Blockchain in FMCG supply chains

Blockchain is a technology that can publicly validate, record, and distribute transactions in encrypted ledgers that cannot be altered or changed. In this blog, we look at how Blockchain can be applied to FMCG supply chains to improve efficiency & traceability, and increase compliance

Here is a great illustration of how a transaction is created by McKinsey:

Not only is this technology great for applications where increased security is a must, but it also has the potential to increase transparency and end to end visibility of the supply chain.

What are the applications of Blockchain in FMCG supply chains?

There are 2 key aspects to supply chain transparency:

  • Visibility: Accurately identifying, collecting and classifying data from all parties/links in the supply chain
  • Disclosure: Ensuring only relevant information is disclosed to the viewer, depending on their approval access internally and to external stakeholders

Implementing blockchain technology for supply chain contexts solves for both aspects providing:

Improved communication and collaboration

Due to its nature, blockchain technology improves communication and facilitates collaboration among all parties in the supply chain. Greater traceability and transparency eliminate waste, duplicate orders, invoice fraud, payment issues and unapproved spend/orders too.

Transparency in sourcing

The nature of this technology makes it easier to verify where materials and goods come from and how they pass through the supply chain. This also reduces counterfeiting of products including premium/super premium alcohol, prescription drugs and luxury goods.

Sustainability & efficiency

Using Blockchain in FMCG supply chains also results in efficient gains. Using blockchain in conjunction with other technologies results in more efficient stock holdings, reducing waste. Also, blockchain enables companies to go paperless as it relates to their supply chain and the immutable nature of the technology enables data to be stored efficiently for future teams to refer to.

Effective product recalls

Blockchain technology enables a more transparent and traceable supply chain, enabling manufacturers to locate affected products quickly and efficiently, thereby, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of recalls. Contamination & quality issues can be traced to specific lots of batches and also the relevant suppliers identified by using this technology.

Compliance

Increased transparency in supply chain due to blockchain adoption also results in a more sustainable and compliant supply chain, by enabling sustainability & ESG tracking. Not only this, combining this with QR codes has the potential to increase visibility of sustainability credentials for consumers, directly impacting sales.

Many companies are already exploring the benefits of leveraging blockchain technology in supply chains, such as smart contracts, purchase order payments and supply chain tracking.

To learn more about the applications of Blockchain in supply chains and listen to how a start-up in this space is changing FMCG supply chains, tune in to the Salesbeat podcast next week on Tuesday, 20 December 2022.

You can also listen to salesbeat podcast to learn more. Stream now!

Commerce media – What is it & how is it different from retail media?

According to McKinsey, commerce media is using transaction data to gain audience insights to make advertising more effective by improving targeting, deliver relevant shopper/consumer experiences and connect impressions to sale, both online and in ‘physical’ stores.

It is about leveraging large-scale purchase and intent data to draw insights that add value to consumer experiences

Sounds vague and confusing? Read on.

Commerce media covers all possible uses of retail data

Commerce media includes the use of insights generated by (online & otherwise) retail data in the online & on-site retail universe. This covers not only the retailer or the brands sold by the retailer, but also third party service providers who want to increase their ROI on marketing spend. They do this by targeting shoppers in a way that they previously could not do before.

Amazon was an early pioneer in this space and now other retailers are catching up fast.

However, supermarkets and other retailers are fast developing retail media networks of their own (Source: McKinsey).

Commerce media also gives retailers in low margin industries (like grocery & FMCG retail) the opportunity to increase margins by selling these insights along with online/on-site advertising space. We all know that consumers already want personalized experiences and only relevant ads. By leveraging retail media, companies will soon be able to deliver targeted ads and experiences through which shoppers can buy within the context of a TV show or the Metaverse.

Insights generated by retail media networks can help companies deliver the targeted experience that consumers want. This in turn will result in higher ROIs that companies currently generate on their ad spend. Why?

Linking ad-impressions with customers and their purchases at a SKU level

According to McKinsey, it is the the ability to match unique customer IDs and ad impressions to stock-keeping-unit (SKU) sales which is disrupting the entire advertising ecosystem. 

