Non-GMO Project: Pre-Verification Steps & Timeframes You Need To Know

Posted by Hannah Broaddus

The process of getting your products Non-GMO Project Verified from start to finish can be lengthy and tedious — most people in our industry, however, would still assert that it’s well worth it.

Right now, there is a huge demand for this seal; there are currently 2,600 brands with more than 34,000 products verified. That said, the process that the Non-GMO Project outlines on their website often takes longer than many brands would expect. There is also a “pre-verfication" process that has to be completed internally in your company before you can fully decide to move forward to get this QA seal. You’ll need to look at the strategy behind why you want the get verified, and compare the costs, pros and cons to determine if it’s really worthwhile for your company to undergo.

To give you a realistic timeline on how long the process takes, it’s helpful to take a look at each of the different parts of the process, how long they take to complete and which parts can be undertaken simultaneously.

I believe the most helpful thing I can bring to the table today is experiential insight from brands just like yours who have gone through the process before you. Over the last few years, we’ve talked with many different customers who have undertaken this process (and we’ve done it ourselves as well), and we all have feedback for you.

I hope to bring this high-level insight to the table to help you in the early decision stages: to give you an idea of how you need to prepare and evaluate internally, how long it’s going to take, and all of the changes your company will need to make that you may not think of right away when you submit your initial request.

Non-GMO Project Verification Process & Timeline



Estimated Time Frame: 1-6 months

The initial research process involves your company strategy: it’s where you will compile all the initial information you’ll use to decide if you’d like to get verified or not. This process includes researching non-GMO ingredient availability, non-GMO suppliers, the costs of each alternative ingredient, costs of the NGPV certification, and your additional potential sales that will offset the costs or loss of sales if you do not get verified.

This research process is probably the most extensive of all of the steps because there isn’t much structure provided to you as you explore the idea of getting your product non-GMO project verified.


Non-GMO Ingredient Availability

First you’ll need to re-work you product to use only non-GMO ingredients. The easiest way this can play out is if you are already using a naturally non-GMO oil like olive oil or rice bran. In that case, you can skip this step!

If you are using a GMO ingredient like canola or soybean oil, you’ll need to look for an alternative like non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil or non-GMO soybean oil.

55 Gallon Non-GMO Edible Oil DrumSome non-GMO oil ingredients are more readily available than others, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re looking primarily at easily available ingredients. For example, if you use a corn oil you could hypothetically switch over to a non-GMO corn oil. However, this oil is in low supply and is dominated by the export market overseas. The inconsistency in steady supply would be a challenge to make this switch, so we’d recommend looking for an alternative type of oil. Having this information now will tell you how feasible and simple the switch will be (or not) from the supply chain perspective.

As you’re researching options, ask about availability, your potential future growth needs, ease of supply, and if it’s a stocked item.


Find a Non-GMO Supplier

At the same time as you’re researching non-GMO ingredient alternatives and options, you’ll also want to find industrial suppliers for each of these items along the way. You may find them in your research process or you may need to do a thorough Google search to find the suppliers that fit your company size and needs.

Find a few different suppliers to get quotes from. You’ll also want to see who you enjoy working with, and possibly even build out a diversified supply chain with 2 or more sources.

Non-GMO Oil Supplier Vendor Meeting


Research Non-GMO Ingredient Costs

blog33-dollar-signs.jpgAfter you find your non-GMO ingredient alternatives and suppliers, you’ll also want to get some cost comparisons.

It’s smart to get quotes for a few different ingredient options (or different types of oils), and from a multiple suppliers. You will start to get an idea of which oils might be the easiest to switch to, and which might be lowest cost.

Then you can take all of this information into the next stage when R&D does their evaluations (see Product Development below).


Costs of Non-GMO Project Verification

The costs of getting project verified can vary depending on how complex your manufacturing process is, if the facility you produce in is already project verified, if the ingredients are low or high risk and some other factors.

The best way to get an accurate quote is to submit your interest on their website. You’ll start here by filling out their online form. They will gather some basic information and then send you another more detailed form which you will need to fill out to get more information on the costs involved.


