The disruption of the pandemic has been felt across the globe, and one industry that was particularly hard hit was the food and beverage industry. Now, as the country starts to open up again, experts expect even further disruption in the form of recalls due to new food safety rules, increased oversight, enforcement activities and more lawsuits alongside the need to meet health and sustainability goals.
Indeed, with a keen public eye on health and safety across the board, its expected that new priorities in the FDA inspections will reflect this, especially in relation to contaminants.
How Is the Food & Beverage Industry Adjusting?
In pivoting from the wild consumer demand fluctuations and supply restrictions, one factor remains the same: the use of technology to solve many modern problems. What this means is that a slow adoption of technology cannot be a part of a “return to normalcy” plan.
Consumers have grown accustomed to mobile shopping and contactless pick-up either out of convenience or sense of safety. Nearly three-quarters of small and medium businesses expect consumers to continue to prefer contactless payments. Meanwhile, only 16 percent of consumers say they plan to revert to their old methods of payments, post-pandemic.
This, therefore, places a greater importance on technology that can not only enable an omnichannel experience, but better track the customer journey for an overall better experience.
Ensuring Greater Health and Safety with a Material Ledger
If 2020 taught food & beverage companies anything, it was to prioritize agility and resilience.
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of the industrial internet of things (IIoT), making possible the ability to communicate, react and scale in real-time, anywhere across the globe. The cloud, meanwhile, facilitates faster communications and transformations, paving the way to predictive analytics, preventative maintenance, and prioritization planning.
A key piece of technology in this will be a material ledger, especially with the anticipated focus on contamination. By providing intelligent tracking of material and energy movements and transformations, the technology will be invaluable in identifying sources of contamination and determining the scope of recalls to better ensure the health and safety of consumers.
The technology also allows for analyses that identify correlations between incoming materials, performed process steps, and environmental conditions and the resulting quality of products produced.
Sustainability and Environmental Confidence Through AI and ML
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have already proven themselves adept at increasing yield, quality, safety, compliance and brand confidence while reducing waste and environmental impact, but their momentum is only expected to grow through 2021. With analytics and insight pulled from the two technologies companies can better anticipate demand to reduce waste and increase visibility into processes to bring themselves closer to meeting sustainability and resilience goals.
Other technologies such as 3-D printed food are on the horizon (a market composed of 293,000 industrial robots and expected to reach nearly $3.5 billion by 2027) but the onus is on the supply chain to keep pace, meet the needs of the market, and survive all obstacles big and small using the revolutionary data technology that continues to make strides to meet the needs of the future.
Another version of this article previously appeared on My Tech Decisions.