[Checklist] Shipping Food or Beverages? 5 things to ask potential freight forwarders before you put your goods in their hands
If you’re importing or exporting food or beverages, you’ll be well aware of the stringent regulations that must be followed to ensure their safe transportation. And if you outsource your food shipping to a freight forwarder, you need to be confident they’ll be as sensitive to these needs as you would be. If you’re looking for a new freight forwarder to handle your perishable goods, ask potential partners the following five questions to ensure your perishable goods arrive at their destination in tip-top condition.
1) Do they have food grade accreditations
Accreditations are a sure sign that a freight forwarder takes their responsibilities seriously and as most are completely optional for freight forwarders in the UK, accreditations are a good indicator of professionalism and high standards. Accreditations you should be looking for include;
- Authorised Economic Operator (AEO)
- British International Freight Association (BIFA)
- Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
- Road Haulage Association (RHA)
- United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA)
- International Air Transport Association (IATA) Cargo Agent
As well as the above, if it’s shipping and storing food and beverages you’re concerned with, you need to look out for specialist accreditations for the handling and storage of food, drinks and ingredients that show they’re experts in this specialist area, such as;
- BRC Packaging Certification
BRC Global Standards was founded in 1996 by retailers who wanted to harmonise food safety standards across the supply chain. The BRC Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials is the first Packaging Standard in the world to be recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GSFI) benchmarking committee. Any freight forwarder or warehouse provider who has this accreditation has been rigorously audited by the BRC’s highest trained auditors to achieve the certification, which means you can be sure they’re committed to the highest standards in food safety.
- Organic Farmers and Growers
OF&G certify more than half of UK organic land and provide support, information and licensing to Britain’s top organic food businesses. First launched in 1973 as a marketing cooperative for organic produce, in 1992 they became the first body to be approved by the government to carry out inspections and certify organic farmers and food producers. As a crucial part of the organic supply chain, OF&G also certify Distribution and Storage businesses and Importers.
Organic food and farming certification is OF&G’s main inspection and certification scheme. They are an approved UK certification body listed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and ‘GB-ORG-02‘ is the identifying code of OF&G and can be seen on labelling of organic food and farming products they certify; for example ‘Organic Certification: GB-ORG-02’.
Not only does this accreditation provide evidence of a freight forwarder or warehouse operator’s commitment to organic food standards, but it also shows they’re invested in maintaining high standards across the board.
2) Do they specialise in food and drink cargo?
Before partnering with a freight forwarder, do some digging to find out how much experience they have with the type of cargo you need to ship. Perishable goods come with many different needs and regulations to meet, so it’s crucial your freight forwarder or storage provider knows what they’re dealing with and is familiar with best practice. Find out which clients they already work with who have similar requirements and speak to them directly for references – there’s nothing better than a positive recommendation.
At John Good, we have years of experience in handling the shipment of food products, both ambient and chilled, into the UK from all over the world. As well as freight forwarding services for the food and drinks sector, we provide world-leading storage and distribution facilities for ambient food products arriving in the UK at our warehousing and distribution centre located at the Port in Felixstowe.
3) How much experience do they have?
Similar to point 2, it’s critical you verify a freight forwarder’s track record. In the UK, anyone can set up as freight forwarder because there are no formal requirements to hold qualifications or certifications. Following points 1 and 2 will help you identify the reputable suppliers, but a long history and successful track record shows you that their business is robust, consistent and reliable. Find out how long the freight forwarder or food storage provider has been in business, the shipping industry can be volatile so a company that has weathered the storms along the way is likely to be a partner you can trust who is committed for the long haul.
4) What is their customer service like?
We hear stories about bad experiences all the time and the majority concern poor communication. Remember that a freight forwarder itself isn’t responsible for shipping delays, the carrier is, however, it’s up to the freight forwarder to keep you informed. A freight forwarder that doesn’t keep you informed or proactively deal with any problems will likely cause you some sleepless nights yet one that’s proactive and transparent will give you the reassurance that whatever problems arise, they’ll handle it without you having to worry. References from their customers are ideal for understanding what their customer service is like, but be sure to ask questions such as the following to see if their service matches your expectations.
- Can I track my shipments/goods online?
- Can I self-serve certain tasks online instead of phoning my freight forwarder?
- How is the service set up? Will I deal with a call centre or will I get to know my freight forwarders and experience a personal service?
- How will you handle a shipping delay? How will I be notified?
In our experience, a combination of good technology and personal service is the right mix to deliver high customer satisfaction. Our teams work closely with their customers and build great relationships based on trust and typically become an extension of the customer’s business.
5) Can they add any additional value?
The main reason you’ll use a freight forwarder is to simplify the process of shipping and distributing your food and drink products. However, many freight forwarders offer much more than a freight forwarding service which can add lots of value to the partnership. For example, at John Good Shipping, we can take care of your food and drinks cargo from shipping to storage through to onward distribution. Utilising a freight forwarder for port side storage as well as logistics can streamline operations and improve customer service because goods are unloaded, checked, stored, picked and distributed from a single port based location. As a result, customers benefit from lower costs, shorter lead times, a more efficient supply chain, reduced carbon footprint and cost-effective logistics and distribution. Even if you’re not ready for any additional services today, knowing your freight forwarder can offer these to you as your business grows means you’re future proofing your decision.
Next time you’re on the lookout for a new freight forwarding partner to help you with your food and drink shipping, make sure you have answers to all of the above questions to ensure you select the perfect partner.