The Essential Guide to BRC

In the global marketplace, where food safety and quality are of prime importance, British Retail Consortium (BRC) standards have stood as a gold standard framework for food and consumer products. Whether you operate in the food industry, a consumer goods ...

What is BRC

In the global marketplace, where food safety and quality are of prime importance, British Retail Consortium (BRC) standards have stood as a gold standard framework for food and consumer products. Whether you operate in the food industry, a consumer goods supply chain, or are a retailer, a deep understanding of BRC is essential for maintaining not just quality, but also credibility with your stakeholders.

With over 28,000 BRC-certified suppliers across more than 130 countries worldwide, the scale of adoption reflects the BRC standards’ critical role in enhancing the safety and quality benchmarks globally.

BRC lays out stringent standards to ensure that the end consumer is protected from harm and that brands’ reputations are upheld. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore every facet of BRC – from what it is and why it matters to how to get certified – leaving you equipped to not just comply, but excel.

What is BRC?

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is a pivotal organization that sets the benchmark for quality and safety in the global food and consumer products industry.

Established to guarantee excellence within the supply chain, BRC standards offer a comprehensive framework that companies must adhere to, in order to demonstrate their commitment to best practices in the production, handling, and delivery of their products.

BRCGS

BRC certification significantly boosts a brand’s credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of stakeholders. By adhering to BRC standards, businesses prove their dedication to maintaining the utmost safety, integrity, and quality of their products, thereby fostering a strong foundation for consumer confidence and market expansion.

What is the Purpose of BRC?

The British Retail Consortium developed BRC in 1996 to ensure that retailers had a consistent standard for their suppliers. The overarching aim is to harmonize food safety standards and create transparency within the food industry by ensuring minimum standards are met and best practices are adhered to consistently. This trust in safety and quality provided by BRC certification benefits brands by enhancing their access to retail markets globally, the faith of their customers, and, consequently, their bottom line.

What is BRCGS?

BRCGS or BRC Global Standards, is an evolution of the British Retail Consortium’s standards, aiming to reflect its global reach and application beyond just retail. This entity sets the bar for brand reputation protection through its suite of Global Standards, which cover critical areas explained below.

Created to address the need for internationally recognized benchmarks, BRCGS provides a framework for companies across the globe to demonstrate their commitment to safety, quality, and compliance. By achieving certification against BRCGS’s rigorous criteria, businesses gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, further ensuring the integrity of the supply chain from farm to fork.

The BRC Global Standards

The heart of the BRC certification is its set of standards, which have been shaped by industry experts, stakeholders, and regulators over several decades. These guidelines, currently available in 15 languages, cover a vast array of critical focus areas, including hygiene, food safety, and quality management systems. They are a structured roadmap to ensuring that each entity along the food supply chain – from farm to fork – adopts the highest degree of diligence and integrity in its practices.

BRC standards are not static; they are dynamic and responsive to emerging risks and changing consumer preferences. The detail and depth of these standards enable businesses to operate with a high degree of predictability and confidence, knowing that they are aligned with the cutting-edge of industry best practices.

There are several BRC Global Standards with different areas of concentration.

These are:

  • BRC Global Standard for Food Safety: This level is specifically focused on food safety, providing a wide-ranging framework for the management of food safety.
  • BRC Global Standard for Packaging Materials: Addressing product safety, quality, traceability, and legality to standardize expectations regarding suppliers of packaging materials.
  • BRC Global Standard for Storage and Distribution: Encompasses the safety and quality of products during the storage and distribution process.
  • BRC Global Standard for Consumer Products: Targets the safety, quality, and operational criteria necessary to fulfill obligations concerning consumer products, aiming to assure end users consume safe food. 
  • BRC Global Standard for Retail: Specifically designed for the retail sector, this standard focuses on best practices within retail operations to ensure product integrity to the consumer.
  • BRC Global Standard for Agents and Brokers: Caters to companies involved in the trading and brokerage of food and packaging, ensuring the integrity of the supply chain even when the trading or brokerage company does not own or directly control the production or storage of the product.
  • BRC Start! Standards: Designed for small to medium-sized sites looking to adopt good manufacturing practices and begin their path toward full BRC Global Standards certification. It’s an entry-level program ideal for companies aiming to improve their food safety and quality management systems.
  • BRC Global Standard for Plant-Based Certification: This recent addition focuses on the rapidly growing plant-based food industry. It aims to ensure manufacturers of plant-based products meet the same high levels of safety and quality as those producing animal-based products.
  • BRC Global Standard for Gluten-Free Certification: Tailored for manufacturers producing gluten-free products, this standard ensures that companies adhere to strict control measures to prevent gluten contamination, providing consumers with safe, reliable gluten-free options.
  • BRC Global Standard for Ethical Trade and Responsible Sourcing: Ensures ethical business practices and supply chain responsibility, protecting workers and trust for consumers. Recognized by the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI) and listed on the ITC’s Standards Map, it’s a leading global benchmark for social compliance and ethical trading in the consumer goods industry.
  • BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Culture Excellence: Developed alongside industry experts, it turns the concept of food safety culture into actionable data, providing over 80 data points across four categories and 20 dimensions. This tool aids companies in pinpointing strengths and areas for improvement, facilitating targeted actions to bolster food safety practices and align with global regulatory trends.

