Compliance consultant Jim Jefcoate sets out the tangible differences between the two approaches with a view to helping fresh produce companies improve their auditing operations

In a Fresh Produce Quality Culture knee-jerk reactions are avoided when something goes wrong

In a Fresh Produce Quality Culture knee-jerk reactions are avoided when something goes wrong

In recent articles I have been promulgating the virtues of a Fresh Produce Quality Culture (FPQC) over a more traditional Tick-Box Culture (TBC).

I have advocated that with a smarter use of technology and data to monitor product performance along with the embedding of a FPQC, there is a strong case for moving away from the over-reliance on annual auditing. This will create a more robust model of brand protection in the lower risk areas of the produce industry. However, the first step in moving towards this model is identifying the status of your culture within your organisation.

So, how can you spot the signs that you have a FPQC rather than a TBC? I have outlined some of the indicators below. While I have been more insouciant with my tone than in previous articles, I believe they are valid as they are based on experience of working in or visiting produce companies.

When something goes wrong

In a TBC, the first task is to find someone to blame, lay into them, and then come up with a knee-jerk solution. Whereas in a FPQC the priority is to identify the root cause, agree on effective corrective action and who is responsible for implementing it.

Transparency in data sharing

In a TBC, data, such as QA or analysis results, are reviewed and altered by management before they are sent to suppliers or customers. In a FPQC, all managers receive the reports at the same time as other stakeholders.

Leadership walking the floor

When office-based managers walk the production floor in a TBC, they feel it is their job to catch people doing things wrong and to correct them, whereas in a FPQC, they thank people for doing a great job.

Targets and performance

In a TBC, challenging stretch targets are set by the board, as they feel that this is the best way to improve performance whose metrics are discussed interminably at board meetings. Whereas under a programme of continuous improvement, the target is improving on what you did yesterday or last week and performance is managed by the process owners.

Certification audits

In a TBC, there is a frenzied effort to get all paperwork straight and kit repaired in the weeks running up to an audit. In a FPQC, you don’t care when the audit is because your culture means you continuously operate to a higher standard than the accredited standard in question.

Articles on quality culture

Somebody who is operating in a TBC will read such an article and try to convince themselves that they tick most of the boxes of a quality culture. Somebody who has embraced a FPQC will be reading it to try and pick out the nuggets that will help them to improve their operation.

Where now?

I am talking with the FPC about surveying members to present FPQC to a wider audience. More to follow!


Jim Jefcoate is an expert in simplifying the complexity of compliance and sustainability in fresh food supply chains. He is a director in three businesses: supply chain specialist Hurdletree Associates, environmental start-up Selvador, and quality and food safety consultancy Food Experts Solutions. In addition, he recently became an independent director at Saudi Arabia’s NEOM Food Company.