Unilever, Wilmar International and Associated British Foods were among the major food manufacturers that mentioned the future of work the most often in their public filings in 2021, data suggests.

Of the ten biggest employers in the food manufacturing industry, Unilever was the company that referred to the future of work the most during 2021. Data and and analytics group GlobalData identified 14 sentences related to the future of work in the FMCG giant’s filings – equal to 0.14% of all sentences.

Singapore-based Wilmar International mentioned the concept the second-most often. The issue was referred to in 0.11% of sentences in Wilmar’s filings. Other top employers with high future-of-work mentions included Associated British Foods, Grupo Bimbo and Itochu.

Tracing back to 2016, mentions of the future of work within the filings of companies in the food manufacturing industry were 1567% higher during 2021 than five years previous, according to the latest analysis of data from GlobalData.

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. 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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By GlobalData

To assess whether the future of work 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 54% compared to 7% in 2016. It also calculates the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to big data.

GlobalData also categorises the future of work mentions by a series of sub-themes. Of these sub-themes, the most commonly referred to topic in the fourth quarter of 2021 was ‘robotic process automation’, which made up 33% of all sub-theme mentions by food manufacturers related to the future of work.

This analysis provides an approximate 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 company 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.