We never stop to think about the amount of work that goes into turning produce from the farm into a finished product found at grocery stores and restaurants, and that’s not accounting for the importation and exportation of food from other countries. There is an entire industry behind the logistics of distributing food across the nation.
I learnt about some of the problems they were facing while speaking with a client involved in the production and distribution of produce. “There is a lot we need to address,” he told me. “And the government is not making things any easier. They keep cracking down with regulations, and it forces us to reexamine our processes all over again.”
There are so many moving parts to the distribution and supply of food that it’s impossible to manage all of them without going insane. We need something that can not only help us keep an eye on the moving parts, but also help us anticipate future trends. Do you have anything that can help us?” My client’s answer was food analytics.
First, we need to define what we mean by food analytics. It is the all-encompassing term for analytics platforms designed to collect and analyse data to reveal insights into the food industry. Food analysis has become more complex in recent years due to factors like tighter regulation and higher manufacturing costs.
Food production, distribution and services are beset with problems with waste management being one of the worst. Recent estimates indicate that the amount of food wasted equates to 1.3 billion tons. This massive level of waste produces other problems, like greenhouse gas emissions and larger landfills. Why is there so much waste?
This is because all stakeholders across the supply chain are directly or indirectly involved in waste production.
However, it’s not just waste, it’s also a question of tightening regulation and addressing growing concerns about foodborne illnesses that are forcing food companies to re-examine processes, something that is much easier to do when food analytics is integrated into company operations.
In fact, many organisations are investing in analytics because it helps them improve operational efficiency up and down the production chain.
For example, food analytics can directly address the problem of food waste by using data to analyse the waste disposal process. This allows businesses to get a better understanding of the process, making it easier to identify inefficiencies and devise solutions to optimise it.
Similarly, producers can improve food quality by using analytics to study soil samples and weather conditions.
Finally, analytics can be used to improve logistics because food analytics can be used to transport food produce more efficiently. This is because transport companies can determine the ideal conditions for transportation, which could be useful when transporting delicate foodstuff.
They can improve co-ordination in logistics and even determine the best traffic routes based on data.
The future of the food industry will see food analytics heavily involved at all stages of the production process. Whether it is a restaurant, a producer or a distributor, all organisations across the industry will have to incorporate data and analytics into their processes to make significant gains in operational efficiency.
As an example, a restaurant can use predictive analytics to proactively manage demand and availability of food supplies, making it easier to plan pricing and menu offers.
Furthermore, food produce organisations will start using analytics to reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses, similar to how the medical industry is already using predictive analytics to create proactive strategies that curb illnesses.
Retailers use food analytics to track consumer behaviour to predict consumer choices and even personalise the customer experience for their shoppers. Loyalty cards and other retail perks are all derived from this strategy.
Given the numerous challenges the food industry are facing, it’s important to invest in a versatile solution that will improve operational efficiency and give organisations better insight into their operations.
By using food analytics, organisations involved in the production, distribution and selling of produce are better placed to make the changes needed to resolve the problems the industry faces.