Technology is changing, societies are changing, our personal lives are changing. The only constant in life is change itself. So why is change often so scary? Why do we not see the opportunities, but only the risks? And why is it so hard to get out of the comfortable status quo to move forward?
“Change” was the word on everybody’s lips at the inaugural Food & Drink Business Live Industry of the Future Forum in Sydney on 11 August. The first event of its kind (and hopefully not the last), the forum gathered food and beverage manufacturing professionals to dissect the latest challenges facing the industry — and, more importantly, to highlight the real world solutions being used to not only survive, but thrive in this rapidly evolving global market. Nothing was off the table.
Matthews was the event’s proud headline sponsor. I was honoured to be on the panel, getting stuck into the discussions and gathering the most important insights from speakers and attendees with the power to help food and drink processors build their businesses. (See here for some quick steps for small business to get ready for Asian export growth.)
There were a great many topics up for discussion — too many to go into detail here alone. So in the first of our blogs focusing on the Food & Drink Business Live Forum, let’s start by looking at the themes that continued to surface throughout:
- Know what you stand for: The key to success in the face of change is never to lose sight of what you, or rather your brand, stands for. Nudie found this out when business soared and it momentarily forgot what made it so great in the first place (in case you’re wondering: quality, innovation and fun). To make sure that never happens again, today Nudie leads with a set of guidelines.
- Act fast: Ah yes, the advice may be simple but it is also perhaps path least followed by today’s businesses. David Beak from Australia’s largest fresh soups and ready-meals maker, Beak & Johnston, told delegates to act quickly if they want any chance of successfully navigating rapid changes. So if you have an idea … be the first to go to market with it!
- Be epic: Richard Sauerman, fondly known “The Brand Guy”, wasted no time getting stuck into the issue of branding and the forces that have propelled some of the world’s biggest food brands to success. From among these forces, one piece of advice reverberated around the room: “do epic shit”. Following the herd like a wildebeest will not help differentiate your organisation, and it’s the latter you essentially need to do. After all, with 20 years’ experience in the ad industry, working with some of the world’s most iconic brands like Cola-Cola, Nestle, and Arnott’s, he should know.
These were the main themes, but they certainly weren’t the only things up for discussion. One of the top items on the agenda was how to negotiate changes in the retailer-manufacturer relationship — literally. In his session “Negotiating with Retailers”, former Kellogg Australia MD Jean-Yves Heude revealed his five-step methodology for manufacturers, along with some welcome news for suppliers: you have more power in the retailer relationship than you realise.
Another focus was innovation – and this came as no surprise to anyone. We’ve previously discussed on this blog how manufacturers need to create and nurture a culture that supports ongoing innovation, or else you risk being overtaken by those who do. At the forum, Wiley’s process engineering director, Steve Christie, revealed four emerging innovations that will be crucial to the success of the food factory of the future: human-centred design, collaborative robots, big data on the factory floor, and a new open innovation model for facility design and construction projects.
The message of the day was clear: challenge your own thinking and do things that don’t seem natural to get the results you want (click to tweet). It might be difficult when you’re in your own comfortable environment, but food and beverage companies must learn to ride the wave of change to survive. Challenge what you know and start getting experts in who can help you do different things.
Stay tuned for the next blog, where I’ll share tips, stories and insights from the panel session on “The formula for retail success”. Until then, take a look at some of the great in-depth articles on Packaging News and Food&Drink Business. You may also be interested in the outcome of the Global Food Forum, and how Australian food manufacturers can become Asia’s deli and 5 beverage trends you need to know. We think the messages to come out of the forum were so important, we’ve included them in our “manufacturing lessons for 2015”. You may also find this article on 2015’s triumphant brands interesting.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us.