Ensuring that food packaging remains food-safe as it undergoes the transformation from a blank roll of paperboard to a finished product on a grocery store shelf is a process that we take very seriously at Sonderen Packaging. That is why we proudly maintain our American Institute of Baking (AIB) Certification and strictly adhere to their expansive manufacturing practices guidelines.
“AIB has to do with cleanliness, it has to do with record keeping, has to do with training,” says Jerry Arness, our Quality Assurance Manager, as he thumbs through one of several very thick binders on AIB-related policies and procedures.
Since our initial “Superior Rating” back in 2008, Sonderen has maintained a nearly perfect score at our annual AIB Certification audits, and just last year we raised the bar even higher for ourselves and also obtained our Direct To Food Contact Certification. While in the past our food packaging was intended to house an interior bag, we are now able to produce cartons and containers that come into direct contact with food.
This additional certification meant some new policy implementations. We conduct quarterly microbial tests by sending finished package samples and equipment swabs away to a lab to be tested for various microbes. We also developed a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan. Most noticeably, everyone within the production area is now required to wear a hairnet. “It’s kind of a uniform,” says Jerry, who has been with Sonderen since 1995. “Everyone has to wear one. Customers love it! They walk in here and notice it right away, even if they don’t have a food product.”
Adhering to all of these standards has been well worth it and we are proud that Sonderen Packaging received a score of 960 out of 1000 at this year’s audit. In addition to our annual AIB audit, we perform a monthly internal audit to make sure that we stay on course. We maintain hygienic facilities and adhere to an extensive weekly cleaning schedule, and our maintenance procedures assure that our equipment is always in top running condition. The recordkeeping required by AIB assures that no process is overlooked.
It isn’t just our food industry clients that benefit from these certifications. All of our clients enjoy the superior results of our strict standards. The AIB policies encompass every aspect of production, and assure that our clients receive the highest quality packaging.
We also have an internal barcode system for quality control in the plant. The barcodes are printed in a spot that will be hidden once the package is assembled, but they can be read by our machines as they come down the line, before they are packed into the box to be shipped. If an incongruous barcode is read, the machinery will stop and the offending package can be removed.
“The AIB Certification does take us above and beyond,” says Jerry. “Now, the chance of us kicking out a bad product is nil. There are too many checks. Our customers feel safe.”
We make the full 40- to 45-page audit available to view by our customers, should they wish to read it. We also invite clients to come and conduct their own audit if they have special requirements, as is sometimes the case with the producers of pharmaceuticals and food supplements.
“It wasn’t a huge reach for us to get the Direct to Food Contact Certification, because we already had such a clean plant, but it is something that is really important to many of our existing customers, and I think it will really open up some new markets for us, too,” says Keva Sonderen, co-owner of Sonderen Packaging. “It’s really good, because even if clients don’t require it, they just have more confidence in us and the products that we’re providing… cleaner packaging and everything is more sophisticated.”
Sonderen Packaging has always stood for quality, and this is just one more way that we are continuing to grow as a company and offering more to our loyal customers.