Supply Chain Matters provides added rather important data point concerning the ongoing significant business challenges associated with many large consumer packaged goods providers and their associated supply chain teams. Multiple U.S. based food producers continue to serve up grim financial and operating news from their latest quarter. Most all of these ongoing challenges are attributed to the industry’s abilities to adapt to fundamental shifts in consumer tastes, changes in previous market growth assumptions and now, the added significant financial implications related to foreign currency effects.

This week, the largest globally focused food manufacturer by revenues, Nestle SA, reported its slowest annual sales growth since 2009 and 2015 will likely provide added challenges. Nestle’s organic sales growth for all of fiscal 2014 was reported as 4.5 percent, a number that perhaps most other large CPG producers would relish at this point.  But, that number fell below Nestle’s declared growth target of five to six percent organic growth. Real internal sales growth was noted as 2.3 percent while operating profit was up 30 basis points in constant currencies but 10 basis points in net.  In terms of quantification, Overall sales in 2014 were down 0.6 percent and Nestle executives indicated that negative foreign exchange shaved that number by 5.5 percentage points, which is a very significant amount.

From a geographic perspective Nestle’s organic growth was described as broad-based and included 5.4 percent for the Americas, 1.9 percent in Europe and 5.7 percent in Asia, Africa and Oceania.  Business media noted that growth in developed and emerging markets is moderating.  The CPG producer indicated the need to adapt with the fast-changing expectations of the Chinese consumer.  In fact, throughout its earnings release, there is a constant theme of continuous product innovation, re-formulation and re-launching, which all impact the underlying supply chain.

Other noteworthy financial numbers were that Nestle’s cost of goods sold (COGS) fell by 30 basis points driven by product mix and pricing actions along with savings generated by Nestle’s Continuous Excellence program which more than offset increases in raw material costs. Distribution costs were up 10 basis points. The global CPG producer has further established a Nestle Business Excellence initiative at the executive board level in an effort to aggregate line-of-business support services. Thus, the pressure on costs, added efficiencies and productivity continue along with needs for continuous innovation and resiliency to global market changes

Campbell Soup also reported financial results this week, along with added plans for a multi-year zero-based cost focused initiative to slash costs and restructure certain operations. CEO Denise Morrison provided another profound quote: “We are well aware of the mounting distrust of so-called Big Food, the large food companies and legacy brands on which millions of consumers have relied on for so long” and further noting that changing consumer tastes remain a key challenge for the industry. Campbell’s has plans to re-organize its businesses by product category as opposed to geographic regions. According to reporting from The Wall Street Journal, Campbell’s has hired Accenture, the same consultancy that assisted 3G Capital with its efforts to consolidate the operations of HJ Heinz, ant those of Mondelez International, to assist in the Campbell initiative.

Supply Chain Matters reiterates that rapidly shifting industry markets and consumer preferences imply a critical need for increased product innovation and quicker introduction of new products. These capabilities need to be obviously enhanced, in spite of continued pressures to reduce costs. Volatile and rapidly changing global markets require that Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) teams be more responsive and anticipate such changes.  The focus clearly turns toward an outside-in perspective, allowing the supply chain to quickly sense changes in product or regional demand and respond as quickly as possible to market opportunities or threats. Finally, supply chain segmentation strategies, those that orient supply chain resources to the most influential customers, most profitable market segments or highest customer growth opportunities are now ever more essential.

Bob Ferrari

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