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Big Data in the food industry

How Big Data Analytics is Reshaping the Food and Beverage Industry

The Food Industry Is As Volatile and Versatile As People’s Tastes. Big Data Analytics Can Help Reduce Wastage and Optimize Spending to Save Your Company Money and Better Understand Your Customers!


Whether it was thousands of years ago, or in the 21st Century, food is the one cultural trope that unifies us all and which we can all relate to. Everybody needs to eat, no matter how picky or carefree they may be in their nutrition choices. However, the majority of individuals are preferring food which is as delicious as it is fresh and healthy. Particularly with the rise of unique dieting styles such as veganism, keto or GMO-free selections, people also require their food to be wholesome while remaining affordable.


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Clearly, our preferences and tastes are ever-changing—and with them, the companies who provide us with our sustenance. The emerging market trends, current product prices or transportation and supply chain logistics involved in growing, manufacturing and delivering the most accurate products to restaurant and grocer menus and shelves have arisen as significant factors. Factors that drive optimizing their product mixes, procuring the cleanest supply chain and reducing the amount of food supply wasted—and put the spotlight on your brand in the process.

According to the American Center for Disease Control (CDC), almost 1 in every 6 Americans becomes sick, 128,000 are hospitalized annually, and 3,000 others die of food borne illnesses each year. Surely, you’ve all heard the infamous food wastage factoid: America wastes nearly 40% of its food supply each year. Globally, this statistic grows abhorrently—we have reached the point where the world’s food supply could, in fact, feed the entire world population—essentially eliminating world hunger completely. The reality of the situation is much, much different…but don’t lose hope just yet!

As somber of an introduction as that was, these facts exist to open eyes and minds to the reality of the food industry—and the insight needed to combat this wastage (and potential revenue for involved businesses). We can see the most robust developments in these areas within the genesis of big data analytics, methods of powerful solutions for food producers, transporters, grocers and restaurants.

By gleaning full visibility into customers’ buying choices in real-time, breakdowns within the supply chain logistics due to, say, shipper negligence…or a rise within certain poultry product prices, knowing when and where these market shifts occur can provide your brand with the foresight to act quickly, and the playing field to make sustainably, growth-oriented business decisions.

For long enough, business leaders have ignored the wealth of user data existing in its purest state. Big Data Analytics can be the avenue for you as a supply chain stakeholder to attain by-the-play analyses to make timely adjustments. In an environment centered around revolving customer expectations, an increased demand for transparency can bridge the disconnect between supply and demand. Now, the question remains: how can companies who struggle with fundamental issues around big data and the required analytics capabilities gain a progressive approach to their business operations? Moreover, how can utilizing these trends prove beneficial in making operational, managerial and logistical decisions? 


Understanding Big Data and Its Role in the Food Industry

First and foremost: what are big data analytics? As defined by analyticssteps.com, Big Data refers to the science of collecting massive amounts of data, or big data, and converting it into smaller, more manageable chunks of information which are then used to gain extensive and relevant insight on a subject or matter. Often times, artificial intelligence, or AI, is used to study and intuitively manage the reams of data created upon point-of-sale digital footprints from consumers’ buying patterns, or even personal information logged and stored from data entry.

These bold new forms of intelligent business management have paved the way for a dynamic and powerful new strategy to broaden profit margins and expand growth opportunities. Firms all over are using these modern approaches to identify problems within the complex pipelines of their business’s operations network quickly, and address them accordingly. By drawing data from multiple sources, various software solutions can target and identify issues pertaining to food quality, safety and freshness.

Companies must not only maintain stability within their own firms, but ensure they’re not left behind while attempting to keep pace with consumers’ fickle eating habits. Factors such as time of day, season, weather, their own mood, what’s currently popular, promotional/limited menu options or associated beverage options can impact the decision points for customers when they’re faced with food options—and there’s definitely no scarcity of that! By combining raw sales data with these aforementioned insights, your marketing team can elicit meaningful information which ultimately transform into more intricate oversight, implementing efficiency protocols and only investing in a product mix which yields the greatest reward at the lowest cost of wasted goods.

Big data assists companies in improving marketing campaigns by understanding what their customers actually want, subsequently developing creative and marketable products, and keeping a watch over competitors’ growth and where their attention is turned to.

