Taking a Closer Look at Evaluations

The Quality Assurance department at Sysco conducts thousands of inspections each year, covering millions of cases and hundreds of millions of pounds of product across the globe. To ensure that every inspection adds real value to our supply, Sysco QA maintains one of the industry’s largest databases of specifications covering every product and product category we distribute.

These specifications identify a host of information pertinent to the consistent delivery of a quality product and go well beyond typical information such as brand, pack size and nutritional data. While specifications vary greatly from product category to product category, some attributes will always need to be checked, regardless of the product or category.

For example, packaging is a big consideration because the condition of the container can be a key indicator as to the condition of the product contained within. If a container is experiencing noticeable case fatigue, such as cracks, creases or tears, then there is a good chance that the product itself may experience critical damage during shipping, rendering it unacceptable for Sysco customers.

Verifying proper weights is also a key factor across almost every product category. This may include evaluating both the net product weight (product minus packaging) and a drained weight in instances where products have been packed in liquid.

Sysco QA evaluates a wide range of quality attributes such as color, defects, character, maturity and texture, to name a few. Each of these quality attributes has a range of acceptability clearly spelled out in the product spec sheet. Anything outside of these tolerance levels will not be accepted.

Product-specific attributes are also clearly outlined in QA spec sheets. Attributes such as style, cut, length, dice size and more are considered on a case-by-case basis. Take shrimp, for example. Because of the almost unlimited versatility and variety of shrimp, uniformity is a major concern. If a customer orders jumbo shrimp, they will be severely disappointed if their order contains a smaller percentage of jumbo shrimp packaged with enough popcorn-sized shrimp to meet weight requirements. To avoid this, Sysco establishes a uniformity score that must be met. This score is based on an acceptable size ratio between the smallest and largest shrimp within each package. That way, when you order jumbo shrimp from Sysco, you get just that. Jumbo shrimp and nothing else.

Other attributes such as flavor and aroma are regularly checked across all product categories. While subjective in nature, taste and smell can still be evaluated within an established range of acceptability for quality purposes. The general rule of thumb is “does the product exhibit good flavor and aroma indicative of a properly harvested, handled and processed product?” If the answer is no, that product must go.

This broad range of product specs and product knowledge is one of the main reasons Sysco maintains such a large and active QA department. While a good portion of this work could be outsourced entirely, Sysco prefers to keep a tighter reign on quality than most, because we understand that our customers — and their guests — rely on us to deliver to expectations. To do that on a regular basis, you better have your specs and QA process down to a science.

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