Over the last few years, Serbian manufacturers have been getting more and more significant roles within the supply chain of multinational companies, which means that they meet a series of stipulated conditions: from technical and technological requirements, production and financial capacities, to quality standards. On their way to the shelves of the world's renowned traders, the last step is usually one of more demanding tasks, especially when we know that, in addition to wide-spread HACCP or ISO certificates, many market chains have their own quality standards developed by their experts. One of such standards is International Food Standard (IFS), which was established by German and French market chains. The importance of its introduction in Serbia is even bigger when we know that Metro, which has 40 suppliers in our country, announced that it would request from all its suppliers to introduce that standard prior to 2012. At the moment, only few companies in Serbia own IFS certificate, which is issued by three certification bodies.
As Jovana Bolić, the Assistant President of Metro's Administrative Board, announced in the interview for eKapija, the company will provide maximum support to those who decide to introduce IFS. In addition to Metro's assistance, domestic manufacturers can also join the USAID's Agribusiness Project, which will be accepting the applications for participation in the program of support to introduction of international certificates in food production prior to March 1st. The Program includes Global GAP, ISO 14001, ISO 22000, Organic, IFS and BRC standards for the manufacturers of fruits and vegetables and companies that deal with cattle breeding, dairy production and growing of mushrooms and medicinal and aromatic herbs.
eKapija: Serbian manufacturers are not familiar enough with IFS. When and where was that standard developed?
- International Food Standard (IFS) was developed in 2002 and 2003 by German and French retailers with the aim of auditing suppliers of their own trademarks. IFS serves for the standardized control of food safety and level of quality of manufacturers, that is, protection and trust of consumers, as well as improved cost efficiency in the food production chain.
IFS is today respected as the system of food quality guarantee not only for private label food manufacturers, but also for all manufacturers. It comprises management of quality and risks specific to food production process.
The creators of that widely-applied standard are the German Central Retail Trade Association HDE e.V. and the French Retail and Wholesale Trade Association FCD. IFS is based on the leading document of organization Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which was formed in 2000 with the aim of improving food safety. The aim of GFSI is to determine the international safety standards for the suppliers of private labels. For that purpose, GFSI made a list of key criteria for measuring the food safety standards.
eKapija: What are the primary benefits that IFS brings to manufacturers?
- The basic advantages of IFS are: standardized system for product quality evaluation, creation of comparability and transparency within the whole market chain, reduction of expenditures of both suppliers and traders, improvement of food safety and product quality, improvement of protection and growth of consumers' trust, improvement of cost efficiency in food production and sales chain, mutual acknowledgment of conducted audits, high level of transparency within the entire food production and sales chain.
eKapija: How long is the IFS certification process?
- The certification itself takes two or three days and it depends on the size of the company, number of employees, type of production, production capacity and assortment, etc. That is appraised by the certification body, while the process of implementation of IFS depends on the company's readiness to meet the standard's requirements.
eKapija: What are the conditions stipulated by IFS?
- The conditions of International Food Standard (IFS) are focused on the requirements related to the management's commitment and responsibility, as well as on Quality management system (production process based on HACCP standard), management of resources, production process, measuring, analysis and improvement of processes.
The principle of traceability is very important in the process of tracking the product "from farm to fork", which makes it possible for the product to be traced at any time and withdrawn from use if its characteristics do not meet the standard.
eKapija: Are there any obstacles for Serbian manufacturers who want to introduce IFS?
- There are no obstacles. It is only important for them to be able to meet the requirements of IFS.
eKapija: What are the prognoses for its presence among manufacturers?
- IFS will become a condition for competitiveness in Serbian market in the nearest future.
eKapija: What is the price of standardization process?
- The price of introduction of standards depends on the state of the company.
eKapija: What is Metro's strategy for IFS certification in Serbia?
- Metro's aim is to have all its suppliers and manufacturers certified according to IFS or some other standard approved by GFSI (depending on the manufacturer's type) prior to 2012.
Certification companies in Serbia
IFS certification in Serbia are done by TUV Rheinland, SGS, Certop Co, Lloyd`s Register, Quality Austria, Bureau Veritas and DQS.
IFS certified companies in Serbia
As SGS's CEO Marinko Ukropina explained for eKapija, the interest in IFS certification in Serbia is extremely small, and that certificate has, so far, been issued only to companies Sirogojno and Sojaprotein. Szandor Tibor, the CEO of Certop Co, told eKapija that his certification company had not granted any IFC certificate in Serbia to the date.