Laura Gurski is senior managing director of Accenture’s consumer goods and services practice where she oversees the development and delivery of marketing, customer service, commerce and sales transformation services.
The food and beverage industry continues to experience major shifts. Grocery stores are facing significant commodity deflation, making revenue growth challenging. Changing demographics and generational influences are also creating new food and flavor trends and “foodie” experiences that quickly come and go.
And while the relentless pace of change can be daunting, the one thing many of us know for sure is that there’ll be more disruption ahead and standing still is not an option.
Here are three ways those working in the food and beverage industry can prepare for the challenges ahead:
1. Precision manufacturing
The transition from mass-production to personalized products and services is an old story. But its implications are still reverberating among brands and consumers. And more change is on the way. It’s time to get ready for the age of “precision” manufacturing. That won’t just mean matching beverages with consumers’ tastes, needs, or even their DNA.
Consumers will come to expect beverages be created just for them — whether that’s a drink custom-made for their individual genetic makeup or adapted to their unique anatomy. And brands will soon be able to go even further and tailor a product or an interaction to an individual’s particular mood. That’s personalization on a whole new level.
It takes companies far beyond mere supply chain and fulfillment challenges. Manufacturing itself will need to change dramatically. Expect to see brands increase their ability to make very late-stage product adjustments, as well as moving manufacturing much closer to consumers.
It’s already happening. Look at how Intelligent Brewing Company invites consumers to input on flavor and carbonation levels that is then fed into the brewery’s algorithm to produce new recipes that are refined using real-time consumer feedback.
2. Create a personal connection
Consumers are attracted to people, not products. It’s a universal truth hardwired into the human psyche. That’s why influencer marketing is so effective after all. We all know it’s the faces in the feed that slow the scroll. And brands will be tapping into this need for personal connection by articulating a clear purpose — one that expresses their heritage, their ethics, their sense of fun, and more.
Get that right and a company can effectively “personify” the brand, giving it a unique personality that consumers can really fall for. Just think about the quirky communities of fans that have built up around brands like Nutella and Marmite. Understanding the need for human connection, companies can now generate an incredible level of passion around a brand in ways that just weren’t possible before.
Anthropomorphized, a brand becomes part of a consumer’s everyday life. And when that happens, new things are possible. Look at how Brewdog has evolved from a punk craft brewer into a personality its global fans have embraced wholesale. Whether it’s moving into hospitality, becoming a subscription content streamer, or even offering investors the chance to fly on the world’s first craft beer airline, Brewdog is a shining example of the power of treating a brand as more than just a product — and putting it right into the heart of consumer lifestyles.
3. Combinational commerce
We’re all excited about voice technology. But we haven’t seen the killer use cases that will transform this wildly popular innovation into something that delivers real value. But voice is about to get a lot more interesting — and fast.
In 2019, the combinatorial power of voice and other technologies will really come to the forefront. We’re already seeing voice-plus-screen devices, and smart connectivity with in-home IoT technology. For consumers, that radically changes the speed they can interact with their consumer goods. Speaking is three times faster than typing after all.
Consider how Jameson’s voice app, “The Jameson Bar,” gives users a step-by-step guide to making cocktails, helping them craft Jameson-inspired blends and unique Irish toasts perfect for the holidays. It’s all about helping consumers get the most out of their purchases in the easiest and most natural way of all — talking.
But voice is creating new opportunities for brands, too. Direct customer conversations will open up a huge new source of rich consumer insights. And maturing emotion analytics will mean they not only know instantly when a customer wants to talk — they’ll know just how they’re feeling when they do.
Make 2019 the year to create relevancy at scale
What’s the right play for beverage manufacturing companies? The answer: relevance at scale. It all comes down to ensuring brands stay on the pulse of today’s tech-savvy consumers. It means crafting hyper-personalized experiences that truly resonate with individuals. It means acquiring the agility to flex the business quickly and responsively to shifting consumer behaviors. And it means capturing the value in the ongoing explosion of digital technologies.