Practice Areas & Industries: GrayRobinson, P.A.

 





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Practice/Industry Group Overview

PRODUCERS / MANUFACTURERS

Farmers, growers, ranchers, fisheries, manufacturers and importers represent the top of America’s food chain. Producers and suppliers have unique licensure and regulatory compliance needs.

From the established, multi-national agro-industry producers, to the newest generation of family-owned local organic farmers, our Food Law Team helps suppliers maintain their licensure requirements, meet their compliance responsibilities, and achieve their business objectives. We combine the talents and capabilities of experienced attorneys, former federal and state industry regulators, and skilled licensing specialists to provide the broadest range of support services to suppliers.

The challenges facing food suppliers are unlimited. Whether navigating the sale and shipment of your products into the United States or across state lines, the unwinding of an existing distribution relationship, or the recall of a product, our Food Law Team has skilled and experienced professionals to protect your interests and secure your objectives.

Start-Up

We have extensive experience working with new entrants to the food industry, as well as with experienced players who are bringing new products and/or business concepts to market. We provide guidance and assistance for Start-Up issues ranging from equipment procurement and capitalization to market penetration and mid-long term planning.

Licensure & Government Notifications

We handle food producer’s licensure needs at the federal and state levels for locations throughout America. We also handle FDA Bioterrorism-notification requirements and Customs requirements for importers. Additionally, we work with clients to secure all required operating and collateral licenses associated with their businesses, including local health, safety and occupational permits.

Brand Development

We understand that a brand is more than a label. From formulation through packaging, we assist clients with the creation of their new food products to assure compliance and enhance the prospects for market success. Our regulatory guidance for brand development encompasses compliance with federal product formulation and labeling requirements, as well as state brand registrations and practical, experience-based input on brand development.

Contracts

Preparation and negotiation of key contracts is vital to success in the food industry. Our services in this area include drafting private label production contracts, import agreements, ingredient/commodity supply contracts, processing and distribution agreements with licensed processors and wholesalers, etc.

Records

Because it is a regulated industry, food suppliers must produce and maintain records that are accurate and complete. Suppliers are obligated to meet their federal and state record-keeping responsibilities; failure to do so can jeopardize a supplier’s licensure, which directly impacts the ability to remain in business. We provide comprehensive assistance with mandatory record-keeping responsibilities.

Marketing

In today’s world, with the unprecedented proliferation of brands and industry members, the ability to distinguish a particular supplier or a specific brand is fundamental to success. While advancing technology presents extraordinary new opportunities for marketing and promotion, the regulatory restrictions applicable to a fair market place generally, and the food industry in particular, produce concomitant compliance risks. Our Food Law Team provides specific advice regarding marketing, advertising and promotional activities, including issues relating to social media marketing, stealth and guerilla marketing, and the tensions that often arise between protected commercial speech that may generate claims of consumer confusion based on allegedly unfair or misleading content.

Compliance, Product Withdrawals & Recalls

Unlike most other consumer products, food presents industry members with huge compliance challenges because of variances among state laws and regulations. For interested parties with no prior experience in the food industry – as is often the case with Merger & Acquisition activity involving private investment funds or financial institutions for whom commercializing food is not a primary endeavor – food safety and trade practice laws can be especially bewildering to comprehend, and difficult to follow. Equally challenging are the myriad administrative, logistical and public relations requirements needed to effectively withdraw or recall a product from the marketplace. We counsel clients on trade practice and compliance issues at the federal and state levels on matters ranging from M&A guidelines and product recalls to distributor and retailer relations.

Government & Public Relations

Legislative change is rarely easy, but sometimes it is vital to development and growth. We have proven experience in securing needed legislative changes for clients, as recently demonstrated in our successful campaign for a new Florida law allowing craft distillers to sell directly to consumers under set circumstances. We work with food suppliers to design and implement strategic public relations and legislative lobbying campaigns, including the drafting of proposed legislation and regulatory rulemaking.

Enforcement

In a regulated industry, the risks of regulatory enforcement always are substantial. Whether in the form of an audit, subpoena for records, or institution of formal administrative proceedings, our Food Law Team’s professionals are experienced at protecting clients’ rights and defending their interests against administrative actions at the federal or state levels.

