Mentions of big data within the filings of food manufacturers were 50% higher in the fourth quarter of 2021 than a year earlier, analysis shows.

In total, the frequency of sentences related to big data during 2021 was 50% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, the data and analytics group, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

When food manufacturing companies publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Robotics is one of these topics – companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether big data is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of food manufacturing companies, GlobalData calculates two measures. It looks at the percentage of companies that have mentioned big data at least once in filings during the past twelve months –  this was 31% compared to 17% in 2016. It also calculates the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to big data.

Of the ten biggest employers in the food manufacturing industry, PepsiCo was the company that referred to big data the most during 2021. GlobalData identified five big data-related sentences in the US-based company's filings – 0.09% of all sentences. Unilever mentioned big data the second-most – the issue was referred to in 0.08% of sentences in the company’s filings. Other top employers with high big data mentions included Wilmar, Associated British Foods and Itochu.

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GlobalData also categorises big data mentions by a series of sub-themes. Of these sub-themes, the most commonly referred to topic in the fourth quarter of 2021 was data analytics, which made up 88% of all big data sub-theme mentions by food manufacturers.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on big data and how important the issue is considered within the food manufacturing industry, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning big data more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into big data have been successes or failures.