Dickson Industries Opens New Doors by Achieving Global Quality Standard

Dickson Industries makes fabrics for food handling (below left) and garments for a variety of industries (above).

A 72-year-old Des Moines company with a long history of making products that boost the flavor and appearance of meat is now pursuing new opportunities after CIRAS helped the firm obtain a Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification.

David Dickson, president of Dickson Industries, said his company obtained its certification last March after a CIRAS gap assessment helped Dickson understand the quality requirements and prepare for the review.

“We operated under many of the quality standards already, but we didn’t have the paperwork and the proof that we were actually doing it,” Dickson said. “This really was to help us with the product line, to ensure quality and help customers realize that we do take this seriously, that we’re proactive about safety.”

CIRAS account manager Brenda Martin said more and more Iowa food companies are pursuing independent food safety certification, usually in the hopes of making themselves more attractive to demanding would-be customers.

Dickson Industries last year estimated that the economic value of achieving SQF certification would be more than $1.3 million, mostly in new and retained sales.

“Companies that recognize the market potential of having it are doing it, and it’s paying off,” Martin said of the certifications. “It opens a lot of doors to more customers. . . . It’s really about having solid documentation for your food safety procedures and then making sure that your employees actually carry it out and do things the way you say you’re doing it.”

Founded in 1946, Dickson Industries sells “pre-consumer” fabric food items, including specialized netting that many producers wrap around cuts of meat during smoking. These products enhance flavor and create patterns on the product’s surface.

The company first approached CIRAS several years ago for help interpreting quality standards set by the Safe Quality Foods Institute. Work to get the company ready for its SQF audit accelerated in 2017, when Dickson hired Wilder Melendrez as its new quality assurance manager.

“If you’re starting from scratch, it could take companies a couple of years to get ready because it takes a lot of human resource capital,” Martin said. Dickson “formed a great team. They listened to everything we said. They attacked this, they buckled down, and they did it.”

“The gap assessment really helped me out with just structuring the whole system in a way that we could understand it,” Melendrez said. “CIRAS went through the whole system following the SQF Code and told us where we were lacking and what we were doing well. Once we finished that, then we were just revising and fixing what we needed to fix.”

> For more information, contact Brenda Martin at bkmartin@iastate.edu or 515-570-5282.


A version of this article was published in the Fall 2018 edition of CIRAS News. To read more of that edition or others, please explore elsewhere on our website.