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What to ask when looking for a co-packer

What to ask when looking for a co-packer
So you've got a list of co-packers to check out. How do you vet them? Beyond a visible rat infestation, how do you know if your manufacturer isn't up to snuff? Natural products consultant Carla McCabe offers this list of questions to help size up prospective co-packing partners. 

  • What do you currently manufacture? What equipment do you have that is available to a prospective client?
  • Are you interested in my ideas/product? Can you make my product with your current machinery? If not, what machinery would you need?
  • How do you price? What requirements need to be met to be considered?
  • Can you provide references of someone you produce for now?
  • Do you purchase and hold RM (raw material) and PM (packaging material) inventory?
  • Do you disclose your margin, operating costs, RM & PM costs, etc., or is the pricing an all-in number with no disclosures?
  • Do you store FGs (finished goods) and ship to distributors?
  • What is your QA (quality assurance) program like?
  • Does the plant undergo third-party audits annually? Who do you use? (There are about four that are accepted by all retailers.) What was your last score?
  • Do you have HACCP (hazard analysis critical control points) plans in place for all products? What is your process for food safety?
  • How do you plan and perform for excellence?
  • Will you be flexible regarding packing variations for different retailers (big box vs. smaller retailers), changes in weights and sizes (for sampling, for alternative pack-out options), palletization, etc.?
  • Are you willing to grow with us? Undergo changes with little issue? Offer re-pricing opportunities as our business grows?
  • Can we visit to see the operation (to see the pest control program, signage, separation of allergens, storage, and cleanliness of facility)?
  • Are current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs) in place?
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