This is evidenced by data on effectiveness as collected by McKinsey below.

Salesbeat has also released a recent podcast on this topic and an interview of the Commercial director of a retail media start-up, here


Other commerce media

While McKinsey, BCG, Accenture and Bain have all written extensively about how retail data can be leveraged for advertisements and marketing, a relatively less explored territory is using this data to optimise promotions and availability in stores.

To learn more about how this can be done, email me on veena@salesbeat.co.

See consumers in their full life*

*Paraphrased from a recent report by Accenture, we look at the ways shoppers and consumers have changed in just a few years and how companies and retailers can remain relevant for them.

Consumer and shopper habits remained the same or similar for decades previously. They changed only when there was a major disruption in the market that warranted it or when consumption power moved from one generation to another. This was usually a once in a lifetime occurrence.

A few lifetimes in one

These days, we pack the experiences of a few different lifetimes into one. We wrote about this previously.

According to the article by Accenture, ‘The world today is radically different from the world of two years ago … or even two months ago. A non-stop barrage of external life forces—health, economic, social, environmental, political and beyond—is affecting day-to-day decisions in unavoidable ways.’

We, at salesBeat, argue, this has been the case for a few years now. Ever since social media came into being. Social media has proved to be the both the delight and bane of a brand’s existence. In the initial days of social media, brands were excited by the potential for them to target consumer and shopper groups.

Social media influencing sales & consumer behaviour

While the articles by Accenture, Forbes and by McKinsey, don’t specifically call this out, social media has been influencing what consumers buy and when for sometime now. This has been making it difficult for both brands and retailers to anticipate demand and stocking requirements.

Another layer of complexity that brands did not take into account with social media is what happens when consumers post their negative experiences with the brand on social media. Or when certain (in)actions cast the brand in a poor light in the court of public sentiment. ‘Cancel culture’ has taken over the world of FMCG & retail too as we saw during the early days of the Ukraine/Russia conflict.

In a time and age when everything makes its way online sometime or another, companies need to anticipate not just how their ads perform, but how the brand itself is perceived by consumers.

Changing priorities for consumers

While sustainability was top of mind for most Gen Z & Millennial consumers & shoppers previously, today, with rising inflation sustainability has taken a back seat. Where personalisation and authenticity were important factors in shopper decisions, again, these are playing second fiddle(s) to value for money today.

According to the Accenture report referenced, ‘People are giving themselves permission to be inconsistent. As they evaluate a growing list of things that matter to them, consumers realize they can’t expect perfect choices in every circumstance. As they make decisions, paradoxes become inevitable. And those inconsistencies are being seen as strengths, not weaknesses.’

Market & geopolitical realities

In the last 3 years, not only has social media been a constant in how it has influenced behaviour, but so have covid, unseasonal weather (climate change) and conflicts, in the form or ‘war’ or trade conflicts.

These have completely changed (and continue to change) the way we live, work and shop. However, companies, both retail and brand are still playing catch up driving uncertainties from a supply perspective.

See consumers as a whole

Accenture suggests 3 ways a company can catch up and keep pace:

  • See customers in their full life
  • Solve for shifting scenarios
  • Simplify for relevance

The paper by Accenture resonated with us as we developed salesBeat keeping in mind the consumer and their life. salesBeat isn’t only about how consumers shop or how shoppers behave, but also about how they react to the changes in their life and how this in turn impacts their choices. Also, as Salesbeat tracks the drivers of consumer behaviour and does not assume that the environment remains static, shifting scenarios are accounted for through them.

More companies need to start seeing their consumers as people whose decisions change with the circumstances around them. Currently their personas are developed based on socio economic and demographic factors that can change with changes in the economic environment around them. After all, shoppers who previously used to frequent ‘premium’ supermarket chains are now trading down to cheaper alternatives, including frequenting discounters more often.

For more detail or to read the Accenture paper in full, follow this link. If you’d like to learn more about salesBeat, visit our website or mail me on veena@salesbeat.co

The state of flux in FMCG

FMCG brand managers are facing an unprecedented and almost overwhelming combination of challenges, which are coming at them faster than ever. We have labelled this phenomenon the age of progressive FMCG – political and social tensions, culture wars, gender wars, warnings of impending environmental disasters, the obesity crisis and the collapse of trust in traditional media and other forms of authority. It makes for a darkly dystopian mix.‘ according to a report by FINN, a communications agency.

