MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — AIB International said January 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of its office debut in Europe. In the past two decades, AIB’s global network has expanded from its headquarters in North America to include regional offices in Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific.
In the late 1980s, AIB began sending U.S.-based auditors to Europe to inspect bakeries and other facilities related to U.S. food producers. This work continued to grow with the addition of inspections for Dalgety, a major British food enterprise. Due to the increase in inspections related to Dalgety, U.S.-based auditors were being sent overseas on a rotational basis for three to four weeks at a time. In 1992, the demand had grown enough that plans to establish a European-based AIB office were put in place. In January 1993, Betsy Blair, now head of GMP Audit Services, opened the AIB Europe office in a space leased from Leatherhead Food International.
For the first year, Blair ran the office alone, but as business steadily increased AIB Europe expanded their audit staff. Among the first employees hired were John Hughes and Deryck Tremble.
"My first year as an AIB inspector, I went to 25 countries," said Deryck Tremble, regional general manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Now the AIB audit team has representatives in 21 countries across the globe.
Business was originally centered in Western Europe, with a few requests for inspections in South Africa and some in the Middle East. Although AIB began working overseas at the request of Dalgety, it wasn’t long before large U.S.-based companies, like East Balt, Walkers, and McDonald’s began using AIB to inspect their global suppliers. Now AIB has expanded their services to include certification audits under the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), annual public food safety and food defense seminars, as well as private training and consulting to large- and small-sized food companies in countries across six continents. The AIB Europe office is now serving many more suppliers, as well as small, local companies. As business in the Middle East and Eastern Europe continues to grow, AIB is expanding their territory to include more Russian-based companies.
In the early 2000s, AIB expanded their services and began offering BRC audits as a service to their clients who were seeking a certified third-party audit provider. Although the impact of GFSI-accepted audit schemes has certainly been felt in North America over the past five years, GFSI adoption hasn’t affected AIB’s international offices as much as in the U.S.
"GFSI-accepted audits have never been our main business. In the U.S., we have seen a large increase in the number of BRC, SQF, and FSSC 22000 audit customers we serve, but our international clients still mostly come to us because they like the value-added solutions they gain from the AIB GMP Inspection," said Blair. "We have clients who have used audit schemes, like the BRC audit, successfully for 15 years, but fail the AIB GMP Inspection at first because it is on such a different level. It is possible for a food facility to successfully complete a certification audit, but still have poor practices", Deryck Tremble.
The AIB Europe office expansion is the same model used to develop territories in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. AIB now has four regional offices established in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Europe/Middle East/Africa, with representatives in 24 countries, 3 Canadian provinces, and 28 U.S. states. This encompassing global network is cost-effective and bridges language barriers.