Every year, the Economist Intelligence Unit evaluates the food safety levels of most countries in the world and ranks them in a Global Food Safety Index (GFSI). For many developed economies, the results are surprising. Developed nations like Germany (11), Japan (18), the United Kingdom (20), and South Korea (24) are notably lower than what one would expect to see from nations that are so technologically advanced. Developing nations like Brazil (29), Mexico (30), Russia (40), China (42) and India (70) are much worse off. In both sets of countries it seems that the food and beverage industry needs to be coerced into acting in the best interests of the population. In the United States, which is ranked first in the Global Food Safety Index (GFSI) in 2013, the issue of food safety is regularly at the top of the legislative agenda.
The focus on food safety in the United States recently culminated in the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) at the beginning of 2011, which was the first major overhaul of the nation’s food safety practices since 1938. FSMA gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new powers to prevent food safety problems, detect and respond to food safety issues, and improve the safety of imported foods. The law also includes new regulations for equipment and facilities that process food and beverages before they reach the consumer.
The underlying goal of the legislation was to put more of the burden back onto the industry players to proactively implement preventative measures that would help improve food safety and minimize recalls. This includes the use of higher quality processing equipment that is conducive to achieving these goals, regardless of the higher upfront cost of utilizing this type of machinery. Some of the main benefactors of this development are corrosion-resistant and stainless steel mechanical power transmission products, which are used heavily in the food and beverage industry. These products include such equipment as geared motors and mounted bearings.
Mounted bearings, which comprised a global market worth $2.5 billion in 2012, are used in many different applications and industries besides the food and beverage sector. The materials handling, air handling, metal processing and pulp & paper sectors all account for a substantial portion of demand for mounted bearings every year. These industries tend to be cyclical in nature, with some tied heavily to commodity prices, and thus the performance of the market for mounted bearings is subject to substantial volatility, which often corresponds to the overall health of the world economy.
However, the food industry represents one of the more stable and continuously growing parts of this global market. After all, even during dire economic times and periods of significant financial uncertainty, people still have to eat. This fact, coupled with the high focus on food safety, will continue to provide a pillar of stability to the market for mounted bearings in the future.
Alex Chausovsky is Manager & Principal Analyst of Motor Driven Systems for IHS.