This blog post is the final contribution in a series that has been published over the past few weeks. This series aimed to allow you to get to know the 2018 GFSI Global Markets Awards winners from four countries across the globe (Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico and Japan) and how their use of the GFSI Global Markets Programme helped them to improve their food safety management systems.
This final contribution is by 2018 Pakistani winner, Kashif Elahi of Nuts and Legumes Co.
About the Global Markets Programme
The Global Markets Programme, building a pathway to certification, was created by GFSI seven years ago. It provides an unaccredited entry point for companies through a step-by-step Programme designed to build capacity within production and manufacturing operations. The Programme proposes ways for companies with less sophisticated food safety management systems to manage the challenges of food safety, while simultaneously reducing hazards in global food supply chains and improving market access through certification by one of the GFSI-recognised certification programme owners. The Programme toolkit is made up of self-assessments based on a checklist of GFSI requirements, a training and competency framework, as well as a protocol to guide the user throughout the Programme.
In addition to GFSI’s role as a recognised leader in the benchmarking of global food safety standards, the development of the Global Markets Programme has been hailed by industry stakeholders as one of GFSI’s premier contributions to improving food safety for consumers everywhere. Toolkits are available for primary production and manufacturing scopes and can be accessed in the GFSI library as free and open-source material in multiple languages.
Nuts and Legumes Co. is a family run business from Lahore, Pakistan. On 7 March 2018, we became the first company from our country to win the prestigious Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Global Markets Award for food safety and quality. We are extremely proud of this achievement, which has been made possible through our invaluable partnership with Metro Pakistan and other key stakeholders. I would like to share our exciting journey of transforming the food safety and quality culture in Pakistan with you.
Values and Opportunities Align
The entry into the market of multi-national supermarket chains such as Metro in 2007, followed by Hyperstar (Carrefour) in 2009 helped bring western style shopping to Pakistan. With this came greater focus on high levels of customer service, beautifully designed shop floors coupled with high quality and low prices. The formula was an instant success with customers flocking to the new stores.
Having successfully worked with supermarket chains in various capacities, we decided to launch our own company. This led to the establishment of Nuts & Legumes Co. in 2011. Our mission was to bring professionalism and raise standards of food safety in Pakistan. Commitment to quality was central to our strategy. In order to meet our desired objective, we set-up a Quality Assurance team, developed standard operating procedures (SOP’s), and in 2013, we gained our first quality certificate: the Metro Assessment Solutions (MAS) certificate.
Recognising our commitment to food safety, Metro Pakistan introduced us to the GFSI Global Markets Programme which is internationally acclaimed and helps build trust in stakeholders for food safety. We set ourselves the target of achieving the GFSI-recognised FFSC22000 certification as it provides a comprehensive system of assessment of food production at every stage in the production cycle, from monitoring of incoming materials, to packaging and delivery to the consumer.
During an interim audit, 3 key deficiencies were identified in the areas of pest control, hygiene and record keeping. Key recommendations were also provided to address all these areas. In response, we initiated a number of major improvements at our plant including the introduction of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system, strict rules for sanitation and personal hygiene, and improved record keeping processes including a traceability system.
We achieved the FFSC22000 certification in 2017, becoming the youngest company in Pakistan to do so. These measures have led to streamlined processes resulting in reduced costs, substantial reductions in customer complaints, increased consumer confidence and ultimately growing demand for our products.
Making the Nation Proud
After winning the Metro Supplier of the Year award in 2017, they encouraged us to apply for the GFSI Award. Initially, we were hesitant because we were not sure of our chances, but Metro insisted we apply and even helped us put together our application.
We were pleasantly surprised to receive an email from GFSI informing us that we had won the Global Markets Award for food safety and quality, along with an invitation to attend the GFSI Conference and award ceremony to be held in Tokyo, Japan.
Visiting Japan was a rich cultural experience and an informative one because of the special tour of 3 impressive factories across different industries. We would like to give special mention to Mia Masson of GFSI who was an excellent host, taking care of all the logistical arrangements.
Receiving the award was a very proud moment and recognition of years of hard work for the whole team. It was an amazing achievement for a small company from Pakistan having competed in the world’s most populous continent. We are very grateful to the whole jury and the rest of the team, including: Head of Selection Committee Mike Taylor, GFSI Senior Manager Anne Gerardi, GFSI Board Chairperson Mike Robach, and greenfence the sponsors of our trip.
The conference itself was excellent, with an impressive list of speakers, who delivered very informative talks in a very engaging way. We learned a number of key concepts which we brought back home and implemented. Another key benefit of the attending the conference was being surrounded by exceptional individuals and companies with shared values. GFSI is successfully creating a global community of world-class companies with a shared passion for improving food safety and quality around the world.
The Future is Green
Winning the prestigious award has been fantastic for Nuts & Legumes Co., leading to nationwide coverage in both print and digital media, ultimately raising awareness of food safety in the country. Our reputation has been greatly enhanced with several businesses approaching us to partner with them. We are looking to diversify our product ranges and compete in different market segments, as well as enter foreign markets.
Finally, we wish to thank GFSI, Metro Pakistan and all our partners, without whom none of this would have been possible. We are excited to continue our partnership with them and to continue to raise the bar for food safety and quality in Pakistan.