By Anurag Mishra

The Indian bakery industry has touched a market size of around 11.5 Bn USD in 2023 and, with almost double-digit growth, it is expected to touch USD 28-29 Bn USD by 2032.

The rising demand for ready-to-eat (RTE) bakery products, on account of hectic lifestyles and changing dietary patterns of individuals, is primarily driving the India bakery market. Additionally, the increasing consumption of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), including bread and biscuits, is also propelling the market growth. Moreover, the growing presence of bakery items across the e-commerce sector that offers doorstep delivery, exciting offers, wide range of options, and online payment methods is acting as a significant growth-inducing factor. Besides this, the widespread adoption of clean-label, organic, and fortified bakery goods is further augmenting the Indian market.

Around 20% of products in the entire bakery category are wasted and this number touches around 40% for some of the products. Poor quality and compromised product safety is one of the major reasons of these wastages. In developed countries, some parts of these damages are re-worked but in countries like India, these damages are not utilized.

With increasing number of units and varieties of bakery products ,  what stands out is ‘Quality and Safety’ of the product and due to competition, consumer awareness and regulations, most of the companies are maintaining Quality & Food safety while manufacturing.However,  it’s equally important to maintain the quality while distribution and storage till the product reaches the consumer so that consumers can enjoy the signature taste and quality which was maintained during the manufacturing. It’s all about caring for your stock during distribution and storing in warehouse, distributor’s place.

Other than wastages, food safety incidences are one of the most serious concerns which may be the result of poor storage and distribution. Everyday we find news regarding food safety incidences resulted from storage and distribution issues like temperature variation, Pest infestation , Allergen Mix-ups and Cross contamination.

This calls for focus on distribution i.e. storage and transportation to mitigate food safety incidences and waste reduction.

Most organizations follow Quality/Food Safety Management Systems while manufacturing/ processing food products and in the same manner we can design a Distribution Quality and Food Safety Management System ( DQFSM) :

DQFSM works on PDCA Cycle i.e.:

Plan       – Plan all the elements of DQFSM system and provide resources.

Do          – Implement all the elements as per plan.

Check    – Check the effectiveness of the system.

Act         – Continual Improvement

Storage and Transportation Quality Management System may have the below key elements:

Scope of the DQFSM : Scope of Implementation is the key for any management system and the same is equally important for DQFSM as well. The detailed scope will help the entire management team to allocate resources and draft the plan for DQFSM. For example, if an organization has a few warehouses and some of those are owned and the rest are maintained by third parties, while deciding the scope, an organization may decide to take only owned warehousing facilities under scope and later scope can be extended to other warehouses as well. Scope can be defined on the basis of available resources, urgency of implementation in a specific area, regulatory requirements etc.

Management Commitment: The top-down approach is a synonym of management commitment. In a simple way, when management (key decision makers) is aligned to provide all the support, resources, time etc. then the probability of success in any project / system implementation is quite high. That is why it’s very important to take a buy in of key decision makers before implementing DQFSM.  Because there will be some changes in ways of working post implementation of DQFSM and those changes may affect the ongoing practices, so if all the key stakeholders / decision makers are aligned then one may avoid any end-time hurdles while implementing DQFSM.

Once management is aligned then one can form a team having multi-functional associates with one key co-coordinator of the system.

Document Control: The most important elements in any system are the processes, procedures , work instructions , records , policies , plans and if these documents are not controlled then it may lead to a significant non conformance or failure . Document control enables the user to follow the correct and up to date information required to carry out that specific activity. For an example – a big warehouse service company stores more than 1000 bakery items and the required temperature of each item is mentioned in the “Temperature Control Sheet “. Suddenly, the owner of one item communicates that their temperature requirements have been changed and the older range will no longer exit. If warehouse management is not updating the temperature in the control sheet, then it will be missed by the executives working on the ground , , further leading to quality and sometimes serious  food safety issues.

Typically, Document Control enforces that documents are (minimum):

  • Reviewed / approved by required stake holders
  • Up to date
  • Available at point of use
  • Identified with a Unique Number
  • Properly Controlled

Training and development: One of the most important pre-requisites to any system is getting everyone up to some level of understanding of that system and this can be achieved only by effective training and development of the associates who will be involved during implementation . The coordinator of the team must be trained and then he/she must identify the training needs of the core team and then each and everyone who will be involved in DQFSM (directly/ indirectly). Training must be evaluated to understand the effectiveness and evaluation can be done orally or by written tests etc.

Infrastructure: Here is the backbone of the DQFSM system because without favorable infrastructure and correct practices, DQFSM will not be sustainable. Infra and practices are those requirements where investments may be required, but at the same time, we all need to understand that “Quality Comes with Cost “.

Infrastructure in DQFSM means:

A ) Building : Buildings must be in good condition, must not support any dust/ dirt accumulation , easy to clean , no water leakage , no cracks on walls /floors , must support smooth operations , roofs and all be weather-proof etc.

