Healthy Eating is Transforming Food Manufacturing — Can Your Business Keep Up?

For food manufacturers to successfully deliver on the promise of healthy product options, they should invest in ERP technology that can enable greater traceability and testing.

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Jack Payne, VP, Product Management & Solutions Consulting, ApteanJack Payne, VP, Product Management & Solutions Consulting, Aptean

Do you prefer organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, lactose-free or plant-based foods? Chances are, several products in your grocery cart carry a combination of these “healthy” attributes.

Nearly 60 percent of registered dieticians polled in a 2017 trend survey said they believe consumers choose to eat clean, fresh, less-processed foods, and numerous reports indicate they’re right. For example, 49 percent of consumers said they seek “mindful eating vs dieting,” according to FONA. Further, an International Food Information Council Foundation survey found 73 percent of consumers seek non-GMO labels because they believe these foods are either healthier, safer or better for the environment. 

Longtime food manufacturers are working overtime to answer the consumer demand for healthy options and to keep up with new food start-ups that specialize in these offerings. They are overhauling everything from product development to controls and traceability — trading in spreadsheets for ERPs — to meet the needs of health-conscious consumers.

New Recipes Can Breed New Challenges For Food Manufacturers

No one ever said change was easy, and when it comes to introducing healthier products and improving existing recipes and formulas, many food manufacturers are struggling to find the best, fastest path in doing so.

In a 2017 Wall Street Journal article, food historian Andrew Smith observed that “when the push for fewer artificial ingredients and additives gained momentum, big food companies largely decided to wait and see whether it would become mainstream.”

Many food manufacturers are racing against the clock to reduce fat, sodium and sugar to create non-GMO products without sacrificing taste. It’s an uphill battle, however, because most food manufacturers have recipe development resources and processes stuck in the past — i.e. product development and lifecycle management done via Excel spreadsheet.

Recipe management can make the road to creating healthier options an easier one for food manufacturers to follow. Adopting an ERP solution designed for food and beverage manufacturing can help efficiently create products to the specifications needed, whether its non-GMO, gluten-free or low-sodium.

Consumers Need Reassurance Beyond What’s On The Label

At a time when trust in food manufacturers is at an all-time low, those that are trying to transform and create healthy options have no room for error.

Natural product claims (which include no additives/preservatives, organic and GMO-free) appeared on 29 percent of global food and drink launches from September 2016 to August 2017, according to Mintel Global New Products Database. This is a 17 percent increase from 10 years ago.

The control and traceability of healthy products needs to be strengthened. Food manufacturers can’t just talk the talk to stand out on grocery aisles. They must walk the walk and be transparent about their manufacturing process, safety and quality controls.

For example, if you're promoting something as gluten-free, you must ensure you’re buying ingredients that are certified as gluten-free and putting controls in place to prevent substituting a gluten ingredient into a gluten-free product. If not, you run the risk of a massive recall and reputation damage.

Time and time again, manual, paper-based methods of track and trace fail. Food manufacturers need to invest in solutions that offer a clear line of sight throughout product development including ingredient selection, output and food safety.

To take things a step further, consumers now expect that food manufacturers provide them with this level of visibility into manufacturing processes. Most food manufacturers can’t do that without technology — and if you can’t deliver on that you begin to lose consumer confidence in your brand.

Technology Can Make Or Break Your Ability To Provide Healthy Products

For food manufacturers to successfully deliver on the promise of healthy product options, they should invest in ERP technology that can enable greater traceability and testing.

The right ERP solution should allow for full integration with all your product lifecycle and supply chain systems, giving you a clear line of sight throughout all processes and allowing for easy adjustments. Further, the right ERP will help suggest what ingredients go together, track revisions and results so you don’t sacrifice taste for health and vice versa.

It’s important to note that while the best solutions can align with your unique business needs, an ERP can’t fix broken processes. Before implementation, make sure to address issues that will cause roadblocks to your product development. By correcting inefficient processes and supporting your operations with advanced ERP technology, you’ll be ready to capitalize on the next healthy eating trend.

Jack Payne is VP, Product Management and Solutions Consulting at Aptean