Quality is the cornerstone of every successful brand. Consumers are more educated and discerning than ever before about the products they choose, what is in them, and how they are made. Keeping control of your product’s quality from start to finish means having a well-designed program backed with impeccable data. The good news is there are plenty of tools and resources available to help beverage brands and their suppliers master quality. Here are some of the concepts and terms you’ll encounter as you navigate the world of beverage quality.
Used to determine preference, liking, or attitudes about a product and other materials during sensory testing. Affective testing can be used to provide guidance and direction to beverage developers.
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)
The unit to measure how much pure ethanol (alcohol) is in 100 units of the liquid. ABV, often expressed as alc/vol, is denoted in percentage form.
Alcohol By Weight (ABW)
A measurement of the alcohol content of a solution in terms of the percentage weight of alcohol per volume. This measure is always lower than Alcohol by Volume.
A narrowly defined quality belonging to a food or ingredient, such as aroma or sweetness, used to break the many qualities of a beverage into specific parts that can be evaluated separately during sensory testing.
Beer Spoilage Screening
A type of Quality Control test for the detection of potential spoiler presence in beer. The speed, specificity, and sensitivity of the results depend on the methods and technology used.
Beverage safety refers to routines in the preparation, handling, and storage of beverages meant to prevent illness and injury.
A form of judging in which brand identities are hidden from the judges to promote impartiality. Used during focus groups and sensory testing.
The removal of residues and soil from surfaces. After cleaning, surfaces no longer have soil on them, but microorganisms will remain. Sanitation or Sterilization is often follows.
To manage the conditions of an operation to maintain compliance with established criteria or the state where correct procedures are being followed and criteria are being met.
A graph used to study how a process changes over time. Data is plotted in time order. A control chart always has a central line for the average, an upper line for the upper control limit, and a lower line for the lower control limit. These lines are determined from historical data. By comparing current data to these lines, you can draw conclusions about whether the process variation is consistent (in control) or is unpredictable (out of control, affected by special causes of variation).
Any action or activity that can be used to prevent, eliminate or reduce a significant hazard.
Actions to identify and correct a problem implementing a preventive control, reduce the likelihood the problem will recur, evaluate affected food for safety, and prevent that food from entering commerce if you cannot ensure that the affected food is not adulterated. Corrective actions must be documented with records.
Critical Control Point (CCP)
A step in the process (such as cooking, cooling, or freezing) at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.
Critical Quality Point (CQP)
A step in the process (such as cooking, cooling, or freezing) at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food quality hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.
Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP)
EMP assesses the effectiveness of the overall hygienic practices in a facility and provides necessary information to prevent possible microbial contamination of food products. EMP does not make food safe, but it provides valuable data on indicator organisms, spoilage organisms, and pathogens of concern in a timely manner.
Gas Chromatography (GC)
An analytical technique used to separate and quantitate mixtures of small and volatile compounds. Separation of analytes by GC is based on the physical and chemical properties of the compounds within the sample.
An analytical methods used for the detection and quantitation of gluten in beverages. The FDA requires products labeled as “Gluten-Free” to contain less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) are currently the most popular method used to detect and quantitate gluten in beverages.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) formal regulations that govern the design, monitoring, and control of manufacturing processes and facilities. Implementing GMPs helps reduce waste and protect the company and consumers from harmful beverage safety events.
A common technique used to differentiate two large groups of bacteria based on their different cell wall constituents. The Gram stain procedure distinguishes between Gram positive and Gram negative groups by coloring these cells red or violet. While a Gram stain will not tell you the specific species, it can be a quick way to narrow down the list of potential candidates and direct follow-up testing where necessary.
A biological, chemical, or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control.
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)
A management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. HACCP is required for USDA products, seafood, and fruit juice only. All other products fall under Preventative Controls Rule (PCR) for Human Food.
Just About Right Testing
Just About Right (JAR) Testing is a type of sensory analysis that blends expert analysis with consumer feedback. During the test, trained testers will analyze a product and identify its major attributes. Those attributes are then provided to a population of consumers who are asked to rate the beverage for each characteristic (for example, sweetness) as too high, too low, or just about right. The result is a set of both descriptive and analytical data that can be used to further develop or better market your beverage. This type of testing is popular for innovative products that don’t have well-developed or established flavor charts and profiles.
Mass Spectrometry is a widely used technique for qualitative and quantitative analysis of food composition, food additives, flavor and aroma components and contaminants.
A microbiological criterion for food defines the acceptability of a product or a food lot, based on the absence or presence, or number of microorganisms including parasites, and/or quantity of their toxins/metabolites, per unit(s) of mass, volume, area or lot.
Procedures designed to provide assurance that preventive controls are consistently performed. Monitoring is conducted as appropriate to the preventive control. For example, monitoring of a heat process to kill pathogens would include recording temperature values. Monitoring must be documented.
A Microorganism or microbe is an organism which is microscopic, which means it is so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye. The study of microorganisms is called microbiology. Examples of microbes include yeast, mold, and bacteria.
Nutrition Database Analysis
This is a method for determining the nutritional composition of your beverage. It does not require you to to have samples of your product tested. Instead, detailed information such as a commercial formulation is used to determine nutritional facts per 100g of each ingredient, both pre- and post-processing weights. Then a nutritional database is used to find the ingredients in your product and run calculations based on the amount of each ingredient in the formula. Databases contain thousands of ingredients with pre-calculated nutrition values that have been collected through rigorous lab analysis of several samples over a period of time.
Nutrition Laboratory Analysis
A laboratory analysis for nutritional labeling means sending your beverage to a lab for chemical analysis. It is typically considered the gold standard in building a nutrient profile for labeling. Laboratory analysis is the recommended method to validate nutrient content or when no nutrient data exists.
