Consumer packaged goods (CPG) re-packaged post-pandemic

The global pandemic pushed the consumer packaged goods (CPG) landscape in a new direction. When it hit, many businesses acted quickly to keep pace with some of the toughest market conditions ever seen. While the impact of the virus has been catastrophic for a number of industries, the CPG industry has risen to the challenge with the support of technology.

Met with some of the most challenging shopping behaviours, the industry faced a massive overhaul in only a matter of days. Consumer demand shifted radically as footfall fell. No longer were customers shopping for holidays, stopping into shops on their way home from work, or even going out for essentials. There was a surge in demand and a subsequent shortage for certain products including hand sanitiser and toilet paper. The challenges were not just coming from the customