Food Safety Case History: From Farmers Market to SQF

Aug. 27, 2015
When Key Ingredient grew from hand-filling tubs of dips to automated processes, it needed a Mettler-Toledo Safeline metal detector.
Key Ingredient Market got its start at farmers markets in 2007 with unique hand-crafted spreads and dips as well as hummus and pesto. For the first five years, this husband-and-wife team, along with a few employees, used ice cream scoops to hand-fill their 6.5 oz. tubs. After six years of 30 percent annual growth, they needed technology that would take them to the next level.

Today, Key Ingredient ships its fresh, all-natural products to retailers throughout the Northeast and plans to break into the private label business and go coast-to-coast. With annual sales of less than $1 million, it's successfully competing with larger companies by focusing on original flavors and the finest product quality.

“As a small company, our success depends on our customers always being satisfied,” says President Matthew Pivnick. "Food safety is an important part of that. As we grow, we’re surrounding ourselves with the best tools available. Our metal detector from Mettler-Toledo Safeline, in particular, gives the buyers, distributors and retailers confidence that we’re delivering a safe, quality product.”


“We chose to work with Mettler-Toledo because they’re the best. It was an easy decision,” Pivnick continues. “As a small business owner, I have to be a jack of all trades, so I need support from time to time. Our sales rep, Bob Dauphinais from Reliant Packaging, is exceptionally knowledgeable and dedicated. He even came out on the Fourth of July to help me put the metal detector on a conveyor."

Key Ingredient has two semi-automated packaging lines that produce 1,100 tubs per hour combined and offer room to grow. One filler handles cheese-based spreads and dips and one filler handles hummus and pesto. After filling, the tubs are film-sealed and then taken to the metal detector for inspection.

“We have mixers with stainless steel blades in stainless steel bowls, so a metal detector is essential to ensure our final product quality. Tiny metal shavings can also be brought in from outside the facility in bulk ingredients,” says Pivnick. “But the buck stops here. We’re going to find it.”

Key Ingredient selected Mettler-Toledo’s high-performance Signature Touch metal detector. Its sophisticated electronics platform offers sensitivity and stability. Featuring high-frequency advanced detection coil technology and dynamic filtering techniques, the system identifies common ferrous and non-ferrous tramp metal and the most difficult to detect non-magnetic stainless steel fragments and non-spherical fine wire contaminants.

Designed for ease of use, Signature Touch includes a color touchscreen control panel and a single-pass auto set-up routine that enables the detector to be set rapidly with minimal training to recognize a new product. It can hold 100 different product settings in its memory for quick and easy recall during changeovers while its product clustering capability minimizes the need for changes.

Key Ingredient currently produces 22 different hand-crafted products. “We could preprogram the metal detector for each of our products, but we prefer to use the auto-setup feature every time since it’s so easy to use,” explains Pivnick. “Setting the Signature Touch up for each product run gives us the utmost confidence that it’s perfectly programmed with the highest sensitivity every time, given the typical fluctuations that come from fresh, all-natural ingredients. This Safeline metal detector is so sensitive, it’s able to find something that fits on the tip of a toothpick. We know this because we test it on a regular basis.”

“A food recall could be very damaging,” adds Christine Woodarek, director of operations. “Companies need to think about it every day so they’re not the next headline. You cannot put a price tag on the importance of food safety.”

“I don’t see how any startup can get away without a HACCP plan and SQF certification because buyers, distributors and grocers are not taking chances on small companies without this kind of assurance," says Pivnick. "They all want to know you make a good product and that it’s safe to eat. Our Signature Touch metal detector is part of our HACCP plan. No product goes out the door until it’s been inspected.

“Our insistence on uncompromising quality is at the heart of our success,” he concludes. “The Safeline metal detector adds a level of comfort, since we know the product we’re selling is clean and safe to eat. This technology helps me sleep at night.”

For more information about Mettler-Toledo Safeline, call 813-889-9500 or see

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