Despite all this change, FMCG companies continue to homogenise shopper characteristics by generational cohorts for different markets. While this worked well 30 years ago, when each generation had its own signature characteristics, today, this has changed.

Patterns across generations

These days, due to technological advances, there are similarities in shopper behaviour across generations that could be used to categorise shoppers rather than relying on generational similarities.

For example, each generation has people who adopt technology early. Not only that, but Baby boomers needed to undergo a ‘crash course’ in ecommerce and social media during the pandemic for everyday shopping and to keep in touch with their family.

As a result they found that e-commerce is a far more convenient channel for their shopping needs than travelling to stores. This is especially so for baby boomers who maybe mobility constrained & for those baby boomers living in emerging markets, where proximity to stores and traffic are deterrents to shopping at stores.

Another commonality across generations is the impact of price. While only 73% of Baby Boomers considered price a key factor influencing their purchasing decision vs 78% of Gen Z, the delta between the two is not significant.

Consumers across generations love a bargain, with 75% of both millennials and baby boomers agreeing that they’re more likely to purchase if they have a coupon or loyalty discount. For more information on multi generational retail strategies, read this report.

Pre pandemic studies on FMCG now out of touch with consumers

Most studies on shopping preferences and styles of the different generations were done pre-pandemic. These are now of out of sync with the consumers of today, and that includes baby boomers and Gen Xers.

A recent 2022 study by Hubspot on how each generation shops shows more similarities that differences between many of the generations. While 50% of Gen Z shoppers said that a brand’s ESG initiatives are important to them, 35% of Baby Boomers also said the same, with Millennials at 41%.

Millennials & ESG initiatives
Gen Z & ESG initiatives

While only 25% of Baby Boomers say that ESG initiatives by brands influence their choices, 71% of those who agree want companies to take action on Climate change.

The key takeaway is that consumers across generations are concerned about similar things. The only difference is the percentage of each generational cohort.

Leveraging similarities

Today, we live with spiralling inflation, geopolitical conflicts and the ever present threat of another pandemic. These uncertainties are impacting consumption choices yet again.

Perhaps it is time to regroup consumers by how they discover products & shop and what features/benefits influence their choices rather than relying on generational similarities to target consumers.

Heatwaves – Making the most of demand

We are only just past halfway through 2022. However, this year has already been extraordinary in many respects, one of which is the record breaking number of heatwaves we’ve seen so far across the world. For those interested, this Wikipedia page lists all the heatwaves in 2022 to date.

Impact on sales

A comparison of sales in the 12 weeks to 10 July 2022, to sales in the 12 weeks to 11 July 2021, shows mixed performance across grocery stores in the UK, with discounters gaining the most, due to consumers switching to them to minimise their grocery spend in light of soaring inflation.

However, despite current inflation rates, BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor for July 2022 showed that total sales increased by 2.3% during the month, bringing to an end three consecutive months of decline.

Ice cream, beer, water & barbecue ingredients sales benefitted the most from the heatwave, while sales of barbecue grills themselves rocketed during this time despite fire hazard warnings. Outdoor furniture sales also benefitted, as more people planned to spend time outdoors in August. Clothing retailers also benefitted during this time.

Gelato & ice cream brands and vendors benefitted all through Europe, as people consumed them in a bid to cool down.

US grocery sales, in the meantime, also benefitted from this, albeit in a different way. Online grocery sales saw the most increase at 17% vs prior year in July, as more consumers sought to avoid travelling outside during this time.

On the overall, US supermarkets benefitted from increased demand during this period, with Albertsons companies benefitting the least at 10% growth vs prior year.

However, some delayed impacts of these heatwaves are yet to come. Typically, for regions that have high humidity levels, heatwaves bring with them increased demand at a later date for anti mould and anti fungal products. Also, shampoo, conditioner, anti frizz hair products and shower gel sales increase following heatwaves as people use these more frequently during heatwaves than they usually do.

