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Staff, costs, logistics and consumers

Within the food production sector inflation is up 18%

The food and ingredients industry is probably at the point when they can no longer say, ‘when do we pass this on to the consumer?’ Certainly, the food sector is reappraising what it does and how it does it. We can expect to see some shifts of emphasis. Take for example, food giant, Tate & Lyle. They have moved away from commodity-based costs with high volume and low margin to a more solution-based sell that is far less sensitive to cost. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why in the year to 31 March 2021, Tate & Lyle sales totalled £2.8 billion.

It doesn’t take a genius to note the massive imbalance between calorie in and exercise taken

Interestingly, Tate & Lyle is mindful of other challenges to its business outside of Covid and commodity prices. Obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome are having an increasingly profound effect regarding public health across the world. It doesn’t take a genius to note that we have a massive imbalance between the calories we take on board and how much exercise we undertake. It’s not dramatic to see this problem as another epidemic as global obesity has doubled in forty years.

If you deal with sugar, there is inevitably going to be a publicity issue

Image: Myriam Zilles

Potentially there could be a devastating PR disaster. When reports emerge demanding calorie content reduction then companies such as Tate & Lyle have to react fast. Obviously wherever there are challenges there are usually accompanying opportunities. The company has already released a statement about their approach to working positively for society and supporting healthy living, building communities that thrive and also caring for the planet. With almost 4, 500 workers they have undoubted potential to make positive changes.

Reduce the sugar but don’t change the taste

However, on a more prosaic note, one of the other main challenges is that sugar reduction can lead to a reduction in taste, as well as confounding our expectations regarding the feel in the mouth, texture, browning and bulk. These can all be compromised when sugar is reduced. Tate & Lyle has industry knowledge that has been built over decades and if one company could tackle these issues then they are it.

Consumers are super demanding

They have discovered that using a variety of sweeteners works more effectively than relying on just one. They have been enhancing their ingredient portfolio by using sweeteners, rare sugars, fibre fortification and also stabilisers. It’s not a surprise that they are working so hard to address these issues as consumers are both sophisticated and demanding. They want taste, texture, and familiarity but they also demand responsibility and sustainability. Tate & Lyle need to understand the key drivers that are affecting shifts in buying patterns and how they might evolve in the future.

Market intelligence is a key facet of the Tate & Lyle business and they have discovered the key trends that affect tastes and buying patterns globally for their goods.

· Transparency

· Plant-based

· Sugar reduction

· Gut health

· Convenience and Better snacking

Natalya Bright, Market Research Manager, stated:

These global trends play to Tate & Lyle’s strengths as an ingredient provider, with our wide range of responsibly-sourced, almost exclusively plant-based solutions that are label-friendly and support healthy living. As millions of people across the world consume products containing our ingredients every day, the heart of our business is about Improving Lives for Generations, and we’re proud to partner with our customers to do just that while helping them to succeed in the marketplace.”

It’s fascinating to see such an historic company meeting the complex challenges of present and future food production head on. Right now, we are seeing demand for staff in the following areas:

Supply Chain & Operations – This is particularly challenging on all fronts, in the current environment, with rising prices and the conundrums around of logistics, the industry is looking for staff that are creative, agile and flexible to cope with ever changing challenges.

R&D – Technical talent is always in demand as companies need to innovate at pace to keep up with the competitive landscape

Commercial/Business Development – With long lead in times with many large accounts, the need to keep on top of business development is critical.

Digitalisation – What the last 2 years has taught us is that there is always room for improvement in how we conduct business and digital talent is in high demand especially in the B2B environment.

We will watch progress with interest. What we do know is that the demand for highly qualified, agile, and creative executives will continue to grow and we too have adapted the business to meet demand. Having worked with some of the biggest companies in this sector and also several start-up businesses over the past eighteen months we understand the trends, needs and changes required to find, appoint, and retain key staff. Why not talk to us in 2022 and find the staff to drive your business forward.

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