What do agents and brokers bring to the global food distribution chain? Without them, supermarkets would look like the ones in apocalypse movies, mostly empty shelves. You know what’s just as scary? A world where agents and brokers didn’t have to be certified by national and global food standards authorities. In that world, shoppers would have no idea what foods were safe to eat.
BRCGS Agents and Brokers are accepted or requested by 70% of the top 10 global retailers. It’s a way for bulk wholesale buyers to check their suppliers’ suitability. It also protects brand reputation and opens revenue opportunities by connecting agents and brokers to food service companies that adhere to the highest food safety standards.
But achieving it is no small feat for agents and brokers.
What is BRCGS Agents and Brokers certification?
It’s a globally recognized framework for managing product safety, quality, and legality. It is the benchmark for agents’ and brokers’ best practices in distribution chains.
The certification is designed for companies that buy, sell, or facilitate the trade of products but do not manufacture, process, or store the products in their facilities or on their sites. It covers the following categories: food products, including raw materials, processed foods, and fruit and vegetables; packaging materials – primary, secondary, and tertiary materials, and raw materials for manufacturing packaging materials; pet foods for domestic animals; and consumer products.
Why aren’t more US brokers and agents certified?
BRCGS certification is notoriously tricky for non-manufacturing traders and is widely considered the global food safety standardization benchmark. Preparing for the +300 safety and quality audit requires a minimum of three months (but count on doubling that).
This can drain teams and finances, and the pressures it applies to daily operations may be why so few agents and brokers have proactively invested in the resources needed to become BRCGS certified. Let’s explore the others.
1. High upfront costs – and it snowballs
Getting your foot in the door of the BRCGS certification program begins at $13,000. The costs can spiral from there depending on whether your product safety and quality management system is up to BRC standards. Companies with a mid-sized team across multiple continents can also expect costs to head northwards. (We can attest to that.)
2. Lack of commitment from management
Talking about costs, inevitable challenges will emerge while preparing for the audit. Senior management who don’t make the time to engage with them creates a domino effect that can draw out the process. Passing the audit requires a pinpoint allocation of resources to troubleshoot without delay.
3. Complexity of the standard
BRCGS involves hundreds of requirements related to food safety and quality standards for non-manufacturing businesses in the food, packaging, and consumer products industries. Agents and brokers may need to change their quality management system supplier operations to meet the standards, which can lead to senior management perceiving it as a commitment hazard.
4. The BRCGS audit is no joke
BRCGS has audited and approved over 28,000 food suppliers in over 130 countries worldwide since 1998. Right now, including Ingredient Brothers, only 22 US food brokers and agents have been certified. Why so few? It could be because the audit involves a checklist over 300 points long. If it sounds easy, compiling the documentation to prove compliance can take hundreds of hours.
5. Not a once-off deal
A control feature of the framework is that the certification body can visit a certificated company at any stage to ensure standards are being upheld. This may arise through receiving further information, such as a complaint from a company customer, and a charge may be made for subsequent visits or investigations. Exposing a company to more risk can sound like a crazy idea.
6. Lack of awareness of the standard
There may be a lack of perceived need for this certification in the US since there are so many global food standards. However, there are only two agents and brokers standards: IFS Broker (not yet GFSI-recognized standard but follows the same standard) and BRCGS Agents and Brokers (which is GFSI-recognized
BRCGS certification for Agents and Brokers provides a critical link for maintaining an effective chain of traceability. While challenges exist in gaining compliance, the benefits—from supply chain assurance to risk reduction—are substantial.
As organizations continue to recognize the value of BRCGS certification, the path to safer, higher-quality products becomes increasingly clear. If you’re looking for a BRCGS-certified agent or broker, contact us! And don’t forget to check out our wide variety of products here!
What is the BRCGS certification?
BRCGS certification is an international food safety standard proving a company’s obsession with industry best practices in the food and beverage industry. Fun fact: BRC Global Standard for Agents and Brokers is the only GFSI-recognised standard designed for companies operating as agents or brokers in the food supply chain.
What does the BRCGS standard stand for?
BRCGS stands for British Retail Consortium Global Standard. The organization based in London provides international standards on quality and safety across industries using protocols and guidelines. Those guidelines are crucial to preserving the health and safety of food supplies from consumers to brands and consumers alike.
What are the benefits of BRCGS certification?
- It helps businesses improve their food safety practices and reduce the risk of foodborne illness
- It can help businesses build customer confidence and loyalty by demonstrating their commitment to food safety
- BRCGS certification is recognized by many retailers and food service companies, which can help businesses gain access to new markets and sell their products to more customers
- It can help businesses reduce costs by preventing food recalls and other food safety incidents
- The certification is aligned with international food safety regulations, which can help businesses comply with the requirements of regulators and avoid fines or penalties
What are the requirements for BRCGS certification?
To obtain BRCGS certification, agents and brokers in the food industry must meet several requirements.
- Having a documented food safety and management system (FSMS) in place
- Maintaining accurate records
- Training employees on food safety
- Establishing a recall and withdrawal program
- Handling of customer complaints
- A traceability and internal audit procedure
- Establishing food safety plans
- Food authenticity and Food defense programs
- Verification programs,
- Supplier and service provider management programs
- Document and records control
What’s the difference between BRCGS and FSMA?
FSMA and BRCGS are essential food safety regulations but differ in scope, approach, enforcement, requirements, and auditing. While FSMA is a US law that applies to all food products sold in the US, BRCGS is a global standard for food manufacturers and suppliers worldwide. BRCGS certification can complement the requirements of FSMA and provide additional benefits, such as access to international markets, enhanced brand reputation, improved safety, compliance with distributor requirements, and reduced risk of recalls.