No matter which industry you’re in, supply chain trends have a significant impact on your business. Product and material sources, labor fluctuations, modern innovations, and consumer trends all influence the way you operate as a company. Staying on top of these and other factors helps keep your business on track even when unexpected fluctuations and disruptions impact the industry.

Monitoring supply chains is essential in the food and beverage industry, where supply and demand constantly change as a result of consumer desires, shorter product shelf lives, and the vast global network of suppliers for different types of food and beverages. Businesses need to stay a step ahead if they want to succeed. Stay on top of change and learn more about the current and upcoming trends in the supply chain in the food and beverage industry with this guide.

The Disruption of COVID-19 and the Demand for Change

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact supply chains across all industries, but few still feel it more than the ever-changing food and beverage industry. Many current and future food and beverage trends stem from supply fluctuations, labor shortages, and new consumer habits that the world experienced at the height of the pandemic. These changes highlighted weaknesses in the supply chain, leading many businesses to reevaluate their own processes and find ways to improve resilience and navigate disruptions.

Even now, supply chains must contend with shortages of raw materials, products, and labor, all of which can prove dangerous for unprepared businesses. Sticking to tried and true processes or solutions isn’t always enough to keep businesses open in the wake of the pandemic. Instead, companies are turning to new technologies and strategies that revolve around flexibility and adaptability. By embracing change and innovation, businesses can find creative solutions to current challenges and the unpredictable obstacles of the future.

Concerns Around Rising Food Fraud

There is a rising trend of food fraud in the industry that stems from the disorder the COVID-19 pandemic caused. While companies contended with disruptions and shortages in the supply chain, others took advantage of the turmoil by introducing counterfeit products and poor practices. With high global demand and inconsistent supply, fraudulent suppliers were able to sell low-quality products with little consequence. Similarly, labor shortages led to a lack of food inspectors and other monitoring bodies, which allowed for cutting corners in various production practices.

The rise in food fraud puts both industry professionals and consumers on edge. However, businesses can set themselves apart by doubling down on safety and quality in every step of their supply chain. Close monitoring, deliberate product sourcing, and other value-oriented processes allow businesses to demonstrate their commitment to quality and build a strong, trusted reputation in customers’ eyes.

Labor Shortages

Labor shortages due to illness, mass resignations, and other disruptions in the job market have created major challenges for food and beverage companies. One popular solution is automation. Automatic and semi-automatic equipment help streamline production while bringing flexibility, efficiency, and scalability to your facility. Because machines can work harder, faster, and more consistently around the clock, automation allows you to maintain productivity even when facing a labor shortage.

Adding automatic solutions to your workflow also creates a better environment for the workers you do have. By passing repetitive and physically strenuous tasks over to automated equipment, you can give your employees more rewarding work. Automatic machinery reduces ergonomic injuries, minimizes the risk of accidents due to human error, and creates a safer environment. All of these advantages make your business more enticing in a job market where employees are rethinking their career goals and searching for more fulfilling and long-term jobs.

The Rise of Off-Premise Food Services

Restaurants struggled during the pandemic as consumers worried about food safety and spending long periods of time in public. As the desire for dining out declined, the demand for retail food options soared. Food and beverage companies of all kinds have adapted processes to meet this new consumer need.

As a result, pre-pandemic business ideas such as ghost kitchens—restaurant-like businesses that didn’t offer dine-in eating—became a popular option to replace traditional restaurant experiences. Many businesses also offered new at-home or ready-to-eat meals to attract customers who continue to avoid traditional dining options.

Health Consciousness and Cold-Chain Products

Consumers have grown more health-conscious over the last several years. Concerns about the foods we buy, where they come from, and how they’re made only increased during the pandemic. Demand for natural, nutritious, and minimally processed foods continues to rise.

Many of these products require a temperature-controlled supply chain, which means cold-chain needs are also increasing. Safe and efficient cold storage and transportation is a useful asset for businesses that want to take advantage of rising health trends in the food and beverage industry.

The Demand for Last-Minute Deliveries

Another new trend in the supply chain in the food and beverage industry is the demand for fast shipping times, last-minute deliveries, and other similar services. Certain powerhouses have normalized services such as next-day delivery, which leads to consumers expecting that level of speed and efficiency everywhere they shop. Businesses with fewer resources must get creative in order to meet these demands.

Potential solutions include implementing smaller, more flexible distributors at the end of the supply chain to enable last-mile deliveries in less time. Rethinking suppliers is also an important step. Investing in suppliers that are closer to both your business and your customers cuts down on shipping times and allows for a more flexible supply chain.

Ethics and Sustainability in the Industry

Sustainable, environmentally responsible practices are quickly becoming essential for both consumers and businesses. However, standard practices like reusing and recycling products can prove challenging in the food and beverage industry due to health codes and other factors. Companies must find creative and innovative ways to prioritize the sustainable practices that customers want to support. For example, some food retailers have begun purposefully stocking cosmetically flawed produce that other stores would throw away.

Another way to prioritize sustainability is to minimize material waste. Stretch wrapper machines that offer strategic film placement and multi-level variable pre-stretch can boost film savings anywhere from 30 to 55 percent. Businesses can make the most of their materials, save money, and reduce waste.

The right secondary packaging solutions can help keep your operations on top of an ever-changing supply chain. Work with Robopac USA, a trusted stretch wrap machine manufacturer, to find the right solutions to optimize your company’s workflow.

New Trends in Supply Chain in the Food & Beverage Industry