembly into the finished product. Foods that are best are the kinds that can be sent in as bulk. Snack foods and frozen foods are not applicable

What would be an example of an early stage (not national brand) food company ideally suited for a contract packaging company like GSC? What type of food company can't be serviced by a contract packaging company and therefore is better off going to a co-packer?

An early stage food company might be one that has marketing expertise and a great product idea, but not capital or expertise in manufacturing. They could use our services to launch and sustain their product without hiring people and buying plant and equipment needed to manufacture. There are contract manufacturers for all types of products.

Why should a food company consider partnering with a contract packaging company?

· A contract packager with well-equipped facilities can expand your production facilities without requiring a capital investment from you in facilities, equipment, and personnel, eliminating or reducing costs. This is particularly helpful when you have recurring needs for greater capacity.

· A contract packager is already set up and ready to go, so lead-time to market is reduced.

· A contract packager with an experienced team has built-in expertise in packaging design and execution, as well as related areas, such as food safety and quality requirements-including areas in which you might not have existing resources or expertise. In essence, your development team can be extended with a contract packager.

· A contract packager can handle more specialized needs, such as packaging products in smaller lots or handling unusual or short-term needs.

· A centrally located contract packager can help you manage distribution in other geographic areas.

· A contract packager with expertise in all areas of packaging can help you design and produce a packaging solution for a new product.

What does a food company need to look for in a contract packaging company?

If you choose to go with a contract packager, remember that you will be working closely with them to create your packaging solution and that they will be the steward of your brand, so it is important to have complete trust and confidence. Be sure they have the experience, expertise, facilities, and commitment to quality and that they are able to meet your timelines.

· Look for a contract packager that has formal programs for every process and function, from product testing to employee training. Through many of these programs are not required by industry standards, they increase quality and food safety standards.

· Ask if the company has an internal self-audit program with unannounced inspections to proactively ensure quality and food safety. Self-audit programs are not required, but they are essential for proactively improving quality and food safety.

· Ask the contract packager how they prevent cross contamination. For instance, do they package products in separate rooms to decrease possibility of cross-contamination opportunities?

· Look for card access security systems and surveillance cameras located throughout a facility, including in each packaging room, for added security and quality.

· Look for a contract packager that has an electronic inventory management system that ensures thorough ingredient identification, as well as forward and backward traceability, thus eliminating the risk of manual error.

· Does the contract packager have a program for validation of cleaning processes through lab testing of product samples? Is so, this means results are analyzed and used to determine the standardization of temperature and other production variables, increasing quality and food safety.

What specifications does a food brand need to provide GSC to obtain a quote. Also what are your minimum production runs? I know this can vary by product so give 2 examples that illustrate a low minimum and a higher minimum.

Every job is different. The main information needed to provide a quote are serving size, package format, quantity and who will supply what components. Prospective clients would also need to provide specifications and volume information to obtain a quote.

Minimums can be as little as 25,000 pouches to as much as 100,000 pieces for stick packs.

So what is your next step?

When you select the right packaging then learn How to Work with Food Packaging and Graphics Designers .

See these packaging examples that really stand out: Moo Mixers and Barilla Microwave Meals recent product launch of shelf stable meals zip one microwave package .

For food packaging inspiration, check out The Dieline or The Dieline on Pinterest

FDA Food Good Manufacturing Practice Regulations

Contact Packaging Association


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