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How to approach food processing issues with calm focus

3 min read

Every food and beverage processing business needs to focus on specific issues, opportunities and challenges. One effective approach to do this is with a calm focus on priorities.

Retailers want to work with processors focused on how they can get the work done, as opposed to why they can’t.

Everyone has endured years of upheaval and challenges due to the pandemic, striving to get products made. Now, retailers want to work with processors focused on how they can get the work done, as opposed to why they can’t.

If you consider the retailers’ roller coaster ride, more of their time in the last few years was focused on the problems. Their supply chain teams weren’t celebrating the products on the shelves. Instead, they focused on the holes on the shelves and how to get inventory. In their merchandising teams, they weren’t complimented for prices that stayed the same. Rather, they were criticized for either negotiating too hard or gouging consumers with inflation.

Food and beverage processors had to find new ingredient sources, change packaging and deal with labour shortages.

What can food processors do now?

Now is the time to take all the challenges and learnings to build a plan to help you overcome similar challenges if they ever happen again.

Your customers — the retailers — should be moving forward with reduced emphasis on crisis and more focus on delivering sales and profits. Selling food and beverage has changed, but it’s still about delivering value to consumers in stores and online.

Here are two critical areas of focus for your food and beverage processing business:

1. Deliver stable sales

Retailers prioritize sales as food service returns to pre-pandemic levels and consumers search for deals to lower their shopping bills. Processors need to develop plans that deliver sales. Include how inventory will be produced when required and some tactics to generate the increases. Perhaps you develop an in-store activity or direct-to-consumer promotion – any idea to get consumers to put your product in their shopping cart is worth considering.

These basics to generate sales are what retailers look for. It doesn’t need to be revolutionary — it needs to work.

2. Maintain a focus on service level

Service level issues cause frustration for everyone.

Service level is defined as: cases delivered on time, to the right place, with the right packaging and labelling, divided by cases ordered.

For example, when 720 cases are ordered, and 604 are delivered on time, to the right place, with the right packaging and labelling, that’s an 84% service level.

Measure your business’ service level by SKU and by customer. Engage employees in meeting and exceeding service level targets since your customers probably expect at least a 96% service level.

At the same time, talk to your customers about their expectations and devise a plan to meet them. Report it to your customers, and if you know there will be an issue, be proactive and get it fixed.

Execute the plan

If your annual plan is already in place, now is the time to start measuring outcomes and let your customers know the results. They can see your performance, but if you provide hard copy results, they believe you are engaged and working on your plan to increase sales.

Try to stay calm and illustrate to your customers how you are delivering on the priorities. They will appreciate this approach and see it as a breath of fresh air.

Article by: Peter Chapman 

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