These specialized standards help address the evolving needs of the food and consumer products industries, ensuring that all sectors can achieve and demonstrate a commitment to excellence, regardless of their specific focus or size.

These standards further underscore the BRC’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity, quality, and safety of products throughout the entire supply chain, from production to the end consumer.

Each level requires its specific set of guidelines and criteria, reflective of the specialized focus areas.

BRC Global Standard For Food Safety

The BRC Global Standard is divided into the following sections, each covering a critical aspect of food safety and quality:

  • Senior management commitment and continual improvement
  • HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)
  • Food safety and quality management system
  • Site standards
  • Product control
  • Process control
  • Personnel
  • High-risk, high-care, and ambient high care
  • Traded goods

Each of these sections provides detailed requirements and best practices that an organization must adhere to.

What is a BRC Audit?

A BRC audit is a structured process to evaluate a manufacturer or supplier’s compliance with the BRC standards.

This is typically carried out by third-party certification bodies that are accredited to the certification scheme.

The audit process involves an on-site inspection, documentation review, and interviews with personnel to ensure that food and branded products are produced, handled, and packed to the highest standards.

BRC Certification Grades

BRC certification grades are an essential component of the certification process, indicating the level of compliance a site has achieved against the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety.

Here’s how the BRCGS Culture Excellence Food Safety Culture Module Assessment grading system scores.

What Are The Tangible Benefits of BRC?

The tangible benefits of BRC certification are extensive and far-reaching.

BRC certification enhances risk management, opens up new markets, and builds a reputation for reliability and compliance.

Businesses that attain BRC certification find that their commitment to safety and quality is more than a legal obligation; it’s a strategic asset. It endows them with a competitive advantage, fosters customer loyalty, and facilitates entry into high-demand markets that prioritize stringent regulatory adherence.

BRC certification yields a multitude of benefits, which include:

  • Expanded Market Access: Many retailers and brand owners require BRC compliance, making it an essential certification for those looking to broaden their market reach.
  • Heightened Consumer Confidence: BRC certification signals to the consumers that the product has been rigorously tested and is safe for consumption.
  • Supplier Performance: By holding your suppliers to these high standards, you create a supply chain that can be trusted and relied upon.
  • Operational Efficiency: The process of implementing BRC standards often leads to more streamlined and efficient operations within your business.

The Scope of BRC Certification

BRC certification applies to a wide range of businesses and operations, each with its unique requirements and specifications. From large-scale manufacturers to small-scale farmers, and from local retailers to global distributors, BRC offers standards that cater to the size, scale, and specialization of diverse entities within the food industry.

BRC Food Safety Certified

Furthermore, BRC standards are not confined by national borders or legal jurisdictions. They are adaptable to various international arenas and are recognized by global regulators and multinational corporations. Their universal applicability underscores the fundamental value they bring to the international food supply chain.

Get an in-depth understanding of what BRC certification is and the fundamental requirements of the standards.

How to Get BRC Certified

The process of BRC certification involves six steps:

  • Preparation: Understand the BRC requirements and complete any necessary staff training.
  • Evaluation: Engage in a pre-assessment, internal audits, and HACCP verification.
  • Documentation: Develop and compile the required policies, procedures, and records.
  • Implementation: Integrate the BRC standards into all your business processes.
  • Verification: Undergo formal audits by accredited certification bodies.
  • Certification: Upon successful auditing, you will receive BRC certification, which will be subject to surveillance and re-evaluation.
Steps to become BRC certified - infographic

Obtaining BRC certification is both a process and a milestone. The last step of the certification process involves an external audit by accredited BRC auditors, who evaluate the business’s systems, facilities, and practices against BRC’s meticulous criteria.