So how can you best prepare your store for these heatwaves?

Keep an eye on weather forecasts by reputable agencies. When a heatwave, storm, cold wave or any unusual weather event is expected, look at temperatures expected, humidity levels etc and consider how these, in combination, will impact human behaviour.

For instance, a heatwave is declared in the UK anytime the temperature rises above 25℃ or 26℃. When temperatures are between 26℃ & 32℃, people plan to and are likely to go out, and enjoy the warm weather outdoors. So sales of certain products like beer, wine, water, picnic essentials, barbecue ingredients etc are all likely to increase a few days ahead of these heatwaves. Sales of these products continue to stay elevated during the heatwave as some consumers maybe more impulse led than others. During this period, depending on humidity levels, sales of anti frizz hair products and brands may also increase.

However, when temperatures increase beyond 35℃, sales of these products may not increase as much, as some people may prefer staying indoors where it is cooler. Also, impulse sales will not be as high at stores, and may move to quick commerce channels, as more people want to avoid the heat outside.

When a heatwave is expected, looking at humidity and dust levels is important when considering what and how much to reorder as they impact demand for shampoos, conditioners, moisturisers, home cleaning products and laundry products.

Sound complex? That is because, it is

Impact of changes in weather can be difficult to predict when looking at things in isolation. So consider not just weather forecasts, but also the demographics of consumers around your store location. People from different countries behave differently when it comes to weather. So if your store is located in a cosmopolitan area, consider how people from different backgrounds may react differently to these changes.

If you’d like to learn more about how to prepare for unexpected weather events and maximise sales during these times, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Promotions – Evaluating & implementing them

The last few weeks, consumers have been switching to less expensive brands and those that they perceive as better value. This includes consumers switching to low priced brands and products on promotions.

During times like these, i.e economic recession combined with decreasing disposable income, companies often turn to promotions as a means of increasing revenue. However, as more companies turn to promotions and the number of promotions in stores increase, consumers begin to factor in these lower prices.

They get so used to it that they become reluctant to purchase products at the regular shelf price. This also results in margin dilution. However, promotions can also attract new customers, boost sales volumes and generate awareness, if planned and executed effectively.

‘If planned and executed properly’ is key, as according to a paper by promotion optimisation institute, 72% of promotions do not break even. Not only do 72% of promotions not break even, but 22% of them also perform worse than if no promotion had been implemented at all.

Lets look at why

Most promotions run year after year, with only slight changes, if any, to the promotional mechanics. Given the fast changing times we live in, it can be dangerous to assume that the same promotion will be effective year after year in the same store.

This assumes that socio economic factors and the demographics around these stores do not change and competitors will react the same way as they did previously. And we all know that this is rarely the case. We have all changed jobs, houses, where we live, the restaurants we frequent, the brands we buy, when and where we shop and in general, our life routine.

So why do we assume everyone else remains the same when we analyse promotions for effectiveness? I have been a victim of this thinking as a commercial finance person, early in my career, too. We assume the same conditions and uplifts as the year before when assessing promotional effectiveness for future periods. Also, we assume that all consumers react the same way regardless of the neighbourhood and their socio-economic make up. Again, this is rarely the case.

Example, a 50% off promotion for a consumer staple generates a lower sales uplift when implemented in an affluent neighbourhood than in others. This is either because consumers would have bought the product without the promotion anyway or because a lower price is unlikely to motivate them to switch from competition. So it is key to understand the demographic and socioeconomic make up of shoppers at each store or each cluster of stores (stores can be categorised for socio economic make up) when promotions are evaluated. As this changes over time, it is important to re-visit the calculations and assumptions each time a promotion is considered.

Store level data needs to be considered

Companies should review store level data to understand the best promotions to implement. 

Other factors such as store level weather forecasts, social media sentiment/mentions, traffic data and so on, influence the effectiveness of these promotions. So take these factors into account too, to evaluate promotional effectiveness. For example, the overall revenue uplift from implementing a promotion for a beer brand when it’s raining will be far lower than when implemented when its warm, sunny and dry. Weather conditions around each store may vary and so need to be evaluated individually or in clusters. In fact, in this case, consumers are far more likely to stock up for a warm sunny day anyway, which means you lose a full price sale in the future.

