The Ultimate Guide to Food-Grade Bulk Bags

INTRODUCTION

“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper ... When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.”  

John Ruskin, English writer, philosopher, and art critic

When a company is responsible for handling, storing, and shipping food, there are important rules for managing materials safely. When we don’t follow these rules, people get sickwhich means the stakes for smart and food-safe packaging are very high. 

If you’re looking to safeguard your processes, it’s key to realize that not all bulk bags are made the same, and not all food grades are the same. Be sure to align your specific packaging choices with your overarching goals.  

Download a PDF version of this guide by filling out this form, or keep scrolling to read.

Food Grade Bulk bAgs

Chapter 1

What do purchasing managers need to know about food-grade bulk bags?

Let’s start with a simple definition: A food-grade bulk bag is a bag that’s created from FDA-compliant materials. This is a wide definition, one that applies to most FIBCs. 

This means that it’s important to look further than a simple statement of FDA compliance because a supplier can say just about anything! Here are three key things to keep in mind: 

  • A supplier’s certifications: If a supplier has certain credentials, you can trust that their bags are food grade. (We’ll go into more detail about the certifications to look for later.) 
  • The presence of third-party audits: These audits help ensure that a facility exhibits zero contamination. 
  • The importance of a clean manufacturing environment: Did you know that bag contamination usually happens after initial bag creation? It’s not enough for a bag’s components to be cleanthe environment matters too! Both certifications and third-party audits can help give you the confidence you need to proceed with a food-grade bulk bag order. 

Chapter 2

What does FDA compliance mean anyway?

If FDA compliance when it comes to bulk bags is such an encompassing term, what can we learn from this designation? 

Let’s break it down: 

  • The FDA regulates raw material (e.g., resin) rather than the actual bag. 
  • This means that products and plants will not be FDA-approved—just the raw materials will. 
  • Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a “standard” food-grade bagand as it turns out, most bulk bags meet FDA requirements. That means to keep your processes pure and your customers safe, it’s time to do better

Why? As it turns out, noncompliant “food-grade” bags are inherently risky, and the ramifications of using them can be disastrous. 

When a bag is truly food grade, that means that the bag’s manufacturer has invested a great deal of time, money, and energy in avoiding contamination of any kind. A food-grade bag supplier will also focus on controlling allergen and heavy metal contamination in their plants. (Remember, contamination isn’t always simply bag-related!) 

When a bag isn’t truly food grade (and is perhaps just technically “approved”), this means you can’t really know anything for sure about the environment in which a bag was manufactured, which leaves open ample opportunities for dangerous contamination.

Chapter 3

What’s the difference between standard and food-grade FIBCs?

A variety of different standards provide accreditation for food-grade FIBCs. These standards include: 

  • Brand Reputation through Compliance Global Standard (BRCGS), formerly British Retail Consortium (BRC)
  • Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)
  • American Institute for Baking International (AIB International), formerly AIB

It’s also key to realize that different applications of food processing may require different FIBCs. Processing fruits may require different bag specifications than spices or grains may, for example. 

Think of it this way: There are hundreds of different vehicles on the market, each made for a very specific purpose (e.g., cars, utility trucks, ambulances, dump trucks, tractor-trailers) and a very specific purpose (e.g., commuting to work, repairing a phone line, transporting a patient, delivering rock, shipping goods). In the same way, an FIBC can be made for a very specific type of product and meet very specific purposes. One such purpose? To mitigate or reduce contamination risk. 

Looking for food-grade certifications such as BRCGS or AIB International can help you know that a bag has been made and manufactured according to standards that are the same across multiple industries. 

A good bag supplier should be able to help you understand the right certification for your product, application, and goals.

BulkSak® Food Grade Bulk Bag Manufacturing Options

 

Chapter 4

How do you choose the right FIBC capabilities for your goals?

When you’re selecting a bag supplier and bag design, you can think beyond certifications and specify unique capabilities for your bulk bags.

For example, you can work with your bulk bag supplier to incorporate FIBC capabilities such as:

  • Hermetic sealing for long-term storage of special food items
  • Foil or high-barrier liners that are not permeable by outside elements
  • Insect-blocking packaging technology (excellent for grain!)

Clearly, a bulk bag can be much more than just a bag. However, in order to select and build bags that will work hard (and smart!) for your goals, it’s key to select a food-grade FIBC supplier you can trust. 

Chapter 5

What qualities should you look for when choosing a food-grade FIBC supplier?

If we were looking for a food-grade bag supplier, here’s exactly what we would check for: 

  • A history of serving customers that require food-grade solutions
  • Supplier certifications (hint: ask your supplier if they can provide audits/certifications on request)
  • Supplier experience with overcoming and resolving compliance or safety issues
  • Supplier confidence that they can supply the packaging you need at the same level of certification for the plant you have and the plant your customers have

You may be wondering: Does location matter? Ultimately, not for packaging; the majority of packaging is manufactured overseas. For safety and compliance, the clock starts ticking as soon as the packaging actually comes into contact with food. 

We’ve got good news for you: We can do all of that for youand more.

Chapter 6

What’s the Conitex Sonoco difference?

At Conitex Sonoco, we’re proud to not just supply but also to have manufactured food-grade bulk bags ourselves for a long time. Over the years we’ve been in business, we’ve learned lessons about how to produce the safest, most reliable FIBCs out there. We know exactly how to be the bag supplier of your dreams.

How? 

  • Because we manufacture and distribute our own bags, we have a level of hands-on expertise that our competitors simply can’t match. 
  • We pride ourselves on having in-country managers that work with our overseas plants. This in-person, physically-there knowledge is valuableand unusual. 
  • Our managers are able to facilitate any design changes or enhancements a customer needs and make sure they meet the relevant safety standards. 
  • We run on a quality control mindset. Just because a manufacturing plant passes an inspection during an audit doesn’t mean they maintain the same level of quality and compliance when the auditor leaves. We have our own local employees in our manufacturing plants overseas on a regular basis to ensure those levels are maintained at all times. 
  • We’ve invested time and training into trusted results. We have material science engineers, manufacturing experts, and teams with years of experience to make sure that everything goes according to plan. 
  • We’ve enhanced our portfolio of packaging solutions with highly engineered bulk bag options (e.g., high-quality chemical bags, pharma bags) that can be used to eliminate many issues for our clients. 

Chapter 7

Why should you rely on Conitex Sonoco for your smart, sustainable packaging strategies?

At Conitex Sonoco, we’re dedicated to making sure our customers get what they need, no matter what. Our sourcing department is tireless when it comes to ensuring that we find the special level of high-quality food-grade bags you need.

We’ve also invested in myriad systems and plants in multiple countries. If a mass eventsay, a worldwide pandemicshuts things down in one country, we have accredited suppliers in other countries to back up supply to keep your operations running. 

Trust us: Great packaging is not the place to pinch pennies. In fact, pennies can ultimately cost dollars and plenty of stress on the back end. 

Don’t believe us? We’ve seen it time and time again: Manufactures underestimate the disastrous consequences of opting for cheap, noncompliant, poor-quality bulk bags. These include: 

  • Cheap bags tend to split at the worst possible times, resulting in mishaps, including expensive seam failures that result in lost product and production delays due to downtime.
  • Cheap bags don’t have built-in UV protection, which means they will degrade and fail when subjected to long-term exposure to light.
  • Untrustworthy suppliers can promise specifications then underdeliver with actual bags (e.g., bait and switch) that are thinner or don’t have the needed capabilities.

It’s just not worth it to invest in cheap bags. Instead, form an invaluable long-term relationship with a high-quality bag manufacturer and supplier you can trust. Find a manufacturer who has invested in accreditation and audits and has built a history of providing safe, worth-it bags that help companies meet their goals. 

At Conitex Sonoco, we’re dedicated to going the extra mile to make sure your bags are safer, sturdier, more sustainable, and ready to work strategically for you. Contact our friendly FIBC experts today to get a custom quote for your company! 

close chapters modal

Download a PDF version of this guide by filling out this form

Simply fill out this form to receive a PDF version of our guide.

Food-Grade Bulk Bags