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Shaping Food Safety through Technology with Katrin Liivat

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Shaping Food Safety through Technology with Katrin Liivat

Welcome to our insightful conversation with Katrin Liivat, the chief executive officer and founder of FoodDocs, a company revolutionizing the food industry with its AI-powered food safety software.

Today, we’ll explore its innovative solutions in food safety management and gain valuable insights from Katrin that are essential for entrepreneurs and business owners in the food sector.

Let’s uncover the story behind FoodDocs and its impact on the global food industry.

The Genesis of FoodDocs

SBS – How did the idea for FoodDocs originate, and what was the initial vision for the company?

Katrin – I have spent 20 years in the food industry, running different food businesses and also helping them with my consulting business. I also graduated with my MBA in food technology and saw, after university, what it feels like to be responsible for managing a food business, including people, food quality, and operations.

Running a proper food business means you always have to apply high food safety standards to be a reliable company for your customers. For example, you have to monitor and register the temperature of the food, the time you spend processing it, trace all ingredients they use in production, batch by batch, etc. In general, you have to fill 50+ paper logs each day to ensure and prove your food safety compliance. And yes, it takes loads of your time. Problems arise when your kitchen team becomes so big that the quality manager loses control of the team and they stop following all the rules. If contaminated food is sold, the damage can reach millions of dollars for the company, not to mention the negative reputation they might not recover from.

So, working years in the food industry, I thought this was not a normal way to do food safety. When I heard the same problems and frustrations from my co-founder Karin, we committed to finding a solution to our problem.

Our vision was and still is to have software that covers all food safety-related topics in your company and is easy to set up, including:

  1. Quickly building your food safety plan when opening
  2. Setting up your daily monitoring to ensure ongoing compliance
  3. Providing a smart app for your kitchen team to help them easily complete daily tasks
  4. Having a real-time overview to save supervisors’ time
  5. Providing an easy tool to audit your company’s food safety
  6. Having comprehensive and accessible food safety reports throughout the company

I am glad to see that our vision matches our customers’ needs and day by day, more and more companies are joining our food safety management software to help their businesses succeed.

Challenges and Triumphs

SBS – What challenges did you face in developing AI-powered food safety software, and how were they overcome?

Katrin – First, when we started, we were just two women with a great idea, and none of us knew the development part. We started with writing projects to get funding from grants and different competitions, so it was a long process. As time passed, we began to realize that speed is much more important than free money, and some great developers joined our team.

Every time we say “Yes” to something, we’re saying “No” to something else. Setting focus by saying “NO” to most of the things (because otherwise, you cannot be focused) has also been a challenge for me over the years. So, first finding and then focusing on your ideal customer profile and developing the most critical feature for them is critically important. When starting your first startup, you hear these suggestions often, but as with children, you mostly have to experience it first yourself before believing it.

Today, five years later, the biggest challenge is prioritizing your tasks, and instead of just starting, always thinking first: What is the most important thing to do? It means the 80/20 Pareto principle that suggests that roughly 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. How to overcome it? Just start practicing it and don’t underestimate the importance of always planning your work.

Tailoring Solutions for Diverse Food Businesses

SBS – How does FoodDocs customize its solutions for different types of food businesses, like restaurants, bakeries, or food producers?

Katrin – Our customers have high standards in their food safety systems, like FSMA, BRC, GMP, SQF, GFSI, HACCP, ISO 22000, and more, so it’s crucial that our software is fully customizable according to companies’ specific needs. Because of this, we’ve deliberately developed our software to be as flexible as possible without losing the simplicity of the setup.

So, no matter whether our customers are food service or producing companies, they can confidently set up their personalized food safety system.

In the context of food safety, a fully customizable solution means that our customers can create easy checklists from templates, detailed forms with different types of fields, frequencies, timers, or one-off tasks on a one-time basis for their team members. They can also pause and skip tasks during the holiday season, collective vacations, or emergencies. A key feature our customers value is verification, where they can choose to verify the monitoring task entries. To help our customers complete daily tasks correctly, we’ve included the option to add educational instructions attached to monitoring tasks in multiple formats like text, food safety pictures, or videos.

Standing Out in Food Safety Management

SBS – What are the key features of FoodDocs that set it apart from other food safety management systems?

Katrin – Food industry professionals can try our solution firsthand by signing up for a free trial. The AI-powered solution automatically creates personalized pre-set monitoring checks according to our customers’ business profiles, so it’s ready to go in minutes. During the 14-day free trial, customers can try all features, including the mobile app, to see how it works and let us know when they’re interested in going further.

FoodDocs’ full customizability is the most significant unique feature we have. While regulations might be the same in one country for every food producer, for example, how they become food safety compliant and maintain that compliance can vary. Customizable HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) systems meet even the most specific operations and standards.

Last but not least is our HACCP plan builder which usually is the most valuable for businesses who are opening their new locations. By answering a few questions about your business profile, our AI automatically compiles the essential HACCP documents for compliance, including Hazard Analysis, Critical Control Points, Flow chart, and SOPs. This kind of time-saving magic is what makes FoodDocs truly unique compared to other food safety management systems around the world.

Compliance and Global Standards

SBS – How does FoodDocs ensure compliance with various international food safety standards?

Katrin – Here, it’s important to understand that FoodDocs helps to ensure compliance, and the rest is always the company’s responsibility. What I mean is all the app notifications, easy setup, and instant overview help to save tons of your and your team’s time, but can never guarantee that those activities are being executed by a company’s staff. Simply put, when your team knows about food safety and uses helpful tools like FoodDocs to remember their tasks, they can get things done faster and safer.

