The three largest food and beverage agribusinesses in the U.S. produce a carbon footprint greater than Columbia, Vietnam and the Netherlands combined, according to reliable research from NGO Global.
Perhaps the biggest, and most alarming, misconception among manufacturers and shoppers is that transportation efforts make up the bulk of this environmental contamination. But this is absolutely not the case.
Global food and beverage manufacturing operations do require fleets of trucks, ships and airplanes, but manufacturers' worst environmental practices occur at manufacturing plants. Specifically, the resources and energy emissions required to manufacture food and beverage products have a major, negative environmental impact that often goes unchecked. It can be challenging to effectively assess, manage and communicate product information in an efficient, transparent, yet environmentally friendly way.
But there is a solution — the answer for recipe-based food and beverage manufacturers lies in product lifecycle management (PLM) and master data.
With innovative, end-to-end PLM tools, manufacturers can reign in emissions and connect all product data into a single source of truth. Seamless, data-driven solutions empower food and beverage manufacturers to respond to market pressures and engineer products that are both profitable and more environmentally friendly.
The Demand For Eco-Conscious Conservation Practices Starts With Shoppers
Consumers demand ample access to comprehensive, accurate product information for the foods and beverages they consume. It's quite simple — brands that offer full track-and-trace transparency earn more loyalty among the majority of shoppers.
Today though, shoppers have broadened their expectations for food transparency to include the producer's environmental impact. This means product information about ingredient sourcing, animal cruelty, antibiotics, pesticides, carbon emissions and more. It is worth noting that increased concern for the environment is not just a trend. Environmental conservation is an important part of our evolution and a major milestone in brand-customer relationships.
That's because consumers are not only aware of their own environmental footprints — they care about the impact their favorite brands have on the world, too. Commitment to environmental awareness is fiercest amongst millennials, 73 percent of whom will spend more on products rooted in sustainability. Shoppers expect food and beverage manufacturers to adhere to the same environmental standards that they have set for themselves, and they will remain loyal to brands that meet this challenge.
To see this principle in action, consider Starbucks coffee company's new plan to eliminate straws by 2020. This decision is not fortuitously timed with the coffee giant running out of straws; the company likely has warehouses full of them. But Starbucks understands that the benefits of proactively responding to the environmental concerns of its customers far outweigh eating the costs of a couple million plastic straws.
But not all producers have the option to simply eliminate their worst environmental impacts. Instead, smart manufacturers will generate customer trust by using data processing systems to eliminate unnecessary environmental issues and offer more eco-friendly information on product packaging.
Some manufacturers may resist adding environmental information to product labels due to compliance concerns and because their packaging is already so crowded. Many producers worry that dedicating space to 'reduced carbon footprint' is less helpful or enticing than product images and additional nutritional information. But it is important — even crucial — to engineer product labels that mirror the information shoppers care about most.
PLM Solutions Support More Than Just Environmental Transparency For F&B Manufacturers
Even when manufacturers leverage PLM systems to prioritize environmental practices at their warehouses, there is no guarantee these benefits are communicated to shoppers — unless they are on the product label. And if you are still working with spreadsheets, it is nearly impossible to quickly adjust your labeling processes to rapidly introduce new products to market, thus satisfying your customers’ demands. Manual, pen-and-paper strategies also stand in the way of pinpointing specific areas for environmental improvement — upstream and downstream.
But seamless, end-to-end PLM solutions offer manufacturers an avenue to address environmental concerns, closely track their updates and generate awareness about sustainable practices among shoppers.
The entire recipe-based manufacturing industry can use PLM software to reduce its ecological footprint from start to finish (raw ingredients, trials, market). A trusted, agile product development system offers ecological benefits and a data-driven warehouse environment where manufacturers can learn from their data, turn it into an asset and improve practices over time. PLM software also promotes powerful simulation capabilities that lead to profitable, sustainable new products. Data applications that enhance processing and labeling retrofit to help update existing recipes and reduce their environmental impact, too.
These efforts empower recipe-based food and beverage manufacturers to pursue environmental programs and products with limited risk or fear. What's more, once deployed, these systems arm manufacturers with the means to be transparent about their improved environmental practices and earn shopper trust and loyalty with every product engagement.
These technology benefits are not limited to just environmental factors, either. Innovative PLM solutions also help recipe-based food and beverage manufacturers master regulatory compliance, prioritize product traceability and transparency and further many opportunities for sustainable ROI.
Severin Weiss is CEO of SpecPage.