As we looked at in Part 1, grocery retailers are putting a bigger focus on product identification to improve business processes and meet their customers’ demands for trusted information.
And they’re looking to manufacturers to help with product ID.
Woolworths has an independently third-party audited Quality Assurance Standard called “Woolworths Quality Assurance” or WQA. It’s for all Woolworths-branded manufactured foods.
In Part 1 we looked at a summary of the traceability, document quality processes and checking requirements — including check weighing and inspection — outlined in the WQA Standard Version 8 for manufactured foods.
This time, we’ll look at a summary of the coding and labelling requirements.
Please do note, this is a summary only. We recommend you read the whole document to see the full WQA criteria for manufactured foods.
The finished-product ID should be a product date and/or batch code — batch codes help track products up the supply chain — and must be legible and indelible. The “best-before” and “use-by” date coding needs to meet the country-of-sale’s regulatory requirements.
In Australia, packaged foods with a shelf-life under two years must have a use-by or best-before date on the primary packaging (the retail pack), and while those with a shelf life greater than two years don’t need a date code, Woolies usually requests one. You can find detailed information on date coding requirements at the Food Standards ANZ website.
All coding systems you use for date and batch marking must be clear, legible and indelible. This is especially important for date codes: because the law says you must have the date, the code has to be indelible, and legible to the end consumer.
Here’s a good guide on which technology solutions will help you meet date marking and batch coding requirements.
Woolworths has strict labelling requirements for both retail and outer product packaging. Here’s an overview of some basics:
- Labelling must conform to Australian regulatory requirements
- It must include the product name on retail packs or cartons
- All products must be labelled with a date, batch or manufacturer traceability code
- As with all product ID, labelling needs to be clear and legible
- The outer packaging or shipper label must have:
i. vendor name and address (or your Woolies-approved vendor number where approved)
ii. product name
iii. net weight or number of units
iv. date, batch or manufacturer traceability code
v. country of origin
As a vendor, you must develop, document and implement procedures to ensure your product is packed into the correct and current packaging (both retail pack and shipper). These procedures include controlling:
- packaging storage in the warehouse
- packing lines and/or equipment
- packaging changeovers
- any additional printed information (printed on or off line, eg: ink jet date codes or extra labels)
- multi-packs and variety packs
- retail saleable units into shipper packaging and associated labelling ID
- and methods to verify the correct packaging during the packing run
Another important point to note is that suppliers must be able to demonstrate legal compliance at all times. This means you need to conduct regular packaging and labelling reviews (at least annually) and then keep a record of them.
You may be starting to feel overwhelmed by the above, but choosing a coding and labelling solution can be less complicated than you think. Which technology you choose depends on the packaging material (or substrate) you are working with, and your unique manufacturing environment. Talk to us to work out the best-fit technology for your business; we have a comprehensive range of labelling solutions to ensure you meet the WQA Standard.
Woolies’ requirements are not really unique: they pretty much echo best practice across the industry (indeed, worldwide) — which, if you’re a food manufacturing company in Australia, you should be doing already to ensure the future of your business.
Help from the experts
Matthews are product ID and inspection experts. If you need help or support with your product identification and inspection, contact to us or call us on 1300 CODING (1300 263 464). You can also read more about product identification and our solutions on our website.