Quantify Additional Predicted Sales Or Loss Of Sales

The last piece of this research process is to address the underlying driving factor that made you look into getting project verified in the first place: is your target market clamoring for verified products? Are your competitors project verified? Are you selling to Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or other retailers that prefer to have Non-GMO Project Verified products on their shelves?

This is a very intangible but important part of the research process. Try to get a picture of how much your sales could potentially increase by getting this 3rd party seal. Or on the flip side, you can try to quantify how many sales you might loose (for example, if you are working on a Costco deal and you would loose that opportunity) if you didn’t move forward to get this seal.

Non-GMO Sales Growth Strategy Meeting


Product Development

Estimated Time Frame: 1-3 months

This process involves 1) bringing in samples of the new non-GMO alternative ingredients, 2) doing R&D testing, 3) getting a final prototype for the Non-GMO Project submission prepared with nutrition facts and an ingredient listing and 4) confirming all of the necessary QA paperwork from suppliers.

Once you’ve done the preliminary research, you’ll need to start testing your ingredients to come up with an outline of how your Product Development and R&D team would like to make the switch.

Request samples of the non-GMO oils (or other ingredients) that you are considering and begin testing. Have product development and/or marketing weigh in on trends that they are seeing and ingredients that you should focus on.

Once R&D testing is completed, you’ll need to review your new formulation and ingredient list and figure out if your current nutrition facts will need to change.


New Labeling & Packaging Designs

Estimated Time Frame: 1-2 months

This process includes new packaging development and design, signed off on by QA and your legal department.

Before you can get project verified, you’ll need to submit your packaging so that the Non-GMO Project can sign off on the design that you’ve decided on that incorporates their seal. They will give you some guidelines to stay within (like you can’t crop the seal or remove their URL, and you can only use the color options that they’ve designated).

For most natural food brands, you will work with a designer to develop your packaging. Once that’s been created, you’ll want to get QA and/or your legal department to sign off on the fact that it meets USDA and FDA requirements for food products. At the very least, you will likely be adjusting your ingredient listing and adding the seal to the front of the package, as well as potentially updating the nutritional information.

With the design process completed, you’ll want to have an idea of how long the first run of packaging will take to produce when you’re ready to pull the trigger.

Of course, there are many great graphic designers in the natural food industry, but if you’re currently on the look out, check out The Creative Pack.



Get Products Non-GMO Project Verified

Estimated Time Frame: 1-6 months

In this part of the process, you’ll apply to get your products actually Non-GMO Project Verified, communicate with the NGPV folks and make any corrections necessary in their portal.

Now that you’ve submitted the initial request with the Non-GMO Project, they will direct you with any next steps to move forward. The payment will officially release them to start the process!

On the FAQs on their website, the Non-GMO Project addresses the question “How long will it take to get verified?”. They say, “On average, the process takes 3 to 6 months depending on the attributes of your product and how quickly you can submit the required documentation for your product evaluation.”

However, in our experience, we’ve seen that the process can take anywhere from 4-12 months.

Most of that timeline comes after the initial submission process, during their review and communication back and forth in their system with you, working on corrections and re-submissions.

They are in extremely high demand right now, and in our experience the review process often takes longer than they think or hope that it might. That said, it’s a very fluid thing and we’ve seen expedited processes move quickly while others can take much much longer.


Bring In New Ingredients & Start Production

Estimated Time Frame: 1-2 months

You’re almost done! In this part of the process,you’ll bring in new ingredients, get the actual packaging produced and for prep for your first non-gmo project verified production run.

Once the Non-GMO Project signs off on your product, you can officially move forward with packaging production and begin to bring your new non-GMO ingredients in. You’re officially getting underway with your new Non-GMO Project Verified products!

Freight Truck with New Non-GMO Ingredients


In Conclusion

As you can see, there are many factors to take into account during this process. This can be a challenge because each of them will slightly overlap and often must be completed simultaneously. In addition, many companies spend a lot of time waiting: waiting for information from suppliers, waiting for designs, waiting for testing, waiting to be approved after submission.

With these moving parts, the timing can be a really challenging factor. If possible, try to give yourself as much extra time as possible and start the process extra-early.

Lastly, give yourself a bit of grace during this time! We’ve all been through it, and we know how challenging it can be. But be assured, it’s definitely worthwhile in the end.

Topics: Non-GMO



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