Gary Ridgewell is the Head of Technical and sits on the Senior Executive Management Team at Sleaford Quality Foods. SQF, a subsidiary of Jain Farm Fresh Foods, manufacture products for retail, foodservice and are key suppliers to the food manufacturing industry. Gary is a supply chain and processing specialist with a vast range of experience spanning 20 years. A particular area of interest for him centres on the quality, safety and authenticity of dried Herb and Spices and various other food ingredients. As part of his role he has travelled extensively within the global supply chain conducting audits and developing relationships with major producers as well as conducting farm level investigations in response to industry incidents. The work Gary has undertaken has allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the vulnerabilities and challenges within these often extremely complex supply chains. Over the years, Gary has developed a network of contacts ranging from producing farms, primary processors, industry associations and regulatory bodies. Gary is an active member on the Technical Committee’s of the Seasoning and Spice Association (SSA UK), the European Spice Association (ESA) as well as sitting on the Technical Steering Group for the Food Industry Intelligence Network (FiiN).
Gary has recently played a key role in the design, development and implementation of one of the world’s largest, state of the art spice processing plants, set within the Jain Food Park in Jalgaon, India. As part of this venture, Gary has supported Jain to implement brand new technologies aimed at reducing agricultural complexities and associated food safety risks. This has led to the development of processes that minimise traditional touch points thus further reducing potential for food fraud and food safety vulnerabilities within the Jain Spice supply chains. The development of new systems to support the mechanical dehydration of spices has had a significant impact in significantly reducing contaminants commonly found in traditionally produced spice raw materials, such as foreign bodies, mycotoxins and pathogenic microorganisms. Gary has supported the Jain Spice Project to develop a system of farm level traceability, leading to a 5000 strong base of contracted farmers, all producing fresh materials ready for direct processing within the new facility. These farmers are supported by 80+ field based Jain agronomists, guiding the implementation of JAIN GAP systems and monitoring. Alongside these new systems, sustainably controlled micro irrigation systems achieve ‘More Crop Per Drop’. As a direct result of this project there has been a significant reduction in the water footprint typically required to grow spice materials, leading to a greater level of sustainability and finished products with an increased level of product quality characteristics.