Dispute Resolution

Disputes can arise from any number of sources: government agencies, members of the public, and even other food industry members. Whether those disputes ripen into litigation often depends on the initial actions and reactions of the relevant parties. Our experience proves that skilled communication and strategic planning often can avert litigation, saving all parties time, effort and expense. Our unique combination of lawyers and former regulators allows us to offer food industry clients unparalleled mediation capabilities that can identify key issues, overcome inter-company obstacles and resolve disputes before control is ceded from the parties to the courts. When mediation is not an option, our trial lawyers have decades of experience with litigation and arbitration, including intellectual property protection, fraudulent or misleading marketing claims and product liability matters.

Education & Training

We use the experience and knowledge of our Food Law Team’s attorneys and former regulators to develop tailored education and training programs that emphasize best practices while encouraging compliance. Whether in the format of a live presentation before an in-house classroom audience, or a company-wide online webinar, we can devise programs that add value by increasing employee education about food industry trade practice DOs and DON’Ts while reducing both compliance and liability risks.

Research & Insights

Our attorneys and former regulators stay current on industry developments, and work to identify developing trends ahead of the market curve. That prowess can be invaluable for suppliers who seek a competitive and strategic edge. We offer such clients leading-edge industry research and reports that provide critical information and insights needed to make important mid-and long-range business decisions. Our Team brings complex information together and makes it understandable so our clients can stay ahead of emerging trends.

PROCESSORS

While manufacturers and suppliers produce the food, packers and processors of the food industry undertake a wide range of functions to convert the raw materials into processed goods for distribution and retail sale. Processor functions can entail washing, sorting, cutting, grinding, slicing, cooking and refrigeration, and packaging. Some processors even alter the atmospheres within food packages, or apply federally regulated chemical food additives as a method of food preservation. Food processing operations now being conducted or proposed include cook-chill; vacuum packaging; sous vide; smoking and curing; brewing, processing, and bottling alcohol beverages, carbonated beverages, or drinking water; and custom processing of animals.

For food processors, basic needs include:

  • Product labeling, advertising and other promotional materials.
  • The regulatory scheme affecting or governing such products, including mandatory and voluntary submissions (FDA-required petitions and notifications) and food facility registration, and the “new” FDA reporting requirements (through RFR).
  • Import and export issues, including detentions by Customs and Border Patrol.
  • Recall or market withdrawal issues, including the reportable food registry and related planning, policies and audit procedures.
  • Effective crisis management, including misbranding lawsuits, government enforcement actions (including press releases and warning letters), stop-sale orders and recall or market withdrawal situations.
  • The business of food – documenting and negotiating business relationships and other commercial arrangements, structuring a distribution system and obtaining liability protection throughout the supply and distribution chain

These are just some of the challenges facing food processors. Whether navigating the sale and shipment of your products across state lines, the unwinding of an existing distribution relationship, or the recall of products from the marketplace, our Food Law Team has skilled and experienced professionals to protect your interests and secure your objectives.

From the established multi-national processors, to the newest generation of start-up craft artisans, our Food Law Team helps processors maintain their licensure requirements, meet their compliance responsibilities, and achieve their business objectives. We combine the talents and capabilities of experienced attorneys, former federal and state industry regulators, and skilled licensing specialists to provide the broadest range of support services to suppliers. Examples of how we can help include:

Start-Up

We have extensive experience working with new entrants to the food processing industry, as well as with experienced players who are bringing new methodologies and/or business concepts to market. We provide guidance and assistance for Start-Up issues ranging from equipment procurement and capitalization to market penetration and mid-long term planning.

Licensure, Registration & Reporting

We assist with licensure, registration and reporting responsibilities at the federal, state and local levels for locations throughout North America. Additionally, we work with clients to secure all required operating and collateral licenses associated with their businesses, including local health, safety and occupational permits.

Process Development

With technology changing at break-neck speed, we understand that process innovation can be critical to market success. From initial design through HACCP program development and implementation, we assist clients with the creation of their new processing methods to assure compliance and enhance the prospects for market success.

Contracts

Preparation and negotiation of key contracts is vital to success in the food industry. Our services in this area include drafting production and marketing contracts, import agreements, ingredient/commodity supply contracts, distribution agreements, etc.
 
Taxes & Records

Because it is a heavily regulated industry, food processors must produce and maintain records that are accurate and complete. Moreover, because it is a taxed industry as well, processors are obligated to meet their federal and state taxation responsibilities; failure to do so can jeopardize a processor’s licensure, which directly impacts the ability to remain in business. We provide comprehensive assistance with taxation and record-keeping responsibilities.

