Technology has clearly changed the way consumers shop for food. It has also reshaped the way food companies produce and deliver goods.
In some instances, the food supply chain is growing even longer and more complex as global trade becomes more elaborate and expands into new regions. At the same time, there’s a major push for locally grown and organic specialty foods. Food companies are tasked with managing the growing complexity on both sides of the business — in the supply chain and in delivery to consumers. The web and cloud technology are playing a major role in this transformation.
Technology for a More Efficient Supply Chain
Internet based solutions and cloud technology have erased many of the communications barriers that once existed in the food supply chain. The ability to track and monitor orders, inventory and shipments can be done in real-time. More importantly, the ability to shift or react to changes is greatly enhanced. If an early cold season arrives that impacts a regional produce crop, cloud technology makes it easier and less costly to shift orders to another producer in another region of the world. Likewise, if consumer demand spikes for corn or a particular grain, companies have the ability to react faster and order more from other suppliers by connecting through the web or the cloud. When suppliers can simply log on and connect, the food supply chain becomes a faster, more transparent place.
Delivering Fast Without Compromising Quality
Smart food retailers recognized early on that consumers prefer shopping online. Fresh Direct was one of the early players that dove in and leveraged web technology to interact with not only customers, but suppliers and distributors. If a consumer wants organic eggs and farm-raised salmon, they can order it online and have it delivered in two days. This is a perfect example of a company speeding up the supply chain and not only maintaining quality of the consumer experience, but actually enhancing it.
Today, other food retailers like Stop & Shop are taking a similar approach. Consumers have the option of shopping in-store or going online to place an order. When shopping online, they can have orders delivered direct to their home or they can schedule a pick-up time at a local location. Without leaving their car, the customer’s food order is loaded directly into their car. For Stop & Shop, it’s a way of optimizing inventory through multiple sales channels. For consumers, it means more options and greater convenience. This is made possible by the retailer empowering its partners and staff with timely, easily accessible information.
Enabling the Eco-Friendly Supply Chain
The concept of “local food” has taken off in recent years. It refers to the distance food has traveled from farm to fridge. A significant value is placed on locally grown food that is fresh, unharmed by chemicals and has a smaller carbon footprint.
The carbon footprint itself is a big focus for food companies today since these footprints can become quite large. Necessary ingredients in the food chain come from various parts of the world and are often found in the far corners of the globe. Food manufacturers recognize the benefits of finding the shortest delivery path to the consumer. Consumers not only demand fresh food, but they demand goods that do not harm the earth. Cloud-based technology can connect all of the trading partners involved in the food supply chain and offer insights into where it is being made, how it is being delivered, the total cost of delivering it, and the carbon footprint of the goods. Using these insights, food manufacturers have the ability to make better informed decisions to support an eco-friendly supply chain.
As the food industry continues to expand into new markets for its sourcing, cloud technology is already blazing a new trail toward a smarter, leaner supply chain. We’re already seeing the benefits in the form of greater convenience for consumers and a decreased carbon footprint, but the industry still has a ways to go and cloud technology will continue to improve it.