I’ve been buying the fresh spinach dip at Trader Joe’s for years.
I love it — along with almost everything else at my local TJ’s in Cambridge, MA. Recently, I learned more about the history of this amazing spread. It’s made by a local food manufacturing company called Bombay Duck — a small 10-person operation based in Acton, a suburb 30 minutes outside Boston. They also make the fresh veggie wraps and falafel sandwiches sold at TJ stores around the area.
For over two decades, the company has been owned and operated by two women, Jan Smith and Sue Ashare. Since starting the business, they’ve remained focused on a core mission: making great-tasting, wholesome food. While their goal hasn’t changed, running a food preparation company is vastly different today than it used to be.
For one thing, there is a lot more paper to manage.
Back when Jan and Sue started out in the early ‘90s, they could handle the volume of paperwork themselves. Today, they’re swamped. Jan spreads her arms wide to describe the number of documents generated each month: “We can barely keep track of them all.”
Surrounded by stacks of paper in their main office, Jan explains that much of it is because there are a lot more rules and regulations these days when it comes to food safety. When Bombay Duck first started up, compliance was a small part of their workload. Local health officials rarely came by, and when they did, they’d conduct an informal inspection of the facility — hardly taking any notes.
Today, all that has changed. Jan and Sue have to comply with a large body of local, state and federal laws that regulate food prep. On top of those, Bombay Duck must satisfy a growing list of internal safety and quality requirements put in place by Trader Joe’s.
Navigating this maze of rules and regs isn’t easy.
The laws are often complex, overlapping, and change every couple of years. These are designed, of course, to ensure that food preparation and delivery is safe — protecting consumers like me. But an expanding body of regulations and fear of litigation have increased the time, cost and stress of compliance — especially for small businesses.
At Bombay Duck, complying with these laws falls on the company’s operations manager, Andrea, who supervises food safety. She walks through the facility several times a day with clipboard in hand, reviewing a list of safety and quality measures.
Andrea is responsible for collecting data, certifying reports and filing results with industry partners and government regulators. These seemingly routine compliance tasks matter — failing to comply with the appropriate laws can lead to costly penalties, permitting delays, and even legal action.
While a large manufacturer may be able to hire expert lawyers or code compliance firms, it’s much harder for smaller companies like Bombay Duck to navigate the myriad and often confusing laws on the books.
The Bombay Duck team is not alone. There are over 30,000 food manufacturing businesses in America, and the vast majority of them employ less than 100 workers.
For decades, Jan and Sue have run their company as a lean business. Most of their staff either make or package food products. They’re focused on making fresh meals that taste great.
CoInspect solves two problems:
1) Replacing paper-and-pencil clipboards with digital tools to save time and money. CoInspect is a mobile app that helps businesses conduct “Do It Yourself” inspections — safety checks, compliance audits, and performance reviews.
2) Taking the guesswork out of interpreting the laws. CoInspect uses a proprietary library of “checklists” built by lawyers and public health experts to simplify laws and help identify issues quickly and easily.
With CoInspect, Andrea was able to complete a food safety inspection of the Bombay Duck facility in under 10 minutes — compared to the 20–30 minutes it usually takes her.
The app enabled Andrea to quickly meet their compliance obligations and allowed her time to focus on product quality and delivery. Using CoInspect, she can print or e-mail a report that shows her all of the items “out” of compliance. She can then share this with her line workers during their weekly team meeting — helping to train staff on best practices in food safety.
During an inspection, the data Andrea collects — notes and photos of items in or out of compliance — is immediately stored in the cloud. From there, it can be easily accessed at any time. This lets managers like Jan and Sue analyze the data over time, generating insights that can improve their organization’s safety and performance.
Using CoInspect to run internal food safety inspections, businesses like Bombay Duck can save time and money on compliance, train staff on best practices, and most importantly, keep customers safe and satisfied.
We’re helping take the pain out of regulation — so Jan and Sue can get back to making great dip.
This month, we’re piloting CoInspect with a number of restaurants and food prep companies. We’ll be sharing more thoughts as we continue beta testing the app in other areas of public health and safety.