Quality Matters - How GoMacro Prioritizes Quality Control
From ingredient sourcing to product testing and certification, high standards go into every bite of our plant-based protein bars.
At GoMacro, we take quality standards seriously. It starts with being intentional about who and where we source our ingredients, and continues through the way we lovingly produce, meticulously test, and proudly certify our MacroBars. For proof, look no further than our Food Safety, Quality Assurance, and R&D department.
Behind the Certifications
Though many enjoy our bars simply because they taste amazing, we know that some of our customers have a restricted diet by choice, and others by necessity. It can be a real challenge for those with food restrictions to find foods that suit their dietary needs and taste great. Most people know that all MacroBars are Certified Organic, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Kosher, Non-GMO, and C.L.E.A.N.
What you might not know is that our long list of certifications is the result of continuous work going on behind the scenes. The certifications that appear on our labels are not one-time achievements but rather an ongoing process that requires frequent testing, specialized equipment, and a commitment to maintaining various food safety standards and regulations.
"It begins with the raw materials," explains Kate Olson, GoMacro's Director of Food Safety, Quality Assurance, and R&D. "Every one of the raw materials that goes into a finished GoMacro product must meet every certification requirement.”
This is done in two ways: testing and documentation. Once the relevant information from each raw material and its supplier has been gathered, it can then be approved for use in our finished product.
The next step is to ensure that the way we produce our finished goods meets each of our specific certification standards. Every step of our production process must be documented and reported so the certification body is confident that we follow their qualifying standard procedures.
After testing and documentation, products are finally submitted for certification. Once we receive approval, we continue to have annual certification audits. These audits range anywhere from one to two days and ensure that we are doing what we committed to, on an ongoing basis.
Beyond the time and effort required to apply for and maintain each certification, there are also significant monetary costs that go along with these certifications, from annual and submission fees to the investments we’ve made in testing equipment.
Due to the cost and work required to comply with ongoing audits and regulations, many food companies elect to move production or testing to outside facilities. At GoMacro, we keep it all in-house to ensure we have the highest possible level of control over the quality of our products.
"Maintaining all of our certifications is worth the cost and effort because it allows all our customers peace of mind knowing they can enjoy a GoMacro product without concerns about food safety," Olson says.
In the Lab
Maintaining the highest level of quality means we have a pretty rigorous setup within our R&D department. We have our own in-house food lab, and we conduct daily tests on every batch of MacroBars. Meeting our high standards includes testing for foodborne pathogens, anaerobic bacteria, yeasts and molds, pH, water activity, moisture, texture, pressure testing (to ensure the package is hermetically sealed), and the best part – sensory testing.
Think of sensory testing as a super detailed taste test. Every shipment of ingredients that comes into our facility undergoes sensory testing, and if it's a new product, it also undergoes analytical and microbiological testing first.
How exactly does one conduct an official taste test? For finished MacroBars, the Quality team samples a bar from every production hour to analyze for consistency in overall taste, texture, smell, and appearance. If anything is out of the ordinary, they can place the product on hold to re-analyze or reject. Ingredients undergo a similar sensory analysis, but the samples are also compared to the previous lot of the same ingredient to ensure consistency of ingredients among different shipments.
Quality at the Source
The Quality team also works closely with our Operations team to conduct testing on ingredients as they arrive and helps vet potential new suppliers to ensure they meet our standards.
Our Purchasing Manager works hand in hand with our Quality and R&D teams on potential suppliers. Purchasing finds suppliers that meet all our certifications and sustainability efforts. We then get sample shipments in to taste and run through all our tests. If the sample meets our requirements, we then move that ingredient into the bar trial stage in R&D.
Our R&D team will make finished bars with our current ingredients and the ingredients from our potential new supplier. A panel tastes the bars in a triangle test – a testing method in which two bars are alike and one is different – to see if our sensory team can determine a difference. If no difference is noted, we can proceed with full-scale production on it.
Additionally, the two departments have recently partnered to identify more regional suppliers to support local agriculture. Not long ago we began sourcing our organic, gluten-free oats from nearby Viroqua, WI, and organic brown rice from a farm in Illinois. Our goal is to continue to source more of our ingredients regionally as our organization continues to grow.
New Product Development
Have you ever wondered what goes into launching a new MacroBar flavor? While our R&D department is responsible for handling food safety, they're also tasked with one of the most fun responsibilities – researching and testing recipes for new products.
When a new flavor or product is under consideration, our R&D team will create as many as 30 iterations to match the original idea. We have a dedicated R&D approval team that receives samples of each version. Once this team gets the samples, they taste them and fill out a questionnaire for our R&D team to gauge how well the product matches the original concept.
Depending on the complexity of the product, this process can take months and require a significant number of versions to ensure that we get it just right. On many occasions, we will also use consumer focus groups to help us dial in the concept to make sure it perfectly fits the vision.
A Labor of Love
While our standards for ingredients and quality have been central to GoMacro from the start, our Quality and Food Safety programs have scaled significantly over the years.
"To be a part of a company at such an early stage in its development was exciting," says Olson, who's been with GoMacro for nearly seven years. "I was able to create our first food safety, quality, and R&D programs to help the company grow and succeed. There were quite a few lessons along the way as we've grown into each of these areas, and we currently have very robust quality, food safety, and R&D programs."
To someone outside the food safety world, it might sound like many details to keep track of, but our Quality Assurance team takes pride in how this work helps build trust with customers.
"The most exciting part of being in Quality is that we are the gatekeepers of food safety," Olson says. "We are responsible for ensuring that the product is not only safe, but also meets our high quality standards."
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