BRC Certification Costs

The costs of obtaining BRC certification can vary widely based on the size of your organization, the complexity of your operations, and the chosen certification body. You should budget for costs associated with initial certification, including preparation and training, as well as ongoing costs for maintenance, including annual reviews and recertification audits.

Maintaining and Improving BRC Standards

Certification is just the beginning of a company’s BRC journey. Maintaining standards requires ongoing commitment and vigilance. Regular internal audits, training updates, and staying abreast of evolving BRC criteria are critical elements of post-certification compliance.

Maintaining and improving BRC standards is a dynamic process that necessitates adaptation to new information, technologies, and market trends. Companies must embed a culture of continuous learning and improvement to ensure that their BRC certification remains a living testament to their commitment to food safety and quality.

Challenges and Solutions in BRC Implementation

The path to BRC certification is not without its obstacles.

Businesses often face logistical, operational, and cultural challenges during implementation. 

However, proactive solutions, such as investing in employee training, fostering a supportive organizational culture, and leveraging BRC software, can mitigate these challenges.

Adopting a systematic and strategic approach to BRC implementation is crucial. Best practices include breaking down the process into manageable steps, building cross-functional teams, and seeking external advice and support where necessary. Overcoming implementation challenges is a testament to a company’s resilience and resourcefulness, qualities that also underpin the essence of BRC standards.

The Future of BRC Standards

Looking ahead, the trajectory of BRC standards is marked by innovation, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to global food safety. Emerging trends, such as blockchain technology for traceability and advanced analytics for predictive maintenance, are likely to be integrated into future BRC criteria, enhancing their efficacy and relevance.

The evolution of BRC standards will also be shaped by macro-trends in the food industry, including sustainability, transparency, and ethical sourcing. BRC standards are poised to leverage these trends to set new benchmarks in responsible business practices and consumer engagement.

Final Thoughts

BRC is more than a set of requirements; it’s a philosophy that should be deeply ingrained in any organization’s food and consumer goods culture. This guide is just the beginning of your BRC journey, and we encourage you to invest the time and resources necessary to not only achieve compliance but to leverage the benefits and become a leader in food safety and quality.

For food industry professionals committed to sustainable growth and success, BRC certification is indispensable. It represents a pact with consumers and stakeholders, a declaration of operational integrity, and a roadmap to emergence as a leader in the global food economy.

For those businesses seeking to secure a BRC certification, the effort and resources invested are not only measures of compliance; they are commitments to a better, safer, and more resilient food industry. The vitality of the global food market depends on such proactive initiatives, and BRC stands as a model worth emulating and exceeding.

The food industry never stands still, and its challenges and opportunities are as diverse as its array of products. BRC is at the epicenter of this dynamic environment, propelling businesses toward a future of nourishment and assurance. It is an investment in the health of not just individuals but of nations and communities.

FAQs

Yes, BRC certification can be revoked if a company significantly fails to maintain the required standards during surveillance audits, if there’s evidence of a major food safety breach, or if the company refuses to comply with audit requirements.
BRC certification can significantly benefit small-scale suppliers by enhancing their marketability to major retailers and manufacturers that require their suppliers to adhere to strict food safety standards. It also helps in improving their operational efficiencies and product quality.
It is recommended that certified companies update their training and knowledge annually to stay aligned with any updates or changes in BRC standards. Continuous improvement and education are key to maintaining certification.
Yes, while BRC initially focused on the food industry, it has expanded to include standards for packaging and packaging materials, storage and distribution, and agents and brokers, making it relevant for a broader range of industries.
Companies in non-English speaking countries can pursue BRC certification by working with local certification bodies that provide auditors fluent in the local language. BRC provides documentation and standards translated into several languages to accommodate non-English speakers.

The key difference between SQF and BRC is that SQF is more focused on quality control throughout the supply chain, whereas BRC emphasizes robust management of food safety, hygiene, and facility standards, catering primarily to UK retailers.

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Saro Loucks

Saro Loucks

Saro Loucks is the Director of Content and a Food Safety Advisor for FoodReady. Saro is certified in HACCP and a trained SQF Practitioner. When Saro is not editing, writing, or advising new customers on what food safety goals they should pursue, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking gluten-free sourdough bread, and playing Mahjong.
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