Locking down on food quality must be prioritized; no consumer wants to open their packaging to find moldy or expired food which has been warehoused for so long, the shipping agency or grocer who receives it doesn’t realize the state of the product. These issues can all be combatted through utilizing the thorough insight which data-driven approaches provide. As Lori Mitchell-Keller, global general manager of SAP remarks, “To stay competitive in the industry, food and beverage companies should highly consider implementing data analytics tools. Companies that have unbiased, analytical insight into their consumers and overall operations will have a serious advantage over their competitors.”


How Data-Driven Benefits Manifest Within The Food Industry

Leveraging big data analytics can directly aid you and your firm in aligning with your clients’ various dynamic needs, whether horizontally across sectors or vertically within your own supply chain. Thriving in such a complex environment means keeping the focus on what’s important—your customer.

Through understanding the rising costs involved and logistical areas leaking potential revenue (weather earned or saved) you as a business owner can reduce waste and save precious resources. Methods such as analyzing batch food expiration to bolster processing, monitoring food temperatures for safe storage, or market trends to know what not to purchase in bulk are just a few ways that data-driven approaches can yield real results for your brand.

By developing strategies contingent to the people you’re trying to sell to, your business can improve customer satisfaction, reduce churn rates and wield a 360-degree customer view to develop personal offerings and elevate the purchase experience to the next level.

Below, we explore in detail some of the biggest challenges food giants such as Nestle, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo face in dealing with such large volumes of sales (in the tends of billions) across such a massive user base.

Supply Chain – Food is a very delicate resource to manage, particularly due to its quick expiration and speedy turnover rates. As such, getting products delivered to restaurants or stores on time is a major key and responsibility for businesses involved in the supply chain process.

In spite of the large amount of logistical work needed for couriers to do their work, advancements in modern solutions have enabled these firms to use big data to its fullest potential. By understanding elements such as traffic, construction zoning, local weather, route changes or other volatile factors which influence transportation of goods, true insight and forecasting techniques can be implemented. Taking these loads of data and plugging them into AI algorithms will yield powerful statistics and figures to then be used in wide scale calculations. These numbers ultimately provide the basis for understanding throughout the elaborate delivery process.

Quality ControlIn dealing with products which are sensitive to temperate changes, storage methods, or hygienic factors, quality control over all of these (and many other) areas can make the difference in optimal operational performance. Vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and ice-cream all require stable and accurate environmental conditions to remain freshest in, and must be routinely inspected for damage or disease.

Incorporating what are known as IoT-driven sensors can assist in the processing, analysis and transference of data to all parties across the supply chain spectrum. This directly infuses your operational strategy with the intelligence and foresight to replace damaged food products before they’re in the store’s hands, replace them with fresh product and instill preventative, predictive-based measures to ensure minimal wastage of time, product and ultimately, revenue.

If your customers expect a certain, consistent quality within their food selections, you as a responsible food industry leader must cater to their needs. Fulfilling their needs largely depends on uniform food taste, quality and freshness. By using big data to understand the market changes in the ingredients used, these insights to detect weakness points and take actionable steps to improve.

Transparency and EfficiencyAllowing your entire supply chain to vertically and horizontally access the same information, real-time, has proven to be one of the leading methods in combatting siloed operations and communications. No other technology allows for such a deep caliber of insight for the food we serve, and are served across the world.

By enabling a clear and accessible platform for all supply chain stakeholders to pull from, wholesalers may, say, modify operations to prevent recurring issues, or retailers can assess present conditions and risk factors to determine whether to accept or reject shipments. Having all your logistical participants actively involved can ensure smooth operations and enhance visibility, which brands can use to bolster relations with customers and focus on a trust-based system. In driving transparency, food producers, distributors and providers may maintain regulated tracking of their goods, regardless of where in the supply chain they may be.


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As we have seen, food is an essential resource for all people, no matter where in the world we speak about. The real-world applications of big data analytics have proven themselves time and time again in various industries and commercial practices, but none greater than that of the food and beverage industry.

Through curating metrics drawn from a greater focus centered around the customer, businesses and brands can save time and resources while still delivering a robust product mix to a delighted customer. Ascertaining modern consumers’ needs, preferences, tastes and values are above all the criteria for stellar modern food businesses to operate by. Alongside this, cleaning and optimizing your own supply chain pipeline can do wonders for your firm amongst the highly competitive business scape—and put you on top. Remember: not every firm has caught on to the wave just yet. Build a foundation instilled upon transparency and efficiency, and watch as restaurants and stores hunger for your business as their customers eat your delicious, data-driven dinners! 

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