SALINAS, Calif. — Robert Mann Packaging has become the first corrugated packager in the U.S. to earn a global food safety certification from the British Retail Consortium, company president Steve Carroll said.

Salinas-based Robert Mann Packaging notches about $100 million in sales annually, 65% of it to fresh produce companies.

Its client list includes NewStar Fresh Foods; Boggiatto Produce; Church Bros. LLC; Ready Pac; Bengard Ranches; Uesugi Farms; and Lakeside Organic Gardens.

The company’s packaging options include waxed corrugated boxes, bulk bins and strawberry clamshells, among others.

“Everyone’s trying to get to this food safety level,” Carroll said. “A lot of that is getting pressed down on us packaging guys. Through a four-month effort, we built all the systems and passed our audit in early March.”

“Nobody put a gun to our head,” said Carlos Velez, vice president of operations. “But we said, ‘We want to be responsible, what can we do?’”

For Velez, BRC was the answer because of its comprehensiveness, addressing Global Food Safety Initiative standards along with HACCP, GAP, GMP and quality assurance. Much of the baseline systems were already in place at Robert Mann Packaging, Velez, leaving GFSI as the prime step forward.

There are just over 2,000 companies in the U.S., including about 110 in California — typically food manufacturers — with British Retail Consortium certification.

“A lot of customers want AIB International certification, which is high, but we decided British Retail Consortium is the highest and would put us on the best platform to sell globally,” Carroll said.

Clients see quality assurances on packaging as essential to their own food safety programs, Carroll said.

“We realize this is the hot-button issue in the produce and processed food industries, and we wanted to be proactive in meeting the needs of our customers,” he said.

One advantage of the certification, Velez said, is smoothing the way for clients who want to export to markets where stringent food safety requirements are in place.

“Our packaging would help them make that jump without having to do any further documentation,” he said.

British Retail Consortium certification also covers food, consumer products, storage and distribution. It also addresses hazard analysis and critical control points standards; good manufacturing practices; and process and product controls.