Decision makers in the international food and beverage industry are optimistic about future prospects, a global survey shows, expecting the economic situation for their businesses to pick up in the years to come.
The research, carried out by food and drink IT specialist CSB-System, identified increased quality and a greater focus on digitalisation as two key trends, with half of respondents specifying quality, freshness and innovation as key drivers in defining product leadership.
Two-thirds of decision makers highlighted prices as the most significant challenge in the industry, with many sectors affected by high raw material prices that are difficult to pass on to the trade or end-consumer.
Legal requirements in terms of food safety, labelling and traceability were also an area of concern, the most recent example at EU level being the regulation on the provision of food information to consumers and mandatory nutrition declaration. Another important consideration is the requirement among retailers for permanent product availability and prompt response times.
In these circumstances, respondents identified three business areas in which there is greatest potential for improvement – sales and marketing, production and intralogistics, and information technology. In particular, enhanced IT systems were seen as critical in helping to reduce costs, effectively manage complex operations and improve overall responsiveness.
Looking to the future, the decision makers forecast an increasing focus on both value and sustainability in the food sector. As well as mass market products, high-price segments would also gain in importance, with the combination of cutting-edge technologies and traditional crafts allowing the introduction of a new generation of quality foods elaborately prepared and manufactured.
Hermann Schalk, head of sales at CSB-System, said this trend, together with the need to focus on costs, would lead to the growing importance of effective IT.
“We still expect the downward pressure on prices to persist, therefore cost reductions are necessary,” he said. “This must not adversely affect product quality, which is not necessarily the case. Our experience is that there is plenty of optimisation potential in the processes, mainly through digitisation.”