References to big data within the filings of companies in the food manufacturing industry have declined in recent months, according to GlobalData analysis.

The use of the term fell 40% between the first and second quarters of 2021 – and were down 14% in the second quarter when compared to the same period of 2020.

In total, the frequency of references to big data between July 2020 and June 2021 was 64% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData first began to track how often a series of key macro issues are mentioned 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. Big data 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 big data is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of food manufacturers, two measures were calculated. Firstly, GlobalData looked at the percentage of companies that have mentioned big data at least once in filings during the past twelve months – this was 48% compared to 25% in 2016. Secondly, the research group calculated the percentage of sentences that referred to big data.

Of the 50 biggest employers in the food manufacturing industry, India's ITC was the company that referred to big data the most between July 2020 and June 2021. GlobalData identified 23 big data-related sentences in the FMCG giant's filings – 0.4% of all sentences.

Noodle, cake and beverage maker Tingyi (Cayman Islands) Holding Corp mentioned big data the second-most. The issue was also referred to in 0.4% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with prominent levels of references to big data included General Mills, Kellogg and Singapore-based agri-food group Wilmar International.

Across all food manufacturers, the filing published in the second quarter of 2021 that appeared to exhibit the greatest focus on big data came from Tingyi. Of the document's 3,739 sentences, 11 (0.3%) referred to big data.

GlobalData also categorises the references to big data by a series of subthemes. Of these subthemes, the most commonly mentioned topic in the second quarter of 2021 was 'data analytics', which accounted for 71% of all big data subthemes among 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.