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January 14, 2022updated 21 Jan 2022 1:47pm

Food industry interest in digitalisation – which companies are active?

The digital transformation of the food industry is a hot topic among manufacturers and GlobalData has analysed interest in the area.

By Emil Filipov

Mentions of digitalisation within the public filings of companies in the food manufacturing industry have more than trebled in five years, analysis by GlobalData suggests.

References to digitalisation were 242% higher between October 2020 and September 2021 than in 2016, GlobalData.

When food manufacturers 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. Digitalisation 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 digitalisation is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of food manufacturers, two measures are calculated. Firstly, GlobalData looks at the percentage of companies that have mentioned digitalisation at least once in filings during the past twelve months – this was 82% in the year under review compared to 44% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to digitalisation.

Of the 50 biggest employers in the food manufacturing industry, Turkey-based Yildiz Holding was the company that mentioned digitalisation the most between October 2020 and September 2021. GlobalData identified 19 related sentences in the McVitie’s owner’s filings –  some 3.5% of all sentences.

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Nestlé mentioned digitalisation the second most often among the companies analysed. The issue was referred to in 2.5% of sentences in the KitKat’s maker filings. Other noteworthy companies include India-based FMCG group ITC, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever.

Across all food manufacturers, the filing published in the third quarter of 2021 that exhibited the greatest focus on digitalisation came from ITC. Of the document's 5,221 sentences, 83 (1.6%) referred to the subject.

In the last quarter, food manufacturers based in western Europe were most likely to mention digitalisation with 0.62% of sentences in company filings referring to the issue. In contrast, companies with their headquarters in the United States mentioned digitalisation in 0.44% of sentences.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on digitalisation 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 digitalisation more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are using new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company’s ventures into digitalisation have been successes or failures.

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