MRO Magazine

How food and beverage producers can leverage consumer sentiment and trends

By Rittal North America LLC   

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The COVID-19 pandemic and the awareness around food production sanitation seem to have forced producers to re-evaluate their processes and practices.

Photo provided by Rittal North America LLC.

The choices consumers make about the food and beverages they consume is extremely personal. Dietary habits, brand association, affordability, and even political views are just a handful of factors consumers account for when putting a food and beverage item in their shopping cart.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the heightened awareness around the sanitation of food production has only served to reinforce the personal nature of consumer behaviour in the food and beverage space, which has forced producers to re-evaluate their processes and practices.

In May 2020, Rittal surveyed a wide cross-section of U.S. food and beverage consumers to better understand consumer sentiment, and found that affordability, availability, quality, and sanitary practices were at top of mind when weighing buying decisions. In addition, 35 per cent of respondents indicated their level of consumer confidence toward food and beverage producers had dropped since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

Fast forward one year, a follow-up to this survey showed that consumers were still very much concerned about the safety of food and beverage production. While the study revealed a positive trend in consumer confidence, only 32 per cent of respondents signaled they felt ‘very confident’ in the safety and sanitation of food production facilities.

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This puts producers at a unique inflection point in terms of understanding what the consumer wants and how they can respond, either by altering their production processes or changing how they communicate their practices to consumers. With this in mind, let’s examine how food and beverage producers can leverage consumer sentiment and trends to create production and distribution models that benefit their entire value chain.

HYGIENIC DESIGN FOR THE WHOLE LINE

Rittal’s updated consumer insight report indicated that a majority of consumers still have significant reservations about the hygienic state of food and beverage production facilities. This means placing even greater emphasis than ever before on the cleanliness, sanitation, and durability of equipment on the production floor to withstand frequent, high-intensity washdowns and other disinfection processes is paramount in alleviating this pain point for consumers.

CONNECTED CLIMATE CONTROL

The ability to maintain safe and sanitary climate control within the enclosures on the food produc- tion floor is also key to how food and beverage producers can alleviate consumer concerns about food safety in production facilities. The capacity to cool the equipment that drives production runs downstream to protecting the integrity of the final product.

INTEGRATING AUTOMATION AND INDUSTRY 4.0

Technological advancements like automation and artificial intelligence have significantly changed the way food and beverage producers create, test, warehouse, and distribute their products. The ability to produce, assess overall quality, and route products to the consumer in faster and more efficient ways than ever before has revolutionized the entire value chain and allowed for increased profitability.

The introduction of highly sophisticated sensors to identify contaminated or spoiled food products and network connectivity to generate and receive data as a product moves through a production or transportation cycle means rethinking traditional panel and switchgear building processes.

At the end of the day, industrial enclosures, climate control systems, and automation solutions are what food and beverage producers need to address consumer concerns and adapt to a new paradigm in food and beverage production.

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