Nutritional Testing is a process for determining the dietary content of foods and beverages. Many beverage products are required to undergo nutritional testing due to FDA regulations in the United States.
Odor Activity Value (OAV)
OAV is used to estimate odor potency in terms of the ratio of the concentration of a volatile compound to its odor detection threshold (the lowest concentration of an odor that can be detected).
Inappropriate flavors, such as rancid or oxidized oils, freezer burn, plastic, metallic or other flavors acquired from a food or beverage's packaging and storage. Example: Canned pineapple that picks up a metallic flavor from its can or a frozen entree with stale flavors from freezer burn.
The quantitative measurement of the hydrogen ion activity in a solution. pH is generally measured on a scale of 0 to 14. Solutions with a pH of less than 7 are considered acidic; solutions with a pH greater than 7 are considered basic, or alkaline.
The Plan-do-check-act cycle is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products.
Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI)
A preventive controls qualified individual is someone who has successfully completed certain training in the development and application of risk-based preventive controls or is otherwise qualified through job experience to develop and apply a food safety system.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
A laboratory technique used to amplify DNA sequences during microbial analysis. The method involves using short DNA sequences called primers to select the portion of the genome to be amplified. The temperature of the sample is repeatedly raised and lowered to help a DNA replication enzyme copy the target DNA sequence. The technique can produce a billion copies of the target sequence in just a few hours.
Preventative Controls Rule (PCR)
The Preventive Controls Rule for Human Food of FSMA creates new requirements and updates existing standards for facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food for human consumption. The PCRs operate to ensure all food facilities produce safe foods and that the FDA can quickly determine the location and source of potential food-borne illness outbreaks and notify affected facilities.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
The processes that govern the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacturing, to service and disposal.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control
Quality Control (QC) is defined as "part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements." Quality Assurance (QA) relates to how a process is performed or how a product is made whereas QC is more the inspection aspect of quality management. QC prevents the production of defective products, and QA provides adequate confidence that your product conforms to your established requirements. QC is performed during production when your product can still be changed. QA is done on the final product.
Quality Assurance Strategy
A strategy to ensure quality aspects meet the necessary requirements (e.g. legal, customer, internal/external standards), along with continuous maintenance and improvement of quality to assure that high quality product is delivered to the customer.
Quality assurance practices that encompass a broad set of activities to prevent defects proactively in an ongoing effort.
Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program
A food safety program that also covers product quality and process. SQF certification demonstrates that a supplier has met benchmarked standards—set by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)—for upholding quality and controlling food safety risks. SQF is a three-level certification program, with each tier progressively more rigorous than the last.
The process of reducing the population of microorganisms to a non-harmful level or to the specified standard.
Sensory analysis, or sensory evaluation, pairs a scientific process to how the human senses evaluate consumer products. It moves us from subjectively describing how a beverage looks, smells, tastes, sounds, and feels, to objectively measuring, quantifying, and analyzing its qualities.
Shelf Life Study
A shelf life study is a scientific process for determining the length of time a product will meet specific standards in relation to parameters such as microbiology, taste, appearance, nutrient levels, and aroma. Testing will vary depending on the product, storage conditions, and any claims on the product.
The specific gravity ("Sp.G.") of a liquid tells you how much more or less dense the liquid is than water. Water has a specific gravity of 1.000 (near 4°C). If a liquid is more dense than water, then its specific gravity is greater than one. If it is less dense than water, then the specific gravity is less than one. To calculate the specific gravity of a liquid, you have to know its density. Take the density of the liquid, divided by the density of water (1 gm/cm3), and you will get the specific gravity of the liquid. This measurement is used to help calculate ABV and usually measured using a hydrometer as seen to the right.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
A SOP describes a procedure and tells an operator how to perform it. SOPs are important to ensure that your beverage is made consistently.
The process of killing all microorganisms.
A Tasting Panel used in sensory analysis to evaluate products according to the way they are perceived by human senses. The tasting process usually generates data that is used in decisions about the products.
Total Package Oxygen (TPO)
A measurement that allows for the control of oxygen levels within the final product. It is the total amount of oxygen with the package, including both the headspace and the liquid.
Total Plate Count (TPC)
TPC testing is used to estimate the bacterial population in a food or beverage sample. It provides an estimate of the numbers of microorganisms that can grow aerobically at mesophilic temperatures. The TPC may be used to judge sanitary quality, sensory acceptability, and conformance with good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Results of the TPC can provide a manufacturer with information on the quality or handling history of raw materials, food processing, storage conditions, and handling of the finished product. Additionally, it can be used to determine the shelf-life and indicate possible imminent sensory changes.
A type of sensory evaluation that allows a consumer to blindly identify any differences between samples. During a triangle test, panelists are presented with three samples, one that is different, and two that are alike. The panelists are asked to identify the sample that is different and record their answer. This type of test can be used during shelf-life testing to determine if there are identifiable differences in the product over time. It can also be used to ensure consistency between production runs.
A preemptive scientific evaluation that provides documented evidence that a particular process involving chemical, physical, and biological inputs is capable of consistently delivering a product that meets predetermined specifications.
Activities conducted to ensure that the implemented processes are effectively and consistently carried out. Verification provides confirmation that you are doing what you intended or planned to do and that it is effective.
Quality is what keeps beverage brands in business, and the work of maintaining quality is never done. Building a quality-focused brand requires intentional planning and consistent, skillful execution. Don't let the most critical aspect of your beverage business be an afterthought. The first step is learning all you can about quality, including terms and best practices. It's also a good idea to explore organizations and partners who can help you along the way.
If you're looking for a skilled partner with a proven track record helping hundreds of beverage brands ensure most stringent quality standards, let's talk.