Close on 25 years ago I remember that the key Supply Chain theme was 'collaboration'. Working in tandem with retail partners was touted as the most efficient (and financially profitable) way for manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods to enhance operations and with the improvement, maximise sales opportunities.
Fast-forward to today's omnichannel world and that sense of collaboration, albeit a wary one in some instances, is still important but the landscape has changed. Retail partners are no longer the only route to the consumer - traditional Business-to-Business (B2B) relationships have been supplemented by true Business-to-Consumer (B2C) opportunities through the use of online markets and e-commerce websites which can be serviced directly without the need for a third-party retail end-point.
But the reality is that, unlike their retail counterparts, CPG companies lack the vital data which provides that most illusive of qualities: customer insight.
Along with the opportunity comes additional complexity. Understanding how, what and when consumers purchase takes an analytical approach that most CPG companies are only now starting to harvest. The shape(s) of Supply Chains, product and partner strategies and critically, how to develop and maintain a cohesive Customer Experience strategy all combine to create an operational administrative overhead previously unneeded. It was an SEP - "Somebody Else's Problem", as the wonderful, late and much-lamented Douglas Adams once wrote in his 'Hitchhikers...' series.
But it doesn't have to be a problem. Instead, this evolution in the way CPG Manufacturers can today address such new markets obviously works alongside existing retail collaborations (there's that word again...) but done 'right', presents opportunities which simply didn't exist before. CPG companies have the chance to work with consultants who understand the retail domain, understand Supply Chain network optimisation, understand inventory and product optimisation and at the same time, can help them to formulate strategies aimed at analysing the vast volumes of data these new environments inevitably create.
The boundaries between the previously separate domains of retail, CPG and Supply Chain are blurring. Look at this as a golden opportunity - not a problem.
Today, one side of the food retail coin - retailers - has the data, and the other side - CPG brands - wants it.