Partnership in action
A Waitrose case study

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Page 5: Launching the products

Waitrose 2 Image 5A company such as Waitrose is dependent on its reputation for quality. The “quality management” process requires clear identification of customers and their needs and meeting these needs with products and services which conform with the customers’ requirements or are “fit for purpose.” It is essential therefore to build up a strong link with a supplier like Noon Products so that together the two organisations can establish and continually improve on the highest quality standards. In launching the new Indian Meals range Waitrose therefore required Noon to produce a Product File containing all information pertinent to the product development and launch process.

The steps which took place leading up to the launch were as follows and this pattern is typical of the way in which Waitrose operates.

  1. Waitrose 2 Image 7Objective -This document defined Waitrose requirements for the successful launch of the new range and highlighted the key areas of development for Noon Products. The approval sample had to be accompanied by a product file containing: Development brief; Raw materials source and specification; Audit of raw material suppliers;Test results on raw materials; Recipe formulation; Production/preparation method for presented samples; Record of production sample requirements. It was essential for Noon to demonstrate to Waitrose that raw materials and their supply are technically controlled. Noon, therefore, had to ensure that it only dealt with top quality suppliers.
  2. Product concept approval - Noon products submitted a range of products to the Waitrose buyer based on the development brief. Selections from that range were made and those recipes refined over a number of weeks until the buyer was satisfied that the quality and value criteria had been met. Presentations were then made to the Head of Buying and Director of Buying for approval and to secure agreement to commission designs.
  3. Factory approval - All manufacturing sites supplying Waitrose own label products have to be approved by the Food Technology department using the Waitrose Technical Code of Practice as the reference standard. Once approved, all sites including Noon Products, are subjected to regular surveillance visits by Waitrose Technologists.
  4. Product Specification/Design Brief - Following acceptance of the product range and approval of the production process, Waitrose then progressed the design brief. Prior to the range of Indian meals going forward to the Design Meeting, Noon Products provided a complete specification including the ingredients list, nutrition information and verification of the claims they were making about their products. An analysis of the product range was carried out by an accredited independent laboratory. Clearly at this stage it was necessary to make some adjustments to products before they are factory tested. For example, it was decided to reduce the fat content of the Prawn Pilau and Prawn Balchao dishes so that they would qualify for Waitrose’s range of Diet Choice foods. Another example, was that it was decided to use a stone grinder for grinding roasted spices – a feature which was to be highlighted on the packaging of the meals.
  5. Factory Trials - Waitrose requires suppliers to go through a minimum of two factory trials of new products i.e. the products need to be produced in bulk in normal factory conditions. Waitrose technologists were present at one of these trials and full records were kept. This is a detailed process in which much information is recorded such as nutritional analysis, the recipe formulation, tests of raw materials, identification of safety and quality control points and many other key areas. All of this information must be kept on file. Samples from these pre-production trials will also undergo full microbiological testing to determine the shelf-life of the product.
  6. Product HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) - It is essential that all food preparation in this country is carried out to the very highest quality and safety standards. For each of the products in the Indian Meal range, a product specific hazard analysis is carried out and the critical control points agreed with the Waitrose technologist. All food safety points and critical quality points were identified.
  7. Final Specification - Once the production trial samples and data had been approved by Waitrose, the final specification was drawn up for each dish and sent to the Waitrose technologist. This took place several weeks before the launch. In effect the final specification provided a very detailed insight into how the products would be made and goes well beyond the traditional cook’s recipe book. For example, a specification for Green Chutney Chicken provides details of the final weight or volume of the dish, the ingredients and their suppliers, the percentage of the ingredients in each dish, the way in which the food will be processed at each stage, how it will be packed, storage instructions and all the quality assurance procedures. In terms of quality control and attention to detail, a Waitrose Indian Meal is way ahead in performance standards of any meal which could be produced in your kitchen at home.
  8. Design Process - A Design brief is raised for each line which contains all the information that must appear on the pack. This information is collated by a number of different specialists: Food Technologist; Home Economist; Nutritionist; Buyer. Most of this information comes from the suppliers specification. The brief is then transferred to a printed format. The brief is signed by the Manager, Food Legislation, (who is responsible for the accuracy of all on-pack information), the Head of Buying and finally the Director of Buying who authorises the Design Process. A designer is chosen and briefed verbally about the products and the design objectives. At the following Design Meeting the designer presents ‘roughs’ of a number of concepts and a decision is made about the best approach. The designer produces actual designs for the next meeting and, following approval, arranges photography of all the products and produces the artwork for each design.
  9. Packaging - The Artwork is examined very carefully by both Waitrose and the supplier to ensure complete accuracy. Proofs are then produced by the printer which are again checked most carefully. When the buyer and designer are satisfied that the proofs are completely accurate and have met the design objectives, approval is given for the print run to proceed.
  10. Product Launch - Finally, the launch was attended by the Waitrose buyer and technologist. Samples from this production were labelled and sent to the Waitrose Distribution Depot for quality control and inspection before final release to the shops.

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