4 Steps for Choosing the Best Ingredient Supplier

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Posted in: Sourcing

You care about the quality of your project’s ingredients and take pride in knowing your ingredient choices impact the health of your consumers.

In recent times, high-quality ingredients have become unavailable because of poor supplier relations. Difficulties crop up when suppliers fail to offer:

  • Consistent quality of ingredients
  • Flexible and optimal delivery
  • Long-term reliability of ingredients: Many suppliers promise long-term deliveries but end up changing their availabilities
  • Reasonable prices

When demand for a product is high your success hinges on the relationships you maintain with your best suppliers.

Although you can prepare your project to perfection, high-quality ingredients are hard to come by if you don’t have established transparency and reliability with your suppliers.

Those who find success do so by:

  • Figuring out their needs and outline them before approaching potential suppliers
  • Researching supplier relationships when requesting samples
  • Ensuring quality upon sample delivery

Follow these 5 simple steps to evaluate your supplier relationship and to determine the right ingredient partners moving forward.

Figure Out Your Needs

Create a list of criteria related to product development, quality assurance, and manufacturing that your supplier must have in order to consider them.

Examples of criteria are:

  • Manufacturing: ingredient processing and company reliability
  • Functional Requirements: ease of use, lowest risk of contamination, minimal ingredient waste
  • Quality assurance: criteria that must be met for quality control and food safety

Request all Necessary Information from Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is essential; and, when partnering with the right ingredient supplier, request the following from potential vendors to ensure they are meeting minimum GFSI requirements:

  • Number of years in business 
  • Registration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a number or signed letter stating that they are registered and comply with the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002
  • A signed letter of guarantee stating that they provide products that are unadulterated and supply safe food within the meaning of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as amended
  • A certificate of insurance naming your company as additionally insured
  • A copy of the latest third-party food safety and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) audit report that they have received within the last year
  • A copy of their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program, or a statement that they have such a program and a list of the CCPs that they have identified
  • A materials safety data sheet for all chemical ingredients
  • An emergency information sheet listing the person(s) responsible for traceability and emergency responses
  • A specification sheet for the ingredient to be supplied that should include the following items:
      • The ingredient statement and any allergens present
      • The microbiological limitations where appropriate (total aerobic plate count, total coliforms, E. coli, Staphylococcus spp. and Salmonella spp.)
      • The nutritional facts label
      • The shelf life of the product and storage conditions thereof
      • The packaging information
      • An example of the traceability code and an explanation of how to read it
      • A general description of the product

Other items included on the specification sheet for the ingredient may be key quality attributes like:

  • Chemical analyses (% moisture, % fat, % solids, % ash, % brix or refractive index, % salt, water activity and/or pH)
  • Antibiotic or antifungal residue analyses (chloramphenicol, malachite green, fluoroquinolones and gentian violet) 
  • Heavy metal testing and metal detection requirements
  • Physical quality attributes (appearance, color, drained weight, net weight and/or specific gravity)
  • Country of origin
  • Identification codes
  • Package gross weight and dimensions
  • Pallet configuration, weight and dimensions
  • Handling and storage requirements
  • Shelf life

Research Supplier Partnerships When Requesting a Sample

All ingredient suppliers you consider should have a history of supplying superior product and value-added service. When sampling the ingredient, be sure to institute your new sample ingredients into your goods to gain appropriate testing and feedback. During testing, be sure to see if your distributor is open to sharing the following:

  • GMPs (Good Sanitation Practices) 
  • Industry-appropriate pest control programs
  • An effective food defense program
  • A reliable traceability and recall program
  • Efficient microbiological testing programs 
  • Proper HACCP programs

If an independent auditor is used, make sure their report does not indicate any critical issues.

Ensure Quality Upon Sample Delivery

When a sample is received, do the following to ensure quality of goods:

  • Note the source of the product 
  • The temperature should be monitored if the product was refrigerated or frozen 
  • Sample and test the product potentially at a lab to see that it meets your specifications 
  • A Certificate of Analysis (COA) should also be obtained from the supplier for the code date of delivery and compared with the lab’s results.


Choosing the right ingredient supplier may be complex, but it’s critical to the success of the final product in terms of both quality and safety. To minimize the risk to your company, choose the ingredient source wisely. Then, confirm this source when it arrives and test the product to verify that it meets expectations and is safe to use. Finally, document all these steps to validate your commitment to product quality and safety.

To find success, you’ll need to work with a supplier who supports your quality assurance efforts and is transparent with their supply chain. Seawind Foods takes the time to develop deep and lasting partnerships with processors across the globe. To learn more about Seawind Foods and their qualifications, be sure to fill out the contact form on the website.