The “product specification” is the most critical document to a food business. A specification, also known as a “spec,” is a detailed document outlining the specific requirements and standards that a supplier must meet to provide raw materials, ingredients, or copacked products to a buyer. This document serves as a critical component of quality control. A detailed specification ensures that supplied items meet safety, quality, and regulatory standards. Specifications define the seller’s warranties regarding the product being sold or manufactured.

Protect your Business with these Critical Elements of a Product Specification 

  1. Product Description: The spec must have clear and detailed information about the product, including its unique characteristics or features. The document should always use objective language. The best criteria to use are measurements like pH, salinity, water activity, and Brix. There are all sorts of neat tools in the food business to measure foods objectively – like colorimeters (that measure color) and viscosimeters (which measure the thickness of fluids). If you can measure it, it should be written into the spec.
  2. Ingredients: A list of all ingredients used in the product, including their quality standards, specifications, acceptable sources, and their countries of origin. For example, if the texture of a powdered sugar matters to a product recipe, the supplier must warranty the granularity in the specification. The spec is also where the seller makes other product warranties, such as “gluten-free,” organic, pasture-raised, etc.
  3. Safety Standards: Requirements related to food safety, including microbiological, chemical, and physical specifications. This may include limits on contaminants, pathogens, and other potential hazards like the chemicals on the Proposition 65 list.
  4. Labeling Requirements: A compilation of all ingredient specifications in a product is the foundation for all FDA labeling information. The specification is even more critical when the manufacturer is selling a private label product. The specification will provide the buyer with all of the information needed to accurately label the product. The buyer relies on the spec for all nutritional information, allergen declarations, and any other mandatory labeling information.

Why Product Specifications Are Important to Your Business

Supplier specifications are a crucial aspect of quality assurance and risk management in the food manufacturing industry. They help ensure consistency in product quality, protect consumers from potential hazards, and support compliance with regulatory requirements. Additionally, they provide a basis for communication between food manufacturers and their suppliers, fostering a collaborative and transparent relationship. A specification outlines the buyer’s commercial expectation for the finished product.

For packaged food businesses, the spec is an essential tool for managing customer expectations and providing consistent product quality across different manufacturers. Suppliers often misses critical details in a specification. When they do, the specification forms the basis of the buyer’s right to reject delivery.

Goal Oriented Writing for Specifications

Goal-oriented writing for specifications is vital from a copacker’s perspective because the specification describes commercial expectation of the copacker agreement. Manufacturing a product “to spec” holds legal significance, signifying that the manufacturer has fulfilled its agreement, obligating the buyer to purchase the goods.

Conversely, if a producer fails to meet a specification, the buyer can point to the objective standard the manufacturer missed, serving as the basis for rejecting non-conforming goods. Specifications define precisely where a breach occurred, and no breach of contract dispute can proceed without a clear deviation from an objective spec.

In commercial litigation in the food business, every case revolves around either a failure to meet a specification or a poorly written spec leading to dissatisfaction and confusion between the buyer and the seller. A good specification is integral to a robust copacking agreement. The specification is without a doubt the most important document in a CEO’s arsenal.

Contact one of our attorney’s to help you draft clear and concise product specifications.