Going for Gold: BRC and Soil Association accreditation
With both BRC and Soil Association accreditation under its belt, Unicorn is constantly striving for total integrity in its sophisticated supply chain.
Unicorn Ingredients can offer its customers a gold standard suite of assurances, as it boasts BRC for Agents & Brokers accreditation as well as Soil Association organic certification. The company has been certified against the global BRC for Agents & Brokers standard since February 2015, shortly after the standard was first launched, explains Shivani Sridharan, who is technical lead at the ingredients wholesaler.
To gain the BRC certification, all procedures that could impact the safety, quality or legality of the edible seed products which Unicorn buys and sells needed to be standardised and documented.
The BRC Standard assures customers that the company has high level competence in all critical areas such as product safety and quality, and that it is monitoring and continually improving systems. Commercially, it has opened many doors for us to customers that will only buy from a BRC certified trader.”
A consultant was brought in at the time to help the technical department understand the requirements and guide Unicorn, which has a sophisticated global supply chain, through the process, Shivani says. The BRC Global Standard is divided into five sections covering senior management buy-in, comprehensive hazard and risk assessment, product safety and quality management systems, supplier and subcontracted service management and finally personnel – ensuring that all employees are adequately trained and competent to carry out their activities.
Meeting and maintaining the BRC accreditation standard requires close collaboration with suppliers from all around the world. Unicorn faced a diverse set of challenges in standardising procedures. Shivani comments: “We have implemented a strict supplier approval procedure, which ensures that any new supplier is able to meet our requirements.”
The company also needed to ensure that its suppliers were able to accommodate within the BRC standard the constantly changing requirements of its own customer base, typically manufacturers of bakery, cereal, salad and healthier snack products. These customers often request specialist, niche and seasonal ingredients.
Unicorn has also been certified by the Soil Association for the past six years, it first achieved the certification in 2012. Unicorn has full accreditation from the Soil Association to import a variety of edible organic seeds. These range from sunflower and golden linseed through to pumpkin seed kernels and millet.
Soil Association organic certification allows Unicorn to trade these organic goods, managing a paper trail with its organic suppliers.
Annual audits at Unicorn ensure that it continues to have effective controls in place to ensure the proper handling of these organic products. Unicorn’s plan going forward is to maintain both Soil Association and BRC certifications.
All of Unicorn’s suppliers are expected to maintain the certification standards that they already have in place. Suppliers that don’t have certification are encouraged to achieve it. They are supported by Unicorn through the process, Unicorn can help them in areas such as putting together robust procedures.
Shivani explains that suppliers are constantly monitored and are reviewed by Unicorn’s senior management at bi-monthly meetings. At these meetings any suppliers that raise issues are highlighted. When necessary an action plan will then be implemented which can include root cause analysis, and a supplier site audit.
Achieving the BRC certification has benefited Unicorn as it has standardised procedures across the business and firmed up relationships with suppliers. It has meant that guidelines have been laid out to allow for Unicorn products to be bought, transported and stored in a way that preserves safety, legality and quality.
Shivani comments: “The BRC Standard assures customers that the company has high level competence in all critical areas such as product safety and quality, and that it is monitoring and continually improving systems. Commercially, it has opened many doors for us to customers that will only buy from a BRC certified trader.”