‘Vast amounts of data will be generated by preventative process’
By Loralee Stevens, Special to the Business Journal
SAN RAFAEL — As the U.S. Food & Drug Administration readies the most sweeping food growing and processing reforms in 75 years, a savvy group of North Bay entrepreneurs has already launched a cloud-based system to comply with them.
SafetyChain (888-235-7540, safetychain.com) is the latest product of the same team that changed the way human resources are managed while at Novato-based software-as-a-service provider Enwisen, sold to Lawson Software for $79 million in January 2011.
Led by former Enwisen Chief Executive Officer Wally Smith and initially funded with $6.8 million from CGI, SafetyChain has addressed all the requirements of preventive food safety for growers and processors as well as co-packers, distributors, retailers and foodservice companies.
“As the FDA recognized the need to regulate on a preventive rather than a reactive level, I saw the need to deal electronically with the vast amounts of data that will be generated by the preventative process,” said Mr. Smith.
Food safety is about an $11 billion market globally.
“Only 1 percent of food safety data is tracked electronically using cloud-based tools. There’s a huge greenfield market,” said Mr. Smith.
Although FSMA in its entirety is two years away from finalization, adapting preventative measures now offers the best ROI, he said.
“Brand protection trumps compliance for most businesses, but both require best practices. The right technology can save you money while assuring compliance and enhancing and protecting your brand.”
“We see partnership opportunities with large software firms that don’t have our focus on this one product,” he said.
According to Don Jones, vice president of quality and safety for Atkins Nutritionals, the Denver company’s low-carb shakes, bars and entrees are manufactured by partners and inspected by Atkins before shipping.
“We were keeping track of data produced by the lab with spreadsheets. Now our internal inspection data and micro results will go directly into SafetyCbain software where any non-compliance issues are picked up immediately. I’m alerted electronically and so is the manufacturer; there are no phone calls to make and no employee time taken up.”
“The system has drawn no complaints from our vendors; it’s not cumbersome,” said Mr. Jones. “Once FSMA is fully implemented we’ll already have an effective process in place.”
For Sqwincher, a maker of activity drinks from both powders and liquids, SafetyChain is a ticket into the 21st century.
“We were trying to keep track of our data on paper in filing cabinets,” said John Edie, quality assurance manager for the Mississippi company. “Once we get SafetyChain completely up and running we’ll not only be paperless, but fully mobile. Our plant managers and inspectors will record data on their tablets and we’ll have it at our fingertips in real time for the first time.”
Implementing the system, which is being done with plenty of help from the team at SafetyChain, will allow the company to be SQF (Safe Quality Food) certified, he said, making the products more attractive to consumers.
”We’re learning all the time as we tweak the system to accommodate various business models. We’re finding that regulatory compliance is only one business driver. Many of our customers come to us to help automate and streamline overall safety quality processes – containing costs and getting product to market faster,” said Mr. Smith.
“We intend to add a significant number of new employees for new product development and customer delivery.”
SafetyChain currently employs 65. By the end of the year the company expects its workforce to be at 75, with close to 140 in two years.
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