Marketing

In today’s world, with the unprecedented proliferation of products and industry members, the ability to distinguish a particular processor or its specific brand is fundamental to success. While advancing technology presents extraordinary new opportunities for marketing and promotion, the regulatory restrictions applicable to commercial food produce concomitant compliance risks. Our Food Law Team provides specific advice regarding marketing, advertising and promotional activities.

Compliance

Unlike most other consumer products, the public health and safety concerns associated with commercially processed foods present industry members with huge compliance responsibilities. We counsel clients on trade practice and compliance issues at the federal, state and local levels on matters ranging from labeling and registration requirements to product withdrawals and recalls.

Government & Public Relations

Legislative change is rarely easy, but sometimes it is vital to development and growth. We have proven experience in securing needed legislative changes for clients, as recently demonstrated in our successful campaign for a new Florida law allowing craft distillers to sell directly to consumers under set circumstances. We work with food industry members to design and implement strategic public relations and legislative lobbying campaigns, including the drafting of proposed legislation and regulatory rulemaking.

Enforcement

In a regulated industry, the risks of regulatory enforcement always are substantial. Whether in the form of an audit, subpoena for records, or commencement of formal administrative proceedings, our Food Law Team’s professionals are experienced at protecting clients’ rights and defending their interests against administrative actions at the federal or state levels.

Dispute Resolution

Disputes can arise from any number of sources: government agencies, members of the public, and even other food industry members. Whether those disputes ripen into litigation often depends on the initial actions and reactions of the relevant parties. Our experience proves that skilled communication and strategic planning often can avert litigation, saving all parties time, effort and expense. Our unique combination of lawyers and former regulators allows us to offer food industry clients unparalleled mediation capabilities that can identify key issues, overcome inter-company obstacles and resolve disputes before control is ceded from the parties to the courts. When mediation is not an option, our trial lawyers have decades of experience with litigation and arbitration, including distributor termination, intellectual property protection, and product liability matters.

Education & Training

We use the experience and knowledge of our Food Law Team’s attorneys and former regulators to develop tailored education and training programs that emphasize best practices while encouraging compliance. Whether in the format of a live presentation before an in-house classroom audience, or a company-wide online webinar, we can devise programs that add value by increasing employee education about food industry DOs and DON’Ts while reducing both compliance and liability risks.

Research & Insights

Our attorneys and former regulators stay current on food industry developments, and work to identify developing trends ahead of the market curve. That prowess can be invaluable for processors who seek a competitive and strategic edge. We offer such clients leading-edge industry research and reports that provide critical information and insights needed to make important mid-and long-range business decisions. Our Food Law Team brings complex information together and makes it understandable so our clients can stay ahead of emerging trends.

DISTRIBUTORS

Wholesale food distributors perform a unique and indispensable role in assuring that America’s commercial food chain operates safely, efficiently, responsibly and successfully.

Mandatory licensure and comprehensive regulation are part-and-parcel of the food distributor’s existence. Maintaining the security and integrity of food inventories, while assuring the timely transportation and delivery of products, are critical responsibilities for America’s food wholesalers. The lawyers and professionals of our Food Law Team work hard every day to help wholesalers meet those responsibilities.

From the wholesaler networks spanning multiple states and distributing hundreds of established brands across diversified product lines, to the specialty houses focusing on wholesaling particular artisanal products in specific markets, our Food Law Team helps distributors maintain their licensure requirements, meet their compliance responsibilities, and achieve their business objectives. We combine the talents and capabilities of experienced attorneys, former federal and state industry regulators, and skilled licensing specialists to provide the broadest range of support services to wholesalers.

Examples of the way we can help include:

Start-Up

We have extensive experience working with new “niche” entrants to the food industry, as well as with experienced players who are diversifying with new brands from different product lines of the industry, and/or implementing innovative business concepts to strengthen their market positions. We provide guidance and assistance for Start-Up issues ranging from warehouse and vehicle procurement and capitalization to market penetration and mid-long term planning.

Licensure

We handle food transportation and distribution licensure at the federal, state and local levels for locations throughout North America. Additionally, we work with clients to secure all required operating and collateral licenses associated with their businesses, including local health, safety and occupational permits.

Contracts

Preparation and negotiation of key contracts is vital to success in the alcohol industry. Our services in this area include drafting distribution agreements with suppliers, sub-distribution agreements with other licensed wholesalers, transportation contracts, bills of lading, etc.

