Interview with Greg Taylor, Retrocorn MD


In 2016, Greg Taylor, Managing Director of Essex-based RETROCORN decided to choose SALSA accreditation for his popcorn manufacturing business.

Established in 2013, RETROCORN - Greg's brainchild - manufactures and packs its own unique range of flavoured popcorn. His passion for popcorn started in childhood and with a firm penchant for sweets too, he decided to combine the two treats to make what is now SALSA-approved RETROCORN. The corn is hand-popped and coated by a small and dedicated team of 3 full-time staff with traditional British sweet flavours a child could dream of - Cola Cubes, Rhubarb and Custard, Pear Drops, you name it - a whole kaleidoscope of flavours. In 2016 RETROCORN produced over 8 tonnes of popcorn a year and currently supply The Co-op and various independents across the UK and soon Baxter Storey and Gather and Gather sites across the UK

Sally Ball, SALSA Client Relations Manager, pops some questions to Greg on how the audit process worked for them and the benefits SALSA Approval has given the business, including exciting opportunities with TESCO and Morrisons.

SB: Greg, how did you come to choose SALSA?
GT: We had been thinking about obtaining third party safety accreditation for some time - and after being accepted onto the TESCO BackIt campaign as one of the UK's best food and drink companies, I knew the time had come for my business to take the next step up.

In 2016 we had been trading with the East of England Co-op for approximately a year and successfully passed their internal audit, so we knew we had good procedures and practices in place. Our factory had also been designed and purpose-built from the ground up taking into account all relevant environmental health advice at the start of our journey - but I also wanted a third-party accreditation that actually proved how good we are!

SB: Which SALSA membership package did you choose and why?
GT: I chose the SALSA Package Extra for my business, which includes one full day of mentoring at a discounted rate. The SALSA website has plenty of useful and practical on it - once you join you can access the Members' Area and take in at your own speed and in your own time the details of the criteria you are to be assessed on.

If you haven't been in manufacturing before, I highly recommend taking a look at SALSA's membership packages which include mentoring. There is so much to take in when preparing for an audit and a day of one-to-one mentoring by a well seasoned food industry professional could actually mean saving you money in the long run, especially if you have little or no experience or expertise in this area. Mentoring, in advance of an audit, also helps you to avoid potentially expensive and time-consuming rectifications later on. Mentoring can be hugely valuable for any small business or small start-up as they often don't have the in-house technical resources to manage this process – it sets them along the right path and gives them confidence in their processes and product. Working your way through the process is a pretty major task and the mentoring will help you not only be prepared for the audit but feel prepared.

SB: How did the audit day go - any headaches?
GT: On the day, Yvonne Stevens was our SALSA Auditor. She was extremely helpful. The aim of the day is, of course, to check and ensure all systems are in place and working well for you to be passed and accredited. However, if you have missed some essential detail for each Requirement, your Auditor will help you understand, what you need to do, step by step, to put it right. They also give you valuable background knowledge and information on why, in total, these sections are important to get right. At the end of the process, the Auditor sits down with you and lets you know clearly what you need to do next in order to 'pass' , and you have 28 days to rectify anything you have missed and finally achieve your certification.

It's a strange thing really – I suppose a little like wood from the trees. SALSA - and the audit - opens your eyes to all aspects of your product. They really drill into the detail making sure that you as a business owner are covered for food safety and hygiene in all their aspects. It's a big learning curve but one I highly recommend if you are either a start-up or looking to take your business to the next level.

SB: What has SALSA approval given you and your business?
GT: As a small food manufacturing business, SALSA not only gave me the peace of mind that we were 'doing the right thing', it also provided TESCO with the assurance that their customers, who would be eating my product, would be safe in the knowledge that it had been produced to the highest standard in a safe environment and that all our food safety and hygiene claims could be backed up. You see, SALSA Approval is not just about ensuring you are making your product in the safest way, it also ensures that any claim you are making on your packaging is true and accurate. A good example of this is that we claim all our sweets are British-made - I knew they were, but did I have this detail written down to prove it - No! The audit process helped me put in place proper systems and records to ensure the things I knew to be true and correct could be both traced and proven.

SB: Where to next for RETROCORN – it seems the only way is up!
GT: One of the greatest advantages of belonging to SALSA is that your customers take you more seriously. They recognise the fact that you have put a lot of effort into gaining the accreditation to better your business. It also gives them peace of mind that your product is actually what it claims to be! I feel proud that we produce to this high standard and that our popcorn is amongst the best out there in today's crowded confectionery marketplace! It adds to our point of difference within the popcorn-making community too.

We were successful with our Tesco BackIt campaign, securing the full funding which was thrilling news! Since joining SALSA we have also had the opportunity to apply to Morrisons as part of their local sourcing project too – I would like to think we stand a good chance of being shortlisted to work with them too! And we are looking to export our products – so far every company I have spoken to outside the UK wants a third party accredited food safety system in place and SALSA seems to satisfy that demand! Watch this space!

For more information on RETROCORN, visit: http://www.retrocorn.com
For more on TESCO BackIt visit: https://backit.tesco.com
For more on Morrisons 'The Nation's Foodmakers' visit: https://your.morrisons.com/local
For SALSA approval visit: http://www.salsafood.co.uk/index.php