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Food & Beverage Companies: Is it Time to Digitalize?

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The food and beverage industry has been around for a long time. With that longevity and tradition, the pace of change from a ‘business as usual’ mindset and adoption of the latest digital technologies to handle marketplace shifts and resulting operational challenges can be slow. But recent world events, like the Covid-19 pandemic which drove consumers to online buying and employees to home offices, have supercharged the need for digitalization across the industry for how products are developed, packaged and sold.

How do companies keep up with expanding product lines to meet the tastes of customers, shifting consumer behaviors from shopping more conveniently online and with an eye on sustainability, supply chain issues and changing regulations across a global marketplace?  For many food and beverage companies, the answer is digitalization. Companies that adopt robust digital solutions to centralize all their product data, improve visibility of product information and get all members of their team collaborating in one digital place are boosting efficiency, driving up product margins and setting the foundation for future growth.

How will you know if it’s time for your food and beverage company to digitalize its operations? Read on to find out four signs that it’s time to give up hundreds of spreadsheets, thousands of emails, countless team meetings and disconnected systems to get your team on the fast track to digitalization.

1. Lack of visibility in your product portfolio management

The right technology increases efficiency and visibility throughout the entire product lifecycle to plan, optimize and manage product development. But without it, it’s close to impossible or at least extremely inefficient to carry over and adapt bestsellers for line extensions or update and develop products for different geographical locations. How can your teams have visibility into your product portfolio when information is stored across disconnected spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations or locked in an email thread between colleagues who work in different time zones or home offices? Without the most up-to-date product information and with no way to see the entire offering in one place, decision-making slows down, lacks confidence, and inaccuracy leads to missing targets. If you’re feeling like trying to visualize, conceptualize and collaborate on new products to capitalize on the latest trends or filling holes in your current offering is too challenging with your current system, it’s a sure sign it’s time to take your product portfolio management digital.

2. Your e-commerce site is disconnected from product development

Given the shift to online shopping, e-commerce has become a must-have for food and beverage retailers and increasingly, manufacturers. Consumers have become accustomed to ordering groceries online and relish the convenience of having the items they need dropped off at their doorstep.

Developing products without a single, up-to-date digital solution makes it difficult to connect that product information, including marketing copy, images, ingredient lists and more, to easily publish directly to an e-comm site without having to arduously re-key data. Are you finding that your team is wasting time on re-entering product information, chasing the latest product images and descriptions? Is the disconnection between developing new products that are ready to launch and getting them live on your e-commerce site causing customers to move onto another online retailer where they can buy what they want, faster? If the answer is yes, this is a sure sign that it may be the right time to add digital solutions to your cart.

3. Specification management is tedious and error-prone

Specification management is incredibly detailed work, which requires accuracy in data entry and hours of manual labor. If your team is using spreadsheets to create new specs every time and copying and pasting from one sheet to another, it becomes impossible to know which sheet is most up-to-date and errors can easily happen. It also becomes difficult to track which team from which department has made what changes and why.

Disconnected spreadsheets and systems also make it time consuming and tedious to modify a portion of spec. As that one change cascades through others that now also need modification when product formulations change like nutrition data, allergens etc., missed changes are too easy and errors continue to pile up. Traceability becomes nearly impossible and compliance risks grow.  Specification management data chaos slows down new product development resulting in missing new product launch milestones.

If your current specification management systems lack visibility, a sequential workflow, you can’t track changes and traceability and compliance are time consuming and stressful, it’s likely time for your company to invest in an end-to-end product development digital solution.

4. Packaging and labeling chaos is a compliance risk

Packaging and labeling requirements are changing with evolving regulations and increasing consumer focus on health, nutrition and sustainability. For consumers, they want to know what they are putting in their bodies, that the way that products are grown and sourced are fair and that the packaging that the products come in is recyclable.

For food and beverage companies, developing, managing and tracking packaging and labeling is challenging and mistakes lead to health and compliance risks and degrade consumer confidence, which can lead to costly damage to the reputation of your brand – that is a lot of pressure on one package.

If you wish there were an easier way to centralize accurate, up-to-date ingredient data throughout development and that you had packaging artwork proofing tools that can be accessed by legal, compliance and marketing teams at once, then it’s a sign that digitalization may be the full package for your company’s future.

It’s time for digitalization

If it’s clear your food and beverage company needs to add digitalization to the menu to centralize all product information and streamline operational challenges from product portfolio management to packaging, compliance and everything in between, it’s time to discover one platform that handles everything product-related. For many food and beverage companies, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions are the answer. PLM for food and beverage provides a real-time ‘single source of the truth’ hub for product data that puts the product at the heart of the digital ecosystem. A modern PLM solution connects products, people and processes. This enhanced visibility, consistency and collaboration speeds time to market, increases product introduction success rates, improves quality and compliance, makes traceability easier and drives down costs.