Cambridge Commodities takes a “no-nonsense” approach to ensuring transparency in its quality operations, says the firm’s Head of Quality and Technical Becky Smith.
When you’re sourcing and supplying more than 2,500 ingredients via a complex supply chain, you need to earn the trust of your customers. And a key way to do that is to prove your commitment to the highest quality assurance standards.
This has been the experience for Cambridge Commodities Ltd (CCL), based in Cambridgeshire, UK, which supplies nutritional ingredients from all over the world to the sports nutrition, food and beverage, animal nutrition and health and wellbeing industries.
With more than 400 approved suppliers – and inputs for single food and drink products often originating from several different locations across the world – the need to prove the integrity of its ingredients is vital for CCL.
Complex supply chains
“We face the same challenges as the wider food and beverage sector,” says Becky Smith, Head of Quality and Technical at CCL. “We have complex supply chains, with a large proportion of our ingredients being imported from outside Europe.
“Adulteration, food fraud, substandard quality products and poor quality management through the supply chain are the biggest challenges we face day to day.
“Whether it is a category of ingredient we haven’t worked with before – or utilising a new technology – we have to continually adapt and evolve our systems to manage risks, so we can continue delivering high-quality products.”
Adulteration, food fraud, substandard quality products and poor quality management through the supply chain are the biggest challenges we face day to day.
With more than 14,200 internal and external tests carried out every year, the company proudly proclaims that “every batch of every powder, every tablet, every liquid” that comes through the CCL door is tested by its team.
CCL’s site is Grade AA certified for the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8, ISO 14001 and ISO 22000 for quality management, HACCP and environmental management.
What gets measured gets done
CCL also measures itself against a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) including:
- Testing deviation
- Complaint data
- Internal reporting.
There is a major focus on identifying and mitigating risks in CCL’s global supply chain, says Smith. “Identifying potential risks early means we can work proactively to protect our customers from the impact of these risks. We have a robust approval process which helps eliminate potential problematic sources. We also work closely with our manufacturing partners to pool resources where needed.”
Smith argues that the focus on quality runs hand in hand with a “no-nonsense” approach to building transparent relationships with customers, which has helped the company grow from having 25 employees in 2012 to 145 by 2019.
Transparency and trust
“We are transparent with our quality management,” she says. “Ultimately, this transparency cultivates trust with our customers. We believe this strengthens our customer relationships in the long run, even though it does sometimes involve delivering bad news if we identify a problem.”
So what about the future? According to Smith, the way the UK government chooses to manage and implement legislation around food and health supplements may lead to challenges. “I hope we will be able to continue working with a global supply chain,” she says.
And there are two key lessons that she would like to share with other quality professionals.
- “Never stop learning and evolving, as the supply chain will certainly be changing – and you need to keep up.”
- “Always invest proactively in quality and you will reap the rewards.”
With the global sports nutrition market alone valued at US$10.7 billion in 2020, CCL should be well placed to benefit from the continuing growth in the sector. But perhaps only if it continues with the “no-nonsense” approach that is serving it well so far.
Watch CCL's film about its quality management processes