CPG companies get much needed boost from technology

WASHINGTON — The vitality of consumer packaged goods companies is healthy again, according to a new report issued by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers on Wednesday.

Despite rising commodity costs, the CPG industry now is in recovery mode with companies refocused on a growth agenda and looking to international expansion as an opportunity to enhance both the top and bottom lines, according to the report, titled “Thriving in a Connected World.” The value of shipments in the CPG industry rose 6% to almost $124 billion in 2010 versus the prior year. Across the board, financial performance generally improved over 2009, with the manufacturing sector achieving strong median one-year shareholder returns of 15%. In addition, median earnings before interest and taxes growth overall improved from 4.3% to 12.9%.

A lot of this growth can be traced to CPG companies’ incorporation of digital technologies. “CPG companies of all sizes harnessed digital technologies in the past few years to become more productive and efficient,” GMA president and CEO Pamela Bailey said. “This study shows how food, beverage and consumer products manufacturers are leveraging innovation to optimize service to consumers and trading partners.”

To determine the best use of mobile devices across the workforce, the report suggested that workforce productivity should be viewed through three lenses: mobility on the floor where workers use their digital devices for instant information, in the field where mobile employees can make decisions on the spot with their devices and in flight where sales representatives, who historically travel to each location to analyze performance, now use mobile technology to monitor activity. The report also noted that as devices and wireless data networks grow, rich multimedia capabilities will continue to be added to business workflows, and businesses will continue to capitalize on the opportunities mobile devices create within the workforce.

”Today's consumers are more empowered with greater control of their shopping choices with the growing array of digital technologies like smartphones, tablets and social media,” added Susan McPartlin, PwC’s retail and consumer industry leader. “And they aren't shy about posting their feelings online about products, where they literally are handing over reams of potential insights that can create a tremendous opportunity for CPG companies that can find the patterns in the noise.”

"Thriving in a Connected World" will be presented via webcast by PwC and GMA June 29 at 1:30 p.m. EST. Click here for registration information.