By David Gray
President and Chief Growth Officer
GreenSeed Contract Packaging

 

We work for a “company,” many of us on the “front lines” and “in the trenches” working on a “tactical strategy” to “win.”

Many business words are borrowed from the military. These words have stuck.

But things are changing – especially for food manufacturers. These battle-ready terms came on the heels of WWII when industry soared. Companies needed a blueprint. Today, there are new words: e-commerce and collaboration, global supply chain and open source technology, culture and grit.

Just look at the world. People are hit with between 3,000 and 20,000 advertising messages a day. Amazon is rewriting consumer behavior. Data is the new best ingredient. And millennials – the ones with $200 billion purchasing power per year – want the truth (and not necessarily from the companies who make and market their food).

Words change when the world changes.

We’re not the first to notice these mile markers. As a packaging operations company in the food space, though, we’re adjusting our business to accommodate these new words (a.k.a. business model) for food manufacturers in the 21st century.

On the e-commerce front, changing consumer behavior is directly affecting packaging. For example, historically, you see product go to market in eight to 12-count cases. The number of two and three-count packages is climbing, reducing packouts. Similar trends are appearing in consumer’s bulk buying expectations at warehouse stores. GreenSeed is right now exploring e-commerce models and mapping out how we can best serve customers.

As the food industry continues to get more competitive – especially the retail market – we’re seeing more manufacturers go from brand to private label so stores assume more control. Because of this, there’s a push toward ideation. We often have a seat at the table as new products go to market.

Collaboration with people in a food manufacturer’s supply chain is strategically smart. Why? From our perspective, it’s pretty simple: No one company can go it alone.    A great example of this was shared in the recent Brene Brown book “Braving the Wilderness”.  Here she shares the idea of “hold hands with strangers”  through Liverpool Football Club gathering at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a soccer match.  95,000 fans swaying together as they sing “You’ll Never Walk alone”.   Very emotional.

There’s not enough historical data to support new ideas and how fast consumers want things. The paradigm is shifting from vertical integration to a collaborative model where you leverage knowledge from key suppliers.

As our heroes came home from the big fight in 1945 – just a little more than half a century ago which isn’t that many years when you really think about it – one company could do it all. Runs were smaller, the speed to market faster, the playing field more open.

Today, there are many moving parts in the supply chain – from the people who make the granola to the film for the pouch to the filling of the pouch to distribution. The path to ROI demands longer runs with thinner margins. As a result, we’re seeing more open sourcing, just like they’ve practiced in the tech industry for years. On our part, we’re excited about this. We’re jazzed about working with synergistic companies as a global supply chain contributor.

The last attribute of a 21st century food manufacturer will be its culture. Culture is a topic we’ve devoted our entire mission to as a company.

You’ve probably seen an avalanche of books and articles on the topic. Many companies are trying to figure out their purpose and what they stand for and what that means to the people who work there. We’re seeing a shift in the way innovative companies think, transforming themselves into learning institutions so people can grow and excel both personally and professionally. Leadership gets the opportunity to set the momentum on things like agility, grittiness, humility, empowerment, gratitude, good listening skills and learning.

You might think all of this leads to results. It does, but not overnight. We’re not getting 100 percent results. We’re not tripping over profit because we believe in these things – and we do without question believe in them – but a person doesn’t grow overnight either. It takes years of learning, experience, curiosity, failures and successes to be the best version of yourself.

Big Ideas from GreenSeed:

  • On the e-commerce front, changing consumer behavior is directly affecting packaging.
  • Collaboration with suppliers is key. No one company can go it alone.
  • Expect more open sourcing in food manufacturing, just like they’ve practiced in the tech industry for years.
  • The paradigm is shifting from vertical integration to a collaborative model where manufacturers leverage knowledge from key suppliers.
  • Corporate culture will help define the 21st century food manufacturer.

Closing Statement:

I’ll close with a quote from a book entitled “Everybody Matters,” a Wall Street Journal bestseller coauthored by Bob Chapman, CEO of the $2 billion company Barry-Wehmiller, and Raj Sisodia. Chapman’s company started as a manufacturer of machinery for the brewing industry and has evolved into a go-to model for the 21st century. Here’s the quote:

“Everyone wants to do better. Trust them. Leaders are everywhere. Find them. People achieve good things, big and small, every day. Celebrate them. Some people wish things were different. Listen to them. Everybody matters. Show them.”

It’s an inspiring thought for the food industry – and all of us who contribute to their success.