The promotional uplift often results in fewer sales in the days that follow. Finance and sales teams at companies often consider cannibalisation of other SKUs that the company sells, during these promotional periods. But they rarely consider how the promotion impacts full price sales of the same product in the future.

Timing of promotions is another important variable to consider. Most companies know they should run promotions for special occasions like Black Friday or Back to School month. But in some countries, pay week is a very important time. If your target consumers are cash-constrained, then receiving a pay check means it is “shopping week”. That’s when promotions make a big impact. 

Evaluate promotions over a longer period than just the promotional period

When looking at promotional uplifts and incremental value generated, look at both the specific promotional period and the impact across the next 6 months. Also, the incremental volume from these promotions should ideally come from competition or through increasing the category volumes. 

If the aim is to reduce stock levels or deplete stocks that are close to expiry, you may not need to look at this. However, it is still important to know the impact of the promotion implemented to understand what you can expect in the next few weeks and months. 

In the next few months, an increasing number of brands and supermarkets will be rolling out promotions on their SKUs to meet customer expectations of value. When evaluating promotions, check to see which quadrant they fall into.

Stay away from the red quadrant! If you are seeking to drive volumes to get rid of excess stock or stock close to expiry, the orange quadrant is the place to be as promotional initiatives in this space drive volumes at the expense of profitability. However, if you are looking to increase value for the business, the right hand side is the place to be (the two green quadrants for those who are right/left hand side challenged, like I am!).

It goes without saying that the top right hand corner is the place to be and is home to the winning promotional mechanic(s).

If you have any questions or comments on how promotional initiatives should be evaluated or would like to learn how store level evaluations can be done at scale, email me on veena@salesbeat.co.

Climate change and FMCG sales

Climate change in the form of extreme heat, hurricanes, flooding etc. presents an inherent risk to FMCG companies. It disrupts raw material supply and logistics (roads buckling, flights unable to take off and ships tossed about), resulting in price increases.

British Retail Consortium and NAACDs published studies that establish that every one degree change in temperature results in a 1% fluctuation of sales. However, companies and retailers are still not prepared for this.

The recent heatwaves in Europe and the resulting out of stocks and overstocking of certain SKUs at stores, are proof that inventory management technology has not yet caught up with the problems of today. So how exactly does climate change impact demand?

Obvious examples of climate change impacting sales

Ice-Creams, beer, white wine, rosé wine, chilled carbonated beverages, barbecue ingredients and products, picnic food, sunblock and sunscreen are the obvious ones that retailers stock up on when there is a heatwave.

According to Majestic Wine in the UK, during this last heatwave in July, Rosé outsold white and red wines by more than 172,000 bottles in that week alone. One bottle of Rosé wine was sold every 12 seconds!

Research firm Kantar said, ‘Sun care sales were up 66% and ice cream 14% in the four weeks to 10 July’.

During cold waves, pasta, pasta sauces, soups, baking ingredients, red wine, spirits, lotions for dry skin, flu medications etc experience increased demand.

Regions at risk of experiencing tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes or storms, or where there are flood warnings in place, are likely to see increased demand for basic necessities like tinned & frozen food (incl. vegetables), packaged soup & pasta mixes, toilet paper, soaps, shampoo and household cleaning products.

Some not so obvious ones

However, there are a few not so obvious SKUs that experience increased demand as a result of unseasonal weather. The impact is not immediately seen and so maybe masked by other factors.

For example when both temperatures and humidity levels are high, there is a delayed increase in demand for anti mould & anti fungal products, shampoos, body soaps, conditioners, anti frizz hair products etc as consumers use more of these up at home during this time.

Another not so obvious one is a (delayed) increase in demand for allergy medications following a period when the weather is hot and humidity levels are low. Pollen count and dust levels impact demand of this product too.

Planning for unseasonal temperatures and weather events

While inventory teams and FMCG sales people may be making plans for barbecues and outdoor picnics when these heatwaves hit, several times, they do not translate this into their work lives.

