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S & B: the choice for quality.

As a pure trading organisation, Stevens and Brotherton is unique compared to manufacturing companies which make up Riviana Foods Inc -- a US-based multi-national with worldwide sales of around US$500m.

But the fact that the company has no manufacturing capacity does not mean it lacks expertise in this area. Its experienced quality assurance team makes regular checks at suppliers' plants to ensure that processing and end-product quality are of the right calibre to meet the exacting requirements or S & B's customers.

"We only use established and reputable suppliers, and we issue them with a code of manufacturing practice which we expect them to adhere to", said managing director Paul Stevens. "Then we carry out factory hygiene and processing audits -- usually on an annual basis but more frequently, if necessary. Every purchase contract we issue is accompanied by a detailed product specification and all products are sampled and evaluated with standard checks at our own laboratory. All this information is then logged and cross-referenced against the products and the supplier, so we can keep track of their performance."

Stevens and Brotherton's knowledge of food processing works both ways: guaranteeing to customers that the ingredients it supplies are of consistently high quality and also helping suppliers to ensure their manufacturing process meets with UK demands. It also allows the company to work with its sources to develop new products to meat the changing demands of UK food manufacturers.

With the take-over last year of Peabody Foods, S & B doubled its size and enhanced its ability to supply UK food manufacturers and the food service sector (including hotels, institutions and in-flight catering) with a wide range of quality products. The acquisition added canned fish, dried fruits, nuts and chilled meats to the existing range of rice products (one of Riviana's core activities), canned fruit, vegetables and meat, for which S & B is an established and well-known supplier.

"From our headquarters in Kent we source products from processors around the world", said Danny Driscoll the director responsible for sales to food manufacturers. "We supply to all the major food groups in this country, providing them with a range of industrial ingredients."

As part of Riviana, it is not surprising that rice plays an important part in S & B's operation. Riviana's R & D Centre in Houston has been responsible for many innovations, such as pre-cooked rice, and the organisation is a major supplier to US processors.

"In the UK we supply rice to contract packers of savoury rice for both private and branded labels and also exclusively supply rice for use in brewing a leading premium beer brand", said Mr Stevens. "It is not widely known that 20% of the entire US consumption of rice is through beer."

Rice is also supplied for use in chilled, frozen and ambient ready-meals; to the canning sector for desserts; and to breakfast cereal makers -- where S & B is a major supplier to the private manufacturers both in the UK and Northern Europe.

"We have also established a market for Riviana's pre-cooked rice in the UK and it can be found in branded savoury rice product ranges and Pot Rice", said Mr Stevens.

S & B is equally well-known for its canned fruit, which is supplied to bakeries and parisseries, to the dairy sector for yoghurt, to manufacturers for processing into purees, pie fillings and pizza toppings. Dried fruits, part of the range acquired when the company bought Peabody, are supplied to manufacturers of breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits and confectionery - and in the case of the important Sun Maid brand of raisins, licensed to a baker who uses the name on the packaging of a raisin loaf.

Canned vegetables, tomato puree and chilled/frozen meat products from S & B can be found in a variety of products - from tomato sauce to canned spaghetti, or on top of pizzas (pepperoni, spicy beef, tomato paste and sweetcorn).

Technical and quality assurance is an important concept which runs throughout the S & B operation, and is used as a positive sales and marketing point.

"We can offer self-certification or a full Vendor Assurance Programme, so that customers can significantly reduce their own checks on production", said Mr Stevens. "With a leading manufacturer, we undertake a full technical analysis of individual production runs for pre-cooked rice."

For a company which pays such strong attention to matters of quality, the arrival of the Food Safety Act did not come as a devastating blow.

"Before the FSA received Royal Assent we were very aware of the obligations it would impose upon us", said Mr. Stevens. "However, we see the Act as a positive advantage for us -- reinforcing the existing confidence customers have in the integrity of our products"
COPYRIGHT 1993 Food Trade Press Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Stevens and Brotherton
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:May 1, 1993
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