Mentions of the term “future of work” within the public filings of food manufacturers were down by more than a quarter in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the corresponding period a year earlier, analysis from GlobalData shows.

Covid-19 prompted stay-at-home orders from governments, leading to white-collar staff working from home, a change many businesses and employees have maintained to some degree as the pandemic has continued.

With staff falling ill, food manufacturers have also sought to reassess parts of their production network and how that might be reconfigured in the future.

In total, between October 2020 and September 2021, the frequency of sentences related to the future of work was 2400% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, Just Food’s parent company, first began to track topics in company filings.

When food manufacturers publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. The future of work 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.

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To assess whether the future of work is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of food manufacturers, GlobalData calculated two measures. Firstly, it looked at the percentage of companies that have mentioned the future of work at least once in filings during the past twelve months – this was 56% compared to 6% in 2016. Secondly, GlobalData calculated the percentage of sentences that referred to the future of work.

Of the 50 biggest employers among food manufacturers, Turkey’s Yildiz Holding was the company which referred to the future of work the most between October 2020 and September 2021.

Across food manufacturers, the filing published in the third quarter of 2021 that exhibited the greatest focus on the future of work came from India’s ITC. Of the document's 5,221 sentences, ten (0.2%) referred to the future of work.

This analysis provides an indication of which companies are focusing on the future of work 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 business mentioning the future of work 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 the future of work have been successes or failures.

GlobalData also categorises the future of work mentions by a series of sub-themes. Of these subthemes, the most commonly referred to topic in the third quarter of 2021 was ‘robotic process automation’, which made up 62% of the mentions of sub-themes related to the future of work.