Challenges for Food & Beverage Processors

The U.S. food-and-beverages sector is facing challenges both technological and ecological.

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Staying connected to loyal customers is coming through increased use of business-intelligence systems, says Bob Gates, global technical manager for Charlottesville, Va.-based GE Intelligent Platforms (www.ge-ip.com).

“Brand favorites face downward pricing pressures due to high-quality ‘store brands.’ These companies are finding business intelligence as a way of tackling these cost pressures, by adding better data collection and process standards,” Gates says.

“And with data connected at every level of the manufacturing process, food-and-beverage companies find they can be more transparent with suppliers and customers,” Gates adds. That’s advantageous for traceability, he says, as it enables better metrics for social accountability programs, like sustainability. 

Roger Clemens, president of the Chicago-based Institute of Food Technologists (IFT, www.ift.org), believes consumers want a safe, abundant and nutritious food supply. Though consumers now demand more natural foods, that’s still not possible globally. “Backyard farmers can’t supply the world. Agricultural practices need improvement. There’s also too little good land and too little good water,” says Clemens, who is also chief scientific officer at E.T. Horn Co. (www.ethorn.com), La Mirada, Calif.

The current water problem is more serious than most people know. “In Texas, an absence of water has undermined the livestock business,” says Clemens. “In other parts of world, because of the absence of appropriate water, farmers cannot grow grains."

C. Kenna Amos, ckamosjr@earthlink.net is an Automation World Contributing Editor.

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