Ms Döring, as QA-representative you are responsible for securing quality at Hamburger Feinfrost. How did you end up in this field of work?
I have always been interested in groceries. Very soon I realized that my professional path would lead me into the food industry. During my bachelor studies of domestic (science) and nutritional science I could build up sound knowledge which I intensified during my master studies of food Science. Since I wanted to apply my knowledge and work interdisciplinary, it made sense to start a career in quality assurance.
What do you get out of working in sea food quality assurance?
Generally it requires an understanding of the whole supply chain from the raw material to the packed food. You interact with diverse stakeholders along the value chain, continuously having to handle new challenges.
Internally and externally you work for example in between procurement, sales and processing, as well as suppliers, public authorities and laboratories. Furthermore the product range with all the different species, processed and unprocessed products, preparations and raw materials is very diverse. The result of that is that varied requirements arise. One thing is for sure: it never gets boring.
Why is your work so important for the company?
Within the company I somehow represent the view of the customer. I expect product safety, consumer protection and the highest possible quality. Solely with a quality that meets the expectations, we can gain trust and generate long-term customer relationships. The demands and expectations of consumers towards premium and precisely manufactured products are growing steadily. Same applies for the government. I make sure, that the entirety of the characteristic attributes and the consistency of the product match the guidelines. Furthermore I supervise and optimize all the necessary processes.
How does HAFRO as a company ensure the promised quality?
At first it is a question of procurement. Our employees in the purchasing department and in quality assurance all have expert knowledge in the field of sea food. That is the basis. This is the only way quality in this pretentious commodity group can be distinguished and passed on. Additionally trusting and long-term relationships with suppliers are maintained to translate the quality expectations into the early stages of the value chain. Often cultural or language barriers have to be overcome. We are supported by our internal sourcing unit, the Eurogroup and varies external agencies. Local coordinators, frequent inspections, the selection of optimal suppliers and a smooth process can be guaranteed this way. Certainly they cannot replace a personal evaluation on-site. Therefore our employees regularly travel to the countries of origin. If a supplier gets listed, he commits to the HAFRO guidelines for suppliers. These guidelines contain social components (such as fair salary, no child labor) as well as ecological requirements (e.g. fishing methods and quota) and they exceed relevant legal requirements concerning production, packing and transport.
In practice we make sure that our quality standards are met by means of several inspections in the country of origin, through veterinarians at the port of entry, in the cold storage house, in the partner’s laboratory and in the HAFRO experimental kitchen. We cooperate with an ISO-certified cold storage house and shipping companies. Maintaining the cooling chain and other aspects of HACCP are mandatory. The result is the compliance with the HAFRO quality requirements along the whole chain – from the producer to the consumer, from farm to fork as it is said.
What is the role of certificates?
Our high level IFS broker certification shows that processes, safety and the quality of our productions is constantly being maintained and that we have a sound management system. Through audits of external certifiers the entrepreneurial processes are continuously questioned and improved.
Since for HAFRO quality also means sustainability, we are proudly Bio, MSC and ASC certified. Our sustainable product range grows constantly and enjoys a high priority. The before mentioned certificates also play a vital role in the choice of our suppliers.
What happens if goods do not meet the HAFRO quality requirements or being damaged during storage?
At first the lot is blocked declaring the reasons, both in our inventory management system and at our storekeeper. After consulting the supplier the goods are retrieved or exterminated on the spot, possibly after informing the responsible authorities. During my time at HAFRO we have not had a case like that, highlighting the good choice of suppliers.
What does a normal work day look like for you?
Unfortunately or fortunately every day is a little bit different and you are always confronted with all kinds of challenges. Typically I am involved with the planning and execution of the quality inspection of incoming goods at our cold store, aligning the inspection plan, collecting sample data, sensors, sighting the reports from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed from the European Commission, creating and inspecting labels towards conformity with legal requirements, specifications, prompting and actualizing supplier’s documents and many other things. Days pass pretty fast that way.
What current challenges do you see in the industry?
There are various challenges. Non-declared, added water in fish, prawns and seafood is a big topic. We accept responsibility and we want to act as a good example in the industry. Openly discussing the topic and a correct ingredient list are mandatory for us.
How do you handle consumer complaints at HAFRO?
For us consumer complaint is always a chance to improve our quality and our service. After receiving a complaint the goal is to find the reason and do better in future and a of course find suitable solution as quickly as possible. In case of reasonable complaints the goods are re-credited or replaced straight away. We strive to convince and satisfy our customers in the long term.