The food and beverage industry is one of the key economic drivers of a country. In today’s fast-paced world, smart technologies can greatly benefit the F&B manufacturing and processing sectors by opening a gamut of opportunities including increasing efficiency, adopting best market practices, prioritizing community and environmental health and, most importantly, cutting costs, thereby curtailing volatile food security and prices, particularly in regions heavily dependent on imports.
Indeed, the F&B industry has had impressive growth globally and is poised to evolve even more quickly over the next ten years, with companies planning ambitiously by adopting smart technologies to expand their market share.
In this regard, the role of information and communication technology (ICT) cannot be emphasized enough. There is an increase in the appetite for growth with 3rd Platform, cloud computing or Big Data becoming buzzwords of the 21st century. Decision-makers are fast realizing the importance of business intelligence and analytics to not only gauge trends pertaining to consumers, vendors and so forth, but also technology’s impact on entire business operations by gaining customer insights, strategically marketing brands and enabling better pricing decisions.
According to a report published by KPMG titled “Food and Beverage Industry Outlook Survey,” executives plan to spend and invest in recipes for growth: “Technology will be a key investment area, with 36 percent (of respondents) citing it to be a top investment priority over the next year. Many acknowledge that technology, such as data analytics and cloud computing, will help reduce costs, enhance interactions with customers and suppliers, and accelerate time to market.”
On the other side of the spectrum lies the World Wide Web with its dynamic social platforms paving the way for F&B companies to tactically promote their portfolio of products by moulding them according to online consumer requirements and trends. Here, again, the responsibility falls on technology for gaining insight into how social users – potential consumers – respond to positioned online marketing collaterals pertaining to products such as email marketing, blogs, social media messages, etc.
Business dynamics have evolved rapidly over the past decade or so, with companies vying for long-term sustainable answers and solutions. This is essentially where technology steps in and takes the lead. The report further indicated technology’s pivotal part in “redefining how companies identify growth opportunities, operate their business and manage risk – and the companies that adopt and utilize these tools most effectively are positioned to capitalize on improving business conditions.” Indeed, it is all about having more diversity, transparency, and definitely more speed in business operations.
The Social Impact
Mobile technology, digital and social media are being used by businesses, especially those belonging to the F&B industry, to gain a number of benefits. These, according to the KPMG report, include external brand promotion (which may or may not be done in-house), customer insights, and location-based marketing using mobile technology, among other things.
Social platforms have not only revolutionized the way we interact with one another, given a whole new dimension to freedom of expression and thought, but have successfully filled a business void.
The notion of consumerism has taken a whole new level with insights gained from two-way customer engagement and continual interaction between product placement and user response. Better experience means perfectly ‘presented’ products and, therefore, sustainable business practices.
While all seems rosy, there are issues that need to be considered in order to enable sustainable business processes through technology. Although the digital boom is here to stay, given the dynamic nature of ICTs, it is crucial for businesses to formulate a proper risk framework that could assess and identify challenges.
Automating processes in the F&B industry, enabling a transparently agile supply chain as well as managing risk and addressing regulations in a virtually dynamic environment hold key to sustainable business practices. But what will actually set companies apart in the food sector is the ability to ascertain who their target customers are, what they actually want, and how they (technologically-equipped companies) are able to position themselves as per the market.