Scaling food safety best practices across HelloFresh
Today marks World Food Safety Day and this year's theme “Safer food, better health” is aligned with our work across the entire HelloFresh Group. From recognizing GFSI-certified suppliers including our vegetable and fruit farms, to using advanced platforms to manage our food safety and quality information through, we are constantly evolving our standards and making sure the ‘Fresh’ is always in our name.
The pandemic has massively accelerated the growing trend for food e-commerce and HelloFresh managed to significantly grow an already successful business. In 2020 alone revenue doubled and in 2021 we delivered almost 1 billion meals to customers worldwide. Such rapid growth comes with its own package of challenges in procurement, operations and also food safety management. Thankfully HelloFresh had already established a strong food safety culture and effective quality control processes which we managed to scale to meet the requirements of our higher production volumes, four new market entries and 15 new fulfillment centers since 2020.
Members of the International FSQA team in Berlin.
Investing in people and expertise
Over the last few years, HelloFresh has massively invested in the food safety team to scale our efforts across all markets and sites. The width and depth of the team has been drastically expanded. In our Berlin headquarter alone more than 30 colleagues coordinate FSQA (Food Safety and Quality Assurance) efforts for the International segment which includes all HelloFresh markets besides the US. Each fulfillment center from which we ship our meal kits employs dozens of FSQA colleagues, adding another couple of hundred employees all over the world from Japan to Canada. They take care of a variety of tasks like product safety (quality control intake teams), facility cleanliness and waste management (hygiene teams) and cross functional process improvement (local FSQA leads). In addition to our in-house quality control teams, we also employ a supplier quality team that audits suppliers and leads them through a strict onboarding process when partnering with HelloFresh.
The US food safety and quality assurance team consists of another almost 100 colleagues at their HQ in New York and around 100 employees each at the 15 different distribution centers across the country.
The DACH FSQA team is responsible for Germany, Austria and Switzerland operations.
Our fulfillment centers live up to the highest food safety standards
With so many people in different roles working in 17 different countries on four continents, the International Food Safety team decided to put a renewed focus on codifying and professionalizing our standards, processes and products and scaling up best practices across markets and site locations. For this reason, HelloFresh is currently in the process of getting the high food safety standards in our fulfillment centers confirmed by external certification. All major distribution centers in the International segment will be BRCGS certified until the end of 2023 with ten of them being certified this year. We are proud to say that we were able to partner with BRCGS in updating their existing Global Standard for Storage and Distribution to include e-commerce operations, and thus contribute our experience to improve an industry-leading standard. In the US all of our fulfillment centers are already SQF (Safe Quality Food) certified since 2021.
Our distribution centers have produced almost one billion meals in 2021.
Choosing the best suppliers to ensure food safety
While we raise and codify standards in our own operations, we also want to make sure that our high standards are met by suppliers. We recognize Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification in our supply chain and we complete regular visits and audits.
We are also currently in the process of moving all of our produce suppliers to be Global GAP certified or equivalent and have already reached 93% Global GAP or equivalent certified vegetable and fruit suppliers.
Global GAP is an industry leading standard and HelloFresh has also started a partnership with them on farmed salmon.
Our regular supplier visit program and a team of dedicated FSQA staff make sure to check for certification compliance. We also regularly monitor supplier performance during intake checks in our own facilities. These include microbiological examinations and authenticity checks to avoid food fraud.
The Benelux FSQA team is responsible for food safety and quality control in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Launching the HelloFresh Food Academy
To further improve food safety excellence we partner with established institutions such as Campden BRI to develop training courses such as our Food Academy which teaches our teams about everything from the science behind our products to potential ethical risks within our supply chain and how to manage these. As part of this we have launched a Quality and Safety Culture programme which engages with all levels of the organization. Different functional teams (e.g. culinary, procurement, FSQA) learn about correct risk assessment, crisis management and many other topics. Campden BRI developed 22 courses for HelloFresh that include allergen management, ethical trading and sensory courses to learn about the sensory and taste properties of products.
While we always strive to improve our standards and processes, we have achieved a lot already. Just recently, our efforts have been recognized by the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) with its prestigious Black Pearl Award for outstanding achievements in corporate excellence in food safety.