In November 1919, Mr. Toichiro Nakashima founded Kewpie Corporation after discovering marmalade and mayonnaise during his stay as a trainee in the UK and USA. This led to the start of his mayonnaise production in 1925. Today, the business has grown and spread to six main categories, namely: condiments, egg, delicatessen, processed food, fine chemicals, and distribution system. In addition to their popular products such as mayonnaise, salad dressing and pasta sauce, the current line-up includes baby foods, liquid foods and nutritional foods for the elderly according to their life stage. The diverse companies within the group include Aohata Corporation known for marmalade, K.R.S. Corporation for distribution systems, as well as Deria Foods Co.,Ltd., Kpack Co.,Ltd., and Dispen Pak Japan Co.,Inc. In this post, this major food manufacturer with such a long history reveals their journey to achieve GFSI-recognised certification amongst their many factories, as well as the hardships encountered along the way.
(GFSI Japan Local Group, Communications Working Group, hereinafter referred to as GFSI)
First of all, please share your thoughts on your company’s policy.
(Kewpie Corporation, Quality Assurance Department, hereinafter referred to as Kewpie)
From the beginning, we have deeply valued the philosophy of our founder, Nakashima, which is reflected in our corporate policy, principles and mindset. For example, one of our corporate principles is to “look after parents' well-being”. It explains the importance of showing your appreciation towards parents who have devoted their lives to raising you with unconditional love. Similarly, it is expected to show your appreciation towards colleagues and customers, which reflects “people closest to you”. As for quality, we are guided by the saying “a superior product is only made from fine quality ingredients”.
(GFSI）How many factories have obtained GFSI-recognised certification at Kewpie?
(Kewpie) Among all 96 factories in Japan and overseas, 94 of them (82 in Japan, 12 overseas) have succeeded in obtaining GFSI-recognised certification. All 82 Japanese factories have obtained FSSC 22000. Currently, we are preparing for certification with a GFSI-recognised CPO at two new factories overseas. TS Farm, a vegetable factory in Fukushima has already obtained GLOBALG.A.P. certification and operates with the support from the prefecture as the model project for public-private partnerships.
(GFSI) What prompted you to consider GFSI-recognised certification?
(Kewpie) Firstly, food safety and global standards have been widespread in international media. At the same time, we felt it was important for not only Kewpie but the whole group, including subsidiaries, to provide peace of mind to everyone over a long period of time.
(GFSI) How did you develop it within the Group?
Around 2010, we decided to aim towards obtaining FSSC 22000 as a trial in only one factory, Goka in the Ibaraki prefecture. This is one of the major factories and it achieved certification with success for the very first time in 2012. In February 2014, an article was released to introduce the president’s plan for all factories to obtain FSSC 22000. This led to the acceleration of certification efforts which spread to other factories. The whole group's action caught significant attention, bringing in a key change in the way we operated our business, vertically and horizontally across the group. It was actually the best timing to make a move forward while we were exploring clearer measurement methods for both inside and outside our companies.
(GFSI) Do you have a promotion plan for GFSI-recognised certification? Were there difficulties or things that took extra time and effort during the development?
(Kewpie) Before introducing FSSC 22000, each factory had already obtained ISO 9001. Within the company, some shared arguments on why it could not remain as it was. The management system, which encompasses the entire quality care for food safety, established that it was indeed necessary.
However, this top-down decision was not enough for everything to go smoothly. Firstly, many factories could not understand the unfamiliar terminology in the requirements. The quality assurance department replaced the wordings to make them easier to understand and held briefing sessions to further explain the concepts. In the meantime, we kept the auditing terminology as close to its original form as possible for auditing purposes. We also needed to keep encouraging employees to boost their confidence, assuring them that what they were doing was right even though they felt nervous about meeting the requirements.
Additionally, it was indispensable to cooperate with manufacturing teams in the production departments in order to obtain the certificate. However we had chosen FSSC 22000 dedicated to only to quality assurance departments at each factory. This resulted in an unmotivated production department, who sometimes experienced it as an extra burden. Through this experience, we realised the importance of having the production department involved from the very beginning in selecting FSSC 220000 dedicated members.
The quality assurance department proceeded with two plans for the required periods to obtain FSSC 22000: 1.5 years for salad and side dish related factories without ISO 9001 or 1 year for those with ISO 9001, since the main work would be mostly document preparation.
(GFSI) What sorts of advantages do you find after obtaining GFSI-recognised certification?
(Kewpie) In comparison to the second-party audit, the required items for audit have been reduced or exempt and the document control for obtaining the GFSI certificate has been established, resulting in lesser preparation for audits. Moreover, additional activities regarding food safety as well as improvements have been widespread throughout the factories. We are still far from the ideals, but the streamlining has provided a great opportunity to be able to discuss topics of food safety beyond the boundaries of the group factories and we all feel that we are on the same level.
At Sengawa Kewport, the entire quality assurance departments from all the related subsidiary companies gather to join Kewpie’s quality assurance team. This environment makes it easier to share the common actions and keep us cooperating as a group aiming for “learning from each other and improving together”.
In the near future, we would like to interview the sales department about the effect of obtaining the certificate.
(GFSI) Please tell us about future developments and challenges or how to leverage the current situation of GFSI-recognised certification.
(Kewpie) The internal goal is to obtain GFSI-recognised certification at all the group factories. In addition, we need to keep up with the revised requirements every year. We would like to establish a solid foundation for quality assurance systems in an automated way, to ensure continuity even when a person in charge is replaced by another.
We are also thinking of the effective use of the examination which costs an significant amount to the whole group. At the time of examination, instead of thinking how to avoid non-conformities, we should appreciate the suggestions, taking them as a chance to improve.
Promoting GFSI-recognised certification to outside companies such as providers of raw materials is under consideration as well. At the moment, we are in the process of checking whether they already have the third-party certificate or not, but this is not set as a criteria for business so it would be up to our group companies to spread the action to the related affiliations.
We are happy to share our journey to obtain GFSI-recognised certification at 94 factories both in Japan and overseas beyond the boundaries of the group, as well as the constructive efforts to overcome struggles along the way. This is sure to spark ideas for other companies who plan to grow together with their own factories.
For the company-wide activity, the top policy is important, but it does require an understanding from each member in charge, penetrating the ideas within the factories then committing to carry them out until the end.
(GFSI) Thank you very much for the precious opportunity to learn about your inspiring experience.
You can contact Kewpie at:
Kewpie Corporation Head Office
1-4-13 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0003, Japan
Sengawa Kewport, Quality Assurance Department
2-5-7 Sengawa-cho, Chofu-shi, Tokyo182-0002, Japan
This post was written and contributed by:
Assistant Manager, Quality Assurance Division
ITOCHU‐SHOKUHIN Co., Ltd
GFSI Japan Local Group, Communications Working Group