Registration & Record-Keeping

Because commercial food distribution is a regulated industry, food distributors must produce and maintain records that are accurate and complete. Moreover, because of the unique health and safety concerns associated with our public food chain, wholesalers are obligated to meet their federal and state registration responsibilities; failure to do so can jeopardize a wholesaler’s licensure, which directly impacts the ability to remain in business. We provide comprehensive assistance with registration and record-keeping responsibilities.

Marketing

In today’s world, with the unprecedented proliferation of food brands and industry members, the ability to distinguish a particular wholesaler or a specific value-added distribution service is fundamental to success. While advancing technology presents extraordinary new opportunities for marketing and promotion, the regulatory restrictions applicable to food produce concomitant compliance risks. Our Food Law Team provides specific advice regarding marketing, advertising and promotional activities, including issues relating to tastings and samplings, coupons and sweepstakes, social media marketing and the use of third-party service providers.

Compliance

Unlike most other consumer products, commercial food presents industry members with huge compliance challenges because pertinent state laws and regulations vary throughout the country. We counsel clients on trade practice and compliance issues at the federal, state and local levels on issues ranging from supplier relations and compliance with local marketing orders, to product recalls and compliance with federal requirements such as DOT transportation permitting.

Government & Public Relations

Legislative change is rarely easy, but sometimes it is vital to development and growth. We have proven experience in securing needed legislative changes for clients, working with alcohol industry members to design and implement strategic public relations and legislative lobbying campaigns, including the drafting of proposed legislation and regulatory rulemaking.

Enforcement

In a regulated industry, the risks of regulatory enforcement always are substantial. In especially competitive markets, these risks often escalate because competitors do not hesitate to complain to regulators whenever they perceive an alleged violation that arguably yields an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Whether in the form of an audit, subpoena for records, or institution of formal administrative proceedings, our Food Law Team’s professionals are experienced at protecting client’s rights defending their interests against administrative actions at the federal or state levels.

Dispute Resolution

Disputes can arise from any number of sources: government agencies, members of the public, and even other food industry members. Whether those disputes ripen into litigation often depends on the initial actions and reactions of the relevant parties. Our experience proves that skilled communication and strategic planning often can avert litigation, saving all parties time, effort and expense. Our unique combination of lawyers and former regulators, along with our experience representing all tiers and segments of the industry, enable us to offer food industry clients unparalleled mediation capabilities that can identify key issues, overcome inter-company obstacles and resolve disputes before control is ceded from the parties to the courts. When mediation is not an option, our trial lawyers have decades of experience with litigation and arbitration, including supplier termination, contract enforcement, and product liability matters.

Education & Training

We use the experience and knowledge of our Food Law Team’s attorneys and former regulators to develop tailored education and training programs that emphasize best practices while encouraging compliance. Whether in the format of a live presentation before an in-house classroom audience, or a company-wide online webinar, we can devise programs that add value by increasing employee education about alcohol trade practice DOs and DON’Ts while reducing both compliance and liability risks.

Research & Insights

Our attorneys and former regulators stay current on food industry developments, and work to identify developing trends ahead of the market curve. That prowess can be invaluable for wholesale distributors who seek a competitive and strategic edge. We offer such clients leading-edge industry research and reports that provide critical information and insights needed to make important mid-and long-range business decisions. Our Food Law Team brings complex information together and makes it understandable so our clients can stay ahead of emerging trends.

RETAILERS

Commercial food retailers face extraordinary regulation, and consequently have special needs. On-premises retailers, such as restaurants and hotels, theme parks and golf courses, face a broad range of regulatory requirements and liability risks. Off-premises retailers, such as convenience stores, supermarkets and consumer membership club stores, face their own unique challenges as local governments get more restrictive on food safety requirements for licensure, while plaintiffs’ lawyers seek to expand the scope of liability for retailers.

Our Food Law Team understands these challenges, and we help members of the retail tier to both comply and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. We offer our retail clients a wide range of high-value services, including:

Start-Up

We have extensive experience working with new “niche” entrants to the food industry, as well as with experienced chain retailers who are expanding into new geographic markets, diversifying with new private label brands and/or implementing innovative business concepts to strengthen their existing market positions. We provide guidance and assistance for Start-Up issues ranging from capitalization and entity formation, through location and licensure, to market penetration and mid-long term planning.