Operational Impact

SBS – Can you discuss the impact of FoodDocs on a food business’s operational efficiency and safety compliance?

Katrin – Yes, we have several calculations based on real customers and how much time our solution saves, and the results are amazing. All calculations with real case studies are on our homepage for reading as proof of how we help our customers.

According to our one food production company’s case study, implementing FoodDocs’ digital food safety system saved the company at least 40 working hours a week. Now, every team member saves one hour per day on food safety tasks.

FoodDocs also helped one of our customers, Terroni Group, to increase the effectiveness of managing food safety, and they said in their interview: “The value FoodDocs has added to our company goes well beyond the hours saved daily for our teams through streamlining daily monitoring activities and processes.”

It’s truly heartwarming and inspiring to hear interviews and stories about how our solution has saved time by increasing effectiveness and, ultimately, improved our customers’ lives.

The Role of Mobile Technology

SBS – How does the mobile app enhance the usability and effectiveness of FoodDocs for day-to-day operations?

Katrin – The truth is that the kitchen team is always busy and they want to focus on the most important thing — producing high-quality food. Everything else needs to support this activity. So our mobile app is the solution that enables supporting our customers to ensure food safety — when to do it, what to do, and how to do it.

  1. Smart app notifications help your team members never miss a task on time
  2. App notification tells which task needs to be done
  3. Educative instructions train your team to fill tasks correctly with photos and videos

Client Feedback

SBS – What feedback have you received from clients, and how has it shaped the evolution of FoodDocs?

Katrin – Our whole product development process is based on our customers’ wishes and their feedback. When releasing any of our new features, our customers are the first to test them and give feedback. This approach to building FoodDocs ensures that our solution covers all our customers’ pains in the food safety field and is easy to use.

For example, as our customers have high standards, they need to verify all monitoring their kitchen team has completed in our app. So we listened and developed a feature that sends quality managers a notification when they need to verify a task their staff has completed.

Constantly hearing your customers’ feedback is really inspiring because you get proof each day that your business makes the world a better place and helps people.

Future of Food Safety Management

SBS – How do you see AI and technology further transforming food safety management in the future?

Katrin – Food safety involves lots of ever-evolving rules and regulations, and there is so much to improve in making it more understandable and easy to follow. So the question is: How can we make AI available for the people who are busy with producing food while sparing them from overwhelming amounts of information?

Navigating Regulatory Landscapes

SBS – What strategies does FoodDocs employ to stay updated with constantly changing food safety regulations and standards?

Katrin – There’s a lot to stay on top of the things. FoodDocs uses a combination of:

  • Ongoing food safety regulations and standards research as it becomes available, and
  • Our customers’ data — both how they’re using and customizing their FoodDocs experience, as well as information gathering from calls and hearing what they’re facing on the frontlines

Of course, we’re also following all the necessary laws.

Success Stories and Client Transformations

SBS – Can you share a success story where FoodDocs significantly improved a client’s food safety management?

Katrin – Yes, sure! We have a whole page for our case studies on our homepage, but here is my favorite:
V-Giyan is a plant-based meal delivery company operating with three locations in the UK. They were struggling with three major problems:

  • Standardizing and organizing their HACCP records
  • Difficulty in monitoring tasks and keeping track of all employees
  • Piles of papers but still unable to backtrack quickly if needed

The owner of the company, Bal, had been searching for and trying different platforms to solve their problems, but previous generic systems did not fit the company’s needs and were not intuitive enough for smoother production. So he started looking for digital solutions again, came across FoodDocs, and found our software to be the best Food Safety Management System in the market.

For Bal, the biggest benefits of FoodDocs are:

  1. A central system for everything. They use only one tool for every task
  2. Easy record keeping and not having to keep paper files in the kitchen
  3. Accessible through phone or tablet, which makes the processes even faster,
    organized, and convenient
  4. Every team member saves at least one hour of time daily on food safety tasks

To conclude, he says: “Through the efficiency improvement, I believe longer term we have saved the cost of at least one full-time employee. For us, it is a big win.”

And what’s the best and the most inspiring is that eight months after getting started with FoodDocs, V-Giyan received a 5-star food hygiene rating. So, I can’t think of anything that could make me happier in my work.

Advice for Food Industry Entrepreneurs

SBS – What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to innovate in the food industry, particularly in food safety?

Katrin – Food safety is quite a complicated and specific field, and before starting a business, it’s always good to know your customers, so my suggestion is to spend some time in this field before getting started. Talk to other entrepreneurs or people who fall into your potential ICP. Maybe even take a job and spend some time shadowing a role in the food safety niche you’re thinking of entering.

Looking Ahead

SBS – What are the future plans for FoodDocs in terms of expansion, new features, or partnerships?

Katrin – FoodDocs is on its way to conquering the US and UK markets among small and medium-sized food companies at the moment. This includes all food quality managers who feel that they put too much time into supervision and training. We’re here to help when you’re ready!

In terms of partnerships, we’re working actively together with food safety consulting companies who use us to serve their customers more effectively. There is even a motivation package for them to earn a commission for successful referrals.

From the investment side, we raised our 2,5M€ seed round last year and are now moving steadily towards our A-round at the end of this year, so I am always open to new contacts among investors who are fond of food tech and compliance.


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Shaping Food Safety through Technology with Katrin Liivat