Understanding the Scope of BRC Certificates

Achieving BRC is a tremendous milestone for a food and food ingredient producer. Not only does it signal that your operation has successfully adopted globally recognized product safety, integrity, quality, and operational controls, but it opens up new markets that will accept your products. But, are all BRC certificates created equal? In the coconut sugar industry, we know of two producers in Indonesia that are technically BRC certified. However, we have observed that the scope of the certification covers is different. This means that before making any purchasing decisions, procurement teams must pay careful attention to the scope of each company’s BRC certificate, and understand the risks that are covered or not covered in the certificate. 

Company #1

Company #1 has received BRC certificate covering their entire production process. This means that at every step, from farmers cooking the sap, to drying, sifting, packaging, every step has been audited and validated by the BRC team. The risk of accidents, or contaminated product is reduced because every step in the production flow chart has been carefully vetted to ensure compliance to BRC standards. 

Company #2

The scope of Company #2’s BRC certificate is more limited than Company #1. Instead of the BRC certificate covering all production steps. the certificate only covers the processing steps after the sugar arrives in the facility. This is an important distinction, because several steps are needed to produce coconut sugar before the the sugar arrives at the facility for packaging. In the scope of the BRC audit, Company #2 is responsible for the oversight of hundreds of farmers who are responsible for ensuring that the correct techniques are followed to produce coconut sugar, the farmers are not themselves bound to follow BRC guidelines. 

Tactically, what does this mean for the purchasing agent? It means, keep asking questions about the quality control procedures of a potential supplier. Just because the the supplier claims to be BRC certified, be sure you ask what the scope of the certificate covers. Is it just packaging? Or is it the production and packaging? To be fair, having a narrowly focused BRC certificate is still better than having no BRC certificate at all, but the risk of receiving contaminated product is higher for a supplier whose BRC certificate covers packaging versus a supplier whose BRC certificate covers every step of the production process. 

Frederic Zhang