Licensure

We handle food labeling, registration and licensure at the federal, state and local levels for locations throughout North America. Additionally, we work with clients to secure all required operating and collateral licenses associated with their businesses, including local health, safety and occupational permits.

Brand Development

We understand that a private label brand is more than a label – it’s the embodiment of the retailer. From initial appointment through registration and market rollout, we assist retail clients with the creation and promotion of their private label food products to assure compliance and enhance the prospects for market success. Our regulatory guidance for brand development encompasses compliance with federal product formulation and labeling requirements, as well as state brand registrations and practical, experience-based input on brand development.

Contracts

Preparation and negotiation of key contracts is vital to success in the food industry. Our services in this area include drafting lease and concession agreements with venue owners, private label production contracts, and a range of other relevant operating documents necessary for compliance and success.

Taxes & Records

Because the food industry is heavily regulated, retailers must produce and maintain records that are accurate and complete. Moreover, because it is a heavily taxed industry as well, retailers are obligated to meet their federal and state taxation responsibilities; failure to do so can jeopardize a retailer’s licensure, which directly impacts the ability to remain in business. We provide comprehensive assistance with taxation and record-keeping responsibilities.

Marketing

In today’s world, with the unprecedented proliferation of brands and industry members, the ability to distinguish a particular retailer or a specific brand is fundamental to success. While advancing technology presents extraordinary new opportunities for marketing and promotion, the regulatory restrictions applicable to alcohol beverages produce concomitant compliance risks. Our Food Law Team provides specific advice regarding marketing, advertising and promotional activities, including issues relating to consumer tastings and samplings, coupons & sweepstakes, social media marketing and the degree to which retailers lawfully can work with food suppliers or distributors to achieve success in the marketplace.

Compliance

Unlike most other consumer products, commercial food presents industry members with huge compliance challenges because the laws and regulations vary among some states. We counsel clients on trade practice and compliance issues at the federal, state and local levels on issues ranging from labeling requirements and market recalls to distributor relations and restrictions on how lawfully to work with suppliers to best promote sales.

Government & Public Relations

Legislative change is rarely easy, but sometimes it is vital to development and growth. Issues can range from focused matters such as IRC coupon redemption regulations, to more expansive issues such as calorie and nutrition requirements for menus and package size restrictions on certain food products. We have proven experience in securing needed legislative changes for clients, working with food industry members to design and implement strategic public relations and legislative lobbying campaigns, including the drafting of proposed legislation and regulatory rulemaking.

Enforcement

In a heavily regulated industry, the risks of regulatory enforcement always are substantial. In especially competitive markets, these risks often escalate because competitors do not hesitate to complain to regulators whenever they perceive an alleged violation that arguably yields an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Whether in the form of an audit, subpoena for records, or institution of formal administrative proceedings, our Food Law Team’s professionals are experienced at protecting client’s rights defending their interests against administrative actions at the federal or state levels.

Dispute Resolution

Disputes can arise from any number of sources: government agencies, members of the public, and even other food industry members. Whether those disputes ripen into litigation often depends on the initial actions and reactions of the relevant parties. Our experience proves that skilled communication and strategic planning often can avert litigation, saving all parties time, effort and expense. Our unique combination of lawyers and former regulators, along with our experience of representing all tiers and segments of the industry, enable us to offer food industry clients unparalleled mediation capabilities that can identify key issues, overcome inter-company obstacles and resolve disputes before control is ceded from the parties to the courts. When mediation is not an option, our trial lawyers have decades of experience with litigation and arbitration, including supplier termination, intellectual property protection, and product liability matters.

Education & Training

We use the experience and knowledge of our Food Law Team’s attorneys and former regulators to develop tailored education and training programs that emphasize best practices while encouraging compliance. Whether in the format of a live presentation before an in-house classroom audience, or a company-wide online webinar, we can devise programs that add value by increasing employee education about commercial food DOs and DON’Ts while reducing both compliance and liability risks.

Research & Insights

Our attorneys and former regulators stay current on industry developments, and work to identify developing trends ahead of the market curve. That prowess can be invaluable for retailers who seek a competitive and strategic edge. We offer such clients leading-edge industry research and reports that provide critical information and insights needed to make important mid-and long-range business decisions. Our Food Law Team brings complex information together and makes it understandable so our clients can stay ahead of emerging trends.