The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes to people’s daily lives; it brought wellness and hygiene into a new focus and called for a change in the way we viewed crowds. One aspect of life that COVID-19 has impacted was the food industry, particularly how people bought and consumed food.
Surveys show that many Asian countries have consumers that are more focused on healthy eating now compared to pre-pandemic times. The increased demand for healthy eating also came with a heightened awareness of one’s overall health and immune system as people strived to live healthier and stronger lifestyles. This change has led to a high demand of fresh produce, poultry, and organic snacks while products considered less healthy such as soda and alcohol faced a reduced demand.
This shift in perspective is also supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is pushing for healthier living not only in Asia and during this pandemic, but for the whole world for the years to come. At home, families are also preferring home-cooked meals now compared to fast food and other “unhealthy” alternatives.
To address this change in demand, retailers have to also follow through and meet their consumers halfway. Grocery stores, especially, which have grown in importance in daily life during this pandemic, have to understand this demand and act accordingly by, for example, increasing stocks and buying more often from their suppliers.
However, it is not enough to make changes only in-store - retailers also have to make changes with their suppliers and how they conduct business with them, as well as in how they deal with their customers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses worldwide, especially those in the supply chain industry. As multiple lockdowns took effect throughout the past year, suppliers, cargo companies, and other stakeholders of the supply chain took the time to reassess their plan of operations.
In the case of those in the food industry - that is, the restaurants, farmers, fisheries, restaurants, groceries, and other food-heavy businesses - the pandemic called for them to pay extra attention to their supply chain’s processes. In addition to consumers wanting more healthy food, studies have also shown that consumers are also now conscious of where their food comes from. For some, it is no longer enough to eat healthy; it is also important to know where their meals’ ingredients were sourced from and how they were transported.
While there is no conclusive evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging as confirmed by WHO, this concern urgently called for better handling of food products starting with production all the way to sales and after-sales. Street markets in Asia were especially quick on the uptake to adopt new perspectives on food safety following the first few lockdowns and travel bans. More strict hygiene practices were observed in farms, production plants, sorting centers, delivery, and even in-store.
Delivery, both from retailer to customer and supplier to retailer, changed drastically as well. Groceries and restaurants have begun changing their operations, increasing their stocks of perceived healthier food while shifting to more digital means when dealing with customers in order to better reach them and service them. Many business owners in the food and beverage industry have also invested in new technology to implement self check-out counters and to create online shopping platforms that lead to contactless deliveries.
The need for more transparent transactions has risen in the past year both out of concern over the possible health risks improper food handling can bring and in order to get the best value for money. On a McKinsey & Company podcast, a Supply Chain expert explains that modern technology can help supply chains regain their footing and make or break them once the COVID-19 pandemic is eradicated. With today’s technology, businesses can communicate better, keep track of shipments and other usually uncontrollable factors, and overall work more efficiently.
The podcast also discussed how some companies have started utilizing satellite data and mobile phone data, something most people have nowadays, in order to monitor shipments and help retailers and suppliers coordinate better. This innovation can also help businesses react to different changes faster, as mobile data and Bluetooth can reflect changes in real time. Though this idea is relatively new, it is something many businesses can benefit from especially with food products after the pandemic, as the concern over food safety is not likely to die out anytime soon.
Emerson’s loggers and trackers offer such technology - aiming to help retailers and suppliers work more efficiently throughout the supply chain. Their GO Real-Time 4G/5G Tracker uses cellular technology to provide retailers and suppliers real-time temperature and location alerts as the delivery moves through the supply chain. Their GO PDF Mini Logger and GO Bluetooth Plus Logger monitor the temperature of perishable goods. Both logger devices operate so that the data is collected from the device when it reaches its final destination. The GO Bluetooth data can be ready with an app and the GO PDF Mini is plugged into a computer using the USB port. The data on these can be accessed on the Oversight Online Portal and App, which houses all the accumulated data from the tracker and loggers for archiving and easy access later on.
One of Emerson’s clients, a global food leader with over 50 years of exporting Philippine pineapples and bananas across multiple markets, shares their experience with Emerson’s trackers and loggers. They were able to accurately track shipments and share data across its logistics network, enabling them to maintain the quality and integrity of the cold chain while minimizing food waste.
Using its technology, Emerson provides a way for everyone involved in the supply chain to be informed of where the produce is going and if it is being maintained in the proper temperature for optimal food safety, which has also become a point of concern with the current pandemic.
COVID-19 will come to pass eventually, but the changes it has brought and ushered in are likely to stay and become the norm. These changes may be something different to get used to, but ultimately, they are for the benefit of the greater good and can help run things more efficiently.
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