There’s no denying that a finished good specification sheet is one of the most critical documents in a food or beverage manufacturer’s HACCP plan. You must be able to show your customers, employees, regulators, and other supply chain partners what they can expect from your product every time. Finished good specs do just that.
This critical document details the manufacturing process, components and ingredients, and additional technical and functional information about a product. Spec sheets might also include information about the product’s intended use, storage and handling requirements, and any necessary precautions or warnings.
Spec sheets serve as a foundation for internal communication between departments or among supply chain partners. As a result, they’re essential for the smooth operations of any business. Brands use them in nearly every field, from food and beverages to construction to software engineering. And while it might be easy to understand the importance of a finished goods spec sheet, drafting one from scratch can be a bit more challenging.
Finished good specs in the food and beverage industry
The food and beverage industries have become increasingly responsive to consumers who demand to know what’s in the products they’re consuming, in what amounts, and whether it might influence their well-being.
Additionally, governments require companies to have a product specs sheet as part of the robust quality control mechanisms in ensuring food safety. At a minimum, a finished goods spec sheet should include:
- A detailed list of ingredients, including any allergens.
- Nutritional information.
- Shelf life and storage requirements.
- Packaging requirements.
- Any necessary precautions or warnings.
In addition to these components, there might also be industry-specific regulations or guidelines that manufacturers need to follow when creating finished goods spec sheets. For example, in the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific requirements for food labeling, including the inclusion of a “Nutrition Facts” panel and allergen labeling. Make sure you’re aware of any regulations that apply to your product and that you include all the necessary information.
Who uses finished good specs?
Different stakeholders use food and beverage spec sheets in different ways. For example, the stakeholder might be customers, manufacturers, food service providers, and regulators.
Customers need to check the specs of foods to make informed decisions. For example, if a customer suffers from sensitivities or allergies to a specific product, they can tell whether certain food products contain the allergens so they can avoid them.
Manufacturers might use spec sheets to compare their products against the ones in the market. This step also ensures consistency with the prevailing market standards.
Regulators such as health agencies and government regulators use spec sheets to ensure that the goods manufacturers produce meet the required regulatory standards.
Food service providers are hotels and restaurants that utilize a particular product. From a product spec sheet, they can ascertain whether a specific product is suitable for their use. In addition, food service providers serve clients with different needs and dietary restrictions. So they need to check these products to serve their customers effectively.
Reasons for a food product specification sheet
1. Ensuring food safety. A spec sheet must clarify information relating to possible allergens in the food. Any misinformation in this regard could result in severe allergies in users that might be fatal. Furthermore, it’s also critical to avail information on the appropriate storage for the food to prevent spoilage and a possible risk of food poisoning. So, the more accurate the data, the safer the food.
2. Protection from legal action. A spec sheet can protect a company from legal action by providing a clear and accurate representation of the product. This documentation will help reduce misunderstandings about a product’s capabilities, ingredients, and other particulars likely to be in dispute. A spec sheet also will provide accurate information about the safety compliance requirements of a product, e.g., the risk of suffocation warning on plastic food wrappers. Again, this can mitigate legal exposure.
3. Compliance with authorities. The information availed in the specs sheet will depend on the relevant regulations. Failure to comply with the rules can lead to sanctions, so food manufacturers opt to comply.
4. For the development and improvement of products. Food producers always look for better ways to manufacture food products to increase the rate of production, quality, or safety of the product. To effectively do this, they need a point of reference to the original ingredients and manufacturing process in the specs sheet.
Risks associated with finished good specs
Spec sheets are essential not just to consumers of the products but also to the companies themselves. However, like any other venture, there are associated risks, such as: Companies may disclose too much information that competitors may use to rival them. In addition, too much information may be too technical for potential consumers. Finally, the data may also incriminate a company in legal action if the information wasn’t adequately researched and proofread.
Documents needed to prep a spec sheet
Local authorities might conduct random and irregular inspections, which can prove problematic if you’re unprepared. The documentation must be ready to show that you take your customer’s food safety seriously. Those documents include:
- Delivery notes for purchases.
- An updated HACCP plan.
- Production record.
- Specification sheets for every product.
Information on a food specs sheet
A proper product spec sheet should be complete, accurate, and easy to understand. It should provide all the relevant product information. More specifically, food specs sheets must cover aspects such as textures, flavor, color, potential toxins, allergens, and tolerances. In addition, spec sheets might include processes used to make the product and appropriate preservation methods depending on the regulations. Generally, a spec sheet should have:
- Information relating to quality. Qualitative information is on matters that can be perceived, e.g., color, texture, scent, and flavor.
- Labeling information. Labeling information includes packaging information, country of origin, GMO status, price per unit, suitable storage, and certifications.
- General information. General information includes the name, description, ingredients, nutritional value, weight, target consumers, shelf life, and size attributes.
- Suitability of the product for specific diets. Not all products are suitable for everyone. Some consumers may have allergic reactions or different tastes regarding different products. Some people are vegetarians, coeliacs, lactose intolerant, etc. spec sheets must have this information lest the products may cause adverse health implications on their users.
Can I be sued for failing to have a finished product specs sheet? Yes, if a company fails to provide a product specification sheet when required, it could be held liable for any damages or injuries resulting from the product’s use.
Should components of traceable amounts be included in the specs sheet? Yes, it’s important to include amounts of traceable composition for compliance with regulation and, equally important, to inform consumers.
A finished good spec sheet is one of your brand’s most critical documents. It contains the information that articulates your product’s safety, legality, and quality. It should be precise, accurate, and updated. Stay abreast of the industry-specific regulations, and ensure you have a thorough checklist of everything you should include. It’s not a document you want to leave to chance, as it could affect the entire product development process. Digital solutions that generate sample templates for product specs sheets with all the requisite data can be helpful.