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Strategic Change for Canada’s Food & Beverage Industry

10/12/2013


If you’ve read the last two posts on the current state of the food & beverage industry, one thing is clear: change is the only constant. Those who choose to ignore it will soon be ignored by consumers, while those who take advantage of new opportunities that strategically align with their business goals and capabilities will prosper. Today we’re looking at the key questions every manufacturer needs to ask in order to stay ahead of the competition and ultimately thrive in a challenging industry.

Prepare & Protect

While I’ve focused largely on changes in consumer purchasing behaviours, change can just as easily, and perhaps more disruptively, occur on the manufacturing side of things. An enterprise risk strategy helps identify what primary risks you face while also forming an action plan for the unexpected. For food and beverage manufacturers, start by looking at your suppliers: How will you adapt to raw material and crop price fluctuations? What would you do if one of your suppliers shut down or was unable to provide what you needed? Next, look at your customer base: how much of your company’s business is generated through your largest customer? What would happen if they cut their order in half? Is it time to diversify?

Consider the Competition

Virtually no food or beverage manufacturer exists in a bubble. Keeping track of what the competition is doing is essential. While a new product from a competitor likely won’t impact your company overnight, consider what long-term benefits it may bring them. The first company to release a unique offering will often ‘own’ that category, unless you can come up with an alternative that provides additional benefits – like a better price point, increased nutritional value or better taste. If you were the one first out of the gate with a new product, it’s important to look at your pricing and branding strategies as the market is flooded with new, closely related options.

Changing Opportunities

No matter what successes you’re seeing right now, remember that what’s working today may not be what works tomorrow. Adapting to change doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel, but it does mean staying on top of the trends that make sense for your product offering. For example, the nutritional content of foods is an increasing concern for people of all ages and budgets. Should you be making changes to your production process or ingredients? If you already have, are you promoting them to your customers? Eco-friendly or ‘green’ practices are also factoring into purchasing decisions. Have you explored more convenient and sustainable options for your packaging? Finally, with global food brands hitting Canadian shelves, have you explored opportunities to take your brand international?

Bigger Than You

While individual companies must look out for their own best interests internally, Canada’s food and beverage sector as a whole must learn to collaborate on responding to change, resolving persistent issues and creating a favourable environment that will allow producers to meet their potential. The industry needs to work closely with the government toward an integrated strategy which considers how the food and beverage sector impacts and benefits health and the environment. Together, we must strive for a common, strategic set of regulatory standards, conduct research to assist the industry as a whole and engage in media outreach that effectively communicates the benefits of Canada’s food and beverage sector to the consumer.

The future of our food and beverage industry is promising, but not without pitfalls. Those who take active steps toward innovation, collaboration and responsiveness will reap the greatest rewards.