5 for 5: Five Questions/Five Answers
Q & A with Michael DuPuis, Quality Assurance Manager of Divine Flavor
At Divine Flavor and with all its growing locations, a 6-pillar philosophy is in place to ensure the highest standards of compliance are in place. The 6-pillars are the foundation of the company’s compliance which are based on quality, food safety, social responsibility, traceability, organics, and sustainability. For the company, these areas are the core requirements to producing the best products which meet the industry standards and producing better food for a better world. Today we speak with Michael DuPuis who oversees the compliance program for of Divine Flavor.
Q1: What is your role at Divine Flavor and your core responsibilities?
Michael: Each growing season, my team and I work with the growers to ensure they understand the industry requirements, our clients’ needs regarding certain presentations, and complying with every facet of compliance. It is important to maintain consistency with each of our suppliers, each of our products, as it pertains to the audits and certifications they need to have but also make sure they comply with outstanding scores for each area. As the industry is constantly changing, it is my job to fully understand the direction we are heading in and relay this to our growers.
Q2: Can you tell us more about the 6-pillars of Divine Flavor?
Michael: It all starts with quality and flavor. This is our first pillar, and as we are in the fresh produce industry, it is our mission to prioritize our products and they have nothing but exceptional quality and outstanding flavor which contributes to our consumers’ health and the health of their families. Our other pillars include food safety/security and social responsibility. As we produce fresh agricultural commodities, it is our responsibility each product is grown with the highest standards of food safety.
Agriculture being a very demanding profession in all areas of the business, it is critical to have the best social programs in place. In addition to the social accountability audits recognized by our clients, we also take the opportunity to instill our own internal programs which focus on human development for the workers, medical services, and opportunities for growth within the company. Social responsibility in our company is absolutely one of the most essential aspects of our business philosophy and with commitments we have, this creates the best working conditions for our staff.
Lastly, we have organics, sustainability, and traceability. Part of our company’s success has come from growing organically and sustainable, which both go together. In order to maintain longevity in our farms and produce the best tasting commodities, it is crucial to have organic management and sustainable programs in place. For our customers and the end consumer, it is important they know where their product was grown and who it is coming from. Transparency 100%.
Q3: How do you maintain the 6-pillars at all your farms?
Michael: Great question. As I mentioned, consistency is one of the most important factors. We have our own internal farms, but we also have outstanding grower partners all throughout Mexico and South America. It is important that no matter which farm it comes from, it is a Divine Flavor product, and the 6 pillars are the way to justify this. Several years ago, we established our Better Grower Program. This program was formed by our management team to focus on helping our growers be the best they can be and enforce the pillars. Even our own farms. Without a clear vision and direction amongst our group, there would be a lot of inconsistency. The Better Grower Program aligns our farms to carry out the same protocols, processes, audits, and overall compliance, which ultimately allows us to give our clients the best products year-round which backed up by a strong guarantee and product satisfaction.
Q4: What are some newer requirements you are seeing from the industry and what is your company doing about it?
Michael: Food safety and social responsibility have been two of the most important factors over the last decade in our industry. We’ve seen a lot of regulation from the FDA but also, our clients want to see social audits for product coming from other countries outside the US. Over the last few years, the focus is more on sustainability and traceability which are two areas our company is really diving into further these days. We carry out our own internal checklist regarding sustainability which covers most of the essential areas such as water conservation, renewable energy, and recycling programs. We are constantly focusing on ways to improve our sustainability program whether it relates to promoting more beneficial insects as we grow a large portion of organics or reducing carbon emission at the farms. Sustainability is a huge topic and we strongly feel grower companies such as ourself really need to put a focus on this now and not later. Traceability is another important topic we are reviewing these days. Not only having the ability to trace product back to the farm but also to trace consumer analytics. It’s fascinating how much technology has grown in the last few years and how we access to so much more consumer data from what we had before. This data helps us understand the markets and consumers much better.
Q5: Now that we are in grape season, how is this different from your other commodities and the farms your company oversees?
Michael: Each farm, regardless of whether they are grape vineyards in Sonora, or greenhouses in Sinaloa for our bell peppers or tomatoes, each must follow the same protocols and the same standards. Having this continuity is what keeps us consistent as a brand. Now, the difference is our grape season is a bit more condensed into a smaller window which makes it a little intense. It is very important to apply the same scheme at our vineyards as we do at our other farms without compromising our goals and objectives of delivering the best fruit. Having experience and very skilled workers are a few of the keys to taking on the commodity of table grapes.
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