B ) Temperature Control : The facility must have all the arrangements to provide uninterrupted required temperature , humidity control and ventilation etc.

C ) Lighting : Lighting must be sufficient to observe the cleanliness and smooth operation. Light fixtures must be covered and shatter proof. It is required to avoid any contamination of the food products kept under or near the light. 

D ) Employee Facility : All the employees working in WH , must have facilities like cafeteria , washrooms , change room etc.

E ) Access Control : Given the current scenario, food fraud ( unintentional adulteration )  is emerging as a big risk to the food industry, so all the food items must be kept in controlled storage with minimum required movement .

When we refer infra for Logistics then it includes:

  • Vehicle in Good Condition
  • No dust/ dirt accumulation
  • No Rusting or damaged inner surfaces
  • Covered from all sides
  • Able to maintain the required temperature

Prerequisite Programs:  As the name explains, Pre- requisite programs are those set of activities which build a robust framework for effective DQFSM implementation. These programs are (but not limited at all) :

A ) Good Warehousing Practices : Good warehousing practices include the practice of stacking stocks , proper identification , distance of stock from wall , storing non-conforming stocks separately , storing damaged and returned stock separately etc.

B ) Integrated Pest Management ( IPM )  : The most critical factor which causes serious contamination during storage and transportation is infestation and that’s why Integrated pest management  becomes extremely important to minimize this risk. Integrated pest management is a preventive mechanism and main points to remember are:

  • Clear IPM plan focusing on the pests identified during the pre-assessment
  • Pest control must be done by a certified and trained agency only.
  • Only approved chemicals must be used during treatment
  • No chemicals must be used inside the storage room or near the product stored.
  • Rodent boxes, Pest-o-Flash etc must be fixed on the basis of recommendation given by the Pest control Agencies.
  • Basic pest control map, treatment records etc. must be maintained.

C ) Loading and Unloading Practices: During the entire distribution operation, loading and unloading is repeated the most hence most probable operation to affect the quality of the product. That’s why there must be documented a process of Loading and Unloading which must include (minimum):

  • How to handle the stock ( which side to pick – down/ up)
  • Avoid throwing completely
  • Don’t run over stocks
  • Dedicated Loading and Unloading Area description ( Weather proof etc )
  • Resting time if kept in chilled or freezing condition etc.
  1. D) Temperature Control: For bakery food items (Cake , Pastries etc.) temperature plays a critical role because, if not maintained, then it may impact on the quality of the food very badly and may result in a food safety issue. So facilities must have a documented process for temperature control with the below information (minimum) :
  • Specific temperature required for specific bakery item
  • Maintenance of Refrigeration system
  • Calibration of Measuring Devices
  • Record keeping etc.

E ) Good Housekeeping Practices: It’s required to ensure that warehouse and vehicles are neat and clean and does not introduce any risk of foreign matter (dirt/ dust etc) to the product and also minimizes possibility of any pest harbor-age. The facility must have a master cleaning schedule with 100 % coverage of all the areas including roof, windows, lights etc, and relevant records also must be maintained accordingly.

F ) Control of Non Conforming material: A facility must have a process of handling / storing / transporting non-conforming material. Non conforming material can be any material which is not fit for sale, like having quality or food safety issues, legal or regulatory issues etc. . . facility must have a clear process defining the proper handling of such stock in a way that it’s not mixed with good stock. Documents must include identification and communication mechanisms of such stock in their document.

G ) Handling Damage, Expiry and Market Return Stock: Keeping damaged, market return, and expiry stock for a longer time may invite serious issues like cross contamination and infestation to the fresh stock. So, facility must have a process of Handling Damage, Expiry and Market Return Stock which must have (minimum):

  • Storage area description ( must be kept outside of the storage where fresh stock is kept)
  • How to rotate the stock ( must not be kept for longer time )
  • Process of Destruction ( so it’s not misused)

With the above minimum pre-requisite programs, one may start making the foundation of DQFSM.

Inventory Management: Most of the  bakery products , being perishable, require quick movement and if that’s not done then it may lead to expiry of the stock leading,  to business loss. Also, in the case of inventory mismanagement, mixed batches can be sent without proper traceability, which may be troublesome in case of any crisis like a recall. So facilities must have a process which supports FIFO (First in First out) or FEFO (First Expiry First Out). 

Internal Audit: To check the effectiveness of the implemented system, the facility must have a process of assessing the change done . It can be done with the help of an internal audit . Internal audit is a tool of assessing the effectiveness of any improvement done/ existing condition. If used properly, internal audit is the most practiced method of continual improvement. 

Corrective/ Preventive Action and Continual Improvement: Correcting issues observed in day to day operations  , Observation of Internal or external audits , observation feedbacks coming from consumers or customers etc. and then preventing the same from future recurrence is called Corrective and Preventive Action, which leads the organization on the path of continual improvement .