The number of times cybersecurity was mentioned in the filings of companies in the food manufacturing industry was 40% higher in the fourth quarter of 2021 than a year earlier, according to analysis by GlobalData.

And, in total, the frequency of sentences related to cybersecurity during 2021 was 179% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, Just Food’s parent, first began to track a series of key issues cited in company filings.

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By GlobalData
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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. Cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of food manufacturers, GlobalData calculates two measures. It looks at the percentage of companies that have mentioned cybersecurity at least once in filings during the past twelve months – this was 71% compared to 49% in 2016. The company also calculates the percentage of sentences that refer to cybersecurity.

Of the ten biggest employers in the food manufacturing industry, BRF was the company that referred to cybersecurity the most during 2021. GlobalData identified 18 cybersecurity-related sentences in the Brazil-based company's filings – 0.4% of all sentences. PepsiCo mentioned cybersecurity the second-most – the issue was referred to in 0.2% of sentences in the company’s filings. Other top employers with high cybersecurity mentions included meat major WH Group, agri-food group Wilmar and Unilever.

Across all food manufacturing companies, the filing published in the fourth quarter of 2021 that exhibited the greatest focus on cybersecurity came from US manufacturer BellRing Brands. Of the document's 1,215 sentences, 15 (1.2%) referred to cybersecurity.

GlobalData also categorises cybersecurity 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 security’, which made up 91% of all cybersecurity sub-theme mentions by food manufacturing companies.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity have been successes or failures.