Many retailers and suppliers across Europe recognise International Featured Standards (IFS) as an indispensable tool in their mission to provide safe food. Major retailers in Germany, France and other EU countries often require suppliers to carry IFS certification, and the CPO’s footprint continues to grow. GFSI recognition, a key to accessing the global market, is helping IFS to streamline its expansion beyond the boundaries of Europe.
Today on the GFSI Experts Series, we meet Stephan Tromp, Managing Director of IFS. A longtime participant in GFSI Conferences, Stephan has watched the GFSI community become both more international and more connected over time, buoying his company along with it. To learn how companies like IFS can benefit from this community, watch Stephan’s interview on GFSI Youtube or read the transcript below.
Could you please introduce yourself and your role at IFS?
Stephan Tromp: I’m Stephan Tromp, Managing Director of IFS, and I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to develop the European Retailers’ IFS since the beginning. IFS was formed in 2002, and last year we could see over 20,000 approved IFS facilities all around the globe.
Why did you decide to become recognised with GFSI, and what are the benefits of that?
Stephan: IFS standards are developed by all stakeholders: retailers, manufacturers, certification bodies. We have working groups, mainly in Europe, and for them GFSI is a kind of sparring partner — a network which guarantees worldwide acceptance of IFS. It’s a kind of reconfirmation that our working groups are on the right path. It’s also a great opportunity to expand the network and to get ideas from other regions in the world, like food safety culture or food defense, which come across from the US. And so you can now call the IFS standards not only European; they are worldwide. For that, the GFSI benchmark is really important for us.
What are the synergies between IFS and GFSI?
Stephan: The synergy is, first of all, the network. We really appreciate having this network. In 2009, IFS was the first CPO who booked a booth at the GFSI Conference. Since that time, at every conference we have had a booth. It’s amazing to see; everybody who comes across it says “Hey, hello! Good to see you again. I have a question. Should we discuss? I have an idea. Hey, we should implement new standards” — and so on. And that is so GFSI. It’s a huge network. It gives you a lot of input. You can contribute your own ideas. At the end of the day, the GFSI benchmarking documents and the guidance documents reflect the ideas of food safety experts around the globe. That is, for IFS, a huge input for our own standards.
What would you like to see GFSI do next?
Stephan: I’m not sure that GFSI should always do new things. I think the main priorities are to maintain the network, to activate other people to join the network, to get in other ones from regions that are right now not so involved, or to build bridges; for example to authorities, to nonprofit organisations. That is a lot of things to do, and GFSI is on the right path. If you continue that together, that would be great.
We’ve reached the final episode of the GFSI Experts Series 2019! Thanks for learning with us and meeting GFSI’s diverse body of stakeholders through 22 weeks of interviews. If you missed any episodes or would like to rewatch your favourites, you can always access the entire series on GFSI Youtube.