And, when they do, they need to make guesstimates of the right levels of stock of these products at stores. This is because their demand planning system is unlikely to have taken this heatwave (or cold wave/other weather event) into account.

However, you know what you do as a consumer. It is not a stretch of the imagination to assume others are likely to do the same. Use this knowledge to help prepare your supermarket/FMCG company to ensure there is enough stock of impacted SKU to meet demand/delayed demand.

Follow the weather and ensure you do not order too much of one SKU assuming seasonality still holds. An example is ordering a container load of red wine in December assuming robust Christmas sales, when warmer, unseasonal temperatures are expected for Christmas.

Also, check out our blog on how you can anticipate changes in demand in a VUCA world.

If you have any questions or would like more information on how you can better prepare for demand changes driven by climate change, contact me on veena@salesbeat.co



Regaining consumer trust – a 2022 focus for many FMCG companies

According to a recent report by Deloitte on the state of the Consumer Goods industry and key imperatives for 2022, increasing transparency helping in regaining consumer trust was top of the list for several companies.
Trust and transparency are intrinsically linked. Consumer goods brands that are not open and transparent are at risk of losing consumers’ trust, according to nine in ten executives that Deloitte surveyed. According to the report, most consumer goods companies are making an investment to increase the level of transparency for consumers and other stakeholders.

Increased transparency requires meaningful insights to be derived from raw data

For consumer goods companies to be transparent to all stakeholders and consumers, data needs to be sensed and captured.

The data collected should be shared and processed with other data sources to derive meaningful insights. Sharing an abundance of raw uncleaned data is likely to result in the opposite of what these companies are trying to achieve.

According to Deloitte’s report, intelligence, artificial or otherwise, is needed to do this effectively.

This includes supply chain transparency

55% of the execs that Deloitte interviewed for this report, cited out of stocks of products as a key reason for losing consumer trust. Another 48% cited stock outs of certain flavours/varieties/pack sizes of the brand as a key reason for losing consumer trust. Out of stocks at stores cannot be solved without transparency across the product value chain. Furthermore, it is critical that retailers and consumer goods brand owners work with the same demand/sales predictions to collaboratively ensure that there is enough stock produced, bought and stocked at stores, to meet demand.

Increased flexibility in stocking

Increased supply chain transparency enables consumer goods brand owners as well as retailers to be more flexible with their stock keeping policies. Most companies these days follow a just in time stock policy. However, when there are production related constraints like raw material supply issues or shortages or labour constrains at manufacturing sites, it enables consumer goods companies to make an informed decision to keep more stock(raw materials and finished products) when possible for future contingencies.

If the constraints are on the logistics side, it enables retailers to make an informed decision to stock more in their warehouses to ensure they do not run out of stock.

Without an understanding of expected consumer demand based on real time data combined with where there are constrains in the value chain, it is impossible for the different stakeholders to make a decision on what needs to be done.

Consumer trust and supply chain transparency

Speaking of stakeholders, consumer goods companies need to regain consumer trust by increasing supply chain transparency. By increasing supply chain transparency and ensuring availability of stock at stores, consumer goods brands and retailers can regain the trust they lost with consumers who experienced availability issues at stores.

What’s more, it gives consumers confidence in any sustainability claims the brand/retailer makes. According to the execs interviewed by Deloitte, 84% of them feel that consumers lose trust when brands don’t meet consumer expectations on ESG initiatives.

If you’d like to learn more about how to increase supply chain transparency and derive meaningful insights regarding demand from available data, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

FMCG conglomerate shake up underway?

On 21 June 2022, The Kellogg Company announced that they were planning to separate into 3 different businesses by end of 2023. As soon as this hit the news, I’m sure investors and employees of other companies are wondering which conglomerate might be splitting up next. According to Bank of America analyst, Bryan Spillane, the big food breakup “is already underway”. However we, at Salesbeat, think the FMCG conglomerate break up is what is underway.

Why now?

So what is happening now, that is accelerating M & As and separations? We’ve just come out on the other side of a longer than expected pandemic, which had a larger than expected impact on lifestyles and consumer buying behaviour. While certain trends accelerated during the pandemic, new ones emerged and solidified at an accelerated pace too. Remote working and remote education being two of those. While remote education is unlikely to continue in the short to medium term, remote working is here to stay.

As a result of remote working, a new trend/behaviour came into being – living outside the city. Pre-pandemic, everyone wanted to reduce their commutes and live close to work. Healthy snacking was a trend that accelerated during the pandemic and is one of the reasons why the Kellogg split happened.

Another reason for this is the rapid increase in supply chain costs. In this context, companies need to double down on efficiencies so savings can be realised in other areas. And one of them is the route to market.

What about economies of scale?

While you may think that these companies benefit from economies of scale, you’d be right, but only when it comes to manufacturing. When it comes to sales, marketing and strategy teams, each category is likely to have a different team. Also, transport and logistics costs are likely to be separate from other categories.

So FMCG conglomerate break up helps companies focus on growing sales/distribution of distinct categories that share both the route to consumer and manufacturing technology. For example, holding a portfolio purely in the snacking category or in the breakfast cereals category.

So let’s look at some of the other companies under discussion.

Unilever

Unilever is one of the few FMCG companies that owns brands across very disparate categories. The own and sell brands under the Beauty & Wellbeing, Personal Care, Home care, Ice Cream, Condiments, Soup and Plant based meat categories.

Not only do these categories not share the same route to market, but they also have different teams managing the various brands. Furthermore, these categories most likely have raw materials from very disparate suppliers which are manufactured in very different manufacturing entities.

Nestle

Another large Food & Beverage conglomerate that owns brands across very different categories ranging from Pet food to Coffee & Coffee makers.

While brands in the same category may share similar routes to consumer, manufacturing sites and suppliers, brands across categories do not.

General Mills

General Mills has brands across very different food categories and also in Pet food. Their food portfolio includes brands in categories ranging from tinned vegetables (Green Giant) to Baking (Pillsbury, Betty Crocker etc) and from the snacking occasion (Larabar, Bugles, EPIC, Yoplait etc) to ice cream.

FMCG companies with diverse portfolios that are not likely to split are:

PepsiCo

PepsiCo is another company that has come under scrutiny for the very different categories their brands fall under. However, PepsiCo is one of the few companies whose strategy took this into account to convert into a strength. There was a concerted effort from the PepsiCo team to create one route to market. This is one reason why splitting PepsiCo up does not make strategic sense for the company.

Mars

Mars is an FMCG company with a portfolio that ranges across confectionery, pet food and Food (Uncle Ben’s, Dolmio etc). While the same rationale as Nestle and General Mills applies to Mars too, it is unlikely that they’ll spin categories off into separate companies. This is because they are still a family owned business. As long as the family still believes in the company owning brands across disparate categories to manage their risk/return, they are likely to lean into this.

A case for not splitting some of these companies up

In the last 20 years, we have seen the creation of FMCG behemoths where the driving rationale has been more about portfolio diversification and less about lower costs from scale benefits. As long as these different categories and functions are treated as completely different business units for decision making, investors can still benefit from a portfolio of brands across categories during uncertain times. Similar to how a portfolio of stocks spread across companies across various industries help investors manage their risk, FMCG companies and their shareholders maybe able to benefit from a diverse portfolio if managed right.

Conclusion

5 years from now, it’ll be interesting to look at the mergers, acquisitions and divestments in this space and how these companies fare in the long term. While we could argue many different ways for and against splitting these companies up or investing in/developing new categories to manage risk, we live in times so uncertain that the benefits may go either way.

Growth drivers in FMCG – a paradigm shift

The fast moving consumer goods industry has relied on economies of scale for growth… until now. Ever since World War II, the FMCG industry relied on mass production of products to generate revenues and growth. Shortly thereafter mass production was accompanied by mass distribution. But a new generation of consumers and now, post pandemic priorities are putting pressure on these growth drivers as changed consumer behaviours drive further changes in how and where these brands are sold.

Historical five part model of value creation

A study by McKinsey, a few years ago, identified the five part model of value creation for FMCG companies. As mentioned previously, this model hasn’t changed since WW II.

  • Mass market production and brand building: This enables the sector to achieve economies of scale which for very successful FMCG companies, translated to gross margins above ~20%.
  • Relationships with grocery chains that facilitate sales at scale: Securing in-store distribution with supermarket chains and convenience chains enabled FMCG companies to access and sell to a broad base of consumers than previously. Also, by partnering with their customers’ category teams, FMCG companies were constantly updated on new trends and needs.
  • New market entry: Entering new markets (a result of globalisation) contributed to 75% of revenue growth in this sector.
  • Constantly optimising their operating model for cost reduction: Over the last few decades the focus in this sector has been cost reduction. This led to offshoring, centralised sourcing and large scale sourcing contracts amongst others and have kept margins and costs within acceptable limits.
  • M & A as a means to leapfrog ahead of competition: This industry has long relied on M & A as a means to stay ahead of competition. FMCG companies then applied their distribution network and processes to scale the brands they acquired profitably.

However, the shift in consumer behaviour that millennials brought with them, which accelerated with Gen Z, necessitated a new way of working, which was in the making when the pandemic hit. The pandemic accelerated behaviours (like e-commerce and sustainability) and brought in new ones (work from home, health consciousness). The Ukraine/Russia crisis only exacerbated the complexity that FMCG companies and grocery stores need to contend with and highlighted how urgently the old model needs to change.

Four new growth drivers

According to a recent white paper by Cognosis, the new growth drivers in this sector are:

Agility: Over the last 18 months, it has become clear that to survive and thrive in the uncertain times we live in, agility is key. An agile organisation enables FMCG companies to not just adapt their supply chain to any situation, but also their sales channels and product offerings.

Shared purpose: This has been in the making for a few years now. However, today, purpose is a key driver for growth and value creation in this sector. According to the study, the role of a shared identity in navigating change is vital for employees, customers and suppliers of any FMCG company.

Forward looking: While this has always contributed to growth, today, it is more important than ever that companies invest for the future and not for the present of even the next few months. To date, large FMCG companies that thrived during uncertainty all had one aspect in common – they invested in innovation, marketing and in their processes to future proof their business, even during difficult times. In the last few years, the relentless focus on reducing costs to preserve margins and profitability has distracted companies from this.

Consumer centricity: While you may argue that this has always underpinned the model of value creation in this sector, to date FMCG companies have been customer centric (or channel centric) and product centric. User or consumer centricity is a relatively new entrant; ever since the term ‘User experience’ was brought into focus by technology start-ups.

The case for urgent implementation of the new growth drivers

The above 4 drivers will be critical for companies to thrive over next few months and years, given the new ‘forces’ influencing consumer/shopper decisions.

Previously the forces influencing consumer/shopper decisions were simple:

Budgeteering: This one element hasn’t changed and still influences shopper/consumer decisions.

Reliability: Mass production ensured that the quality of the brand was reliable and consistent. This was key for consumers as the era that preceded this was reliant on people making this individually for anyone who placed orders which resulted in inconsistency in quality.

Availability: Similar to findability, availability was all about being able to find the product on shelf. However, solving this, previously, was simple as sales channels were restricted to grocery stores. Now there are several different channels and ensuring your brand has presence and stands out, so your consumer/shopper can find it, is more complex than securing a listing with customers.

So what are the new factors influencing decision making? The new forces driving consumer and shopper decision making as found by Growth from Knowledge are as below:

  • Findability: The rising need to stand out amidst all the noise and availability
  • Fluidity: Fluid shopping occasions – new schedules, home delivery and flash services
  • Balance: Importance attached to health and wellbeing
  • Purpose: Shopping behaviour that combines lifestyle demands with sustainability and driving positive change
  • Budgeteering: Balancing a shrinking net income and lifestyle demands

How can you embed the new growth drivers?

FMCG companies are collaborating with an increasing number of innovation agencies and tech companies to put in place the processes needed for these new growth drivers. Careful change management is critical in ensuring that FMCG companies take their employees on this journey to inculcate the behaviours needed to embed these drivers into everyday decision making.

If you’d like to learn more about how to embed agility in your sales processes or to learn who can help with facilitating change within your organisation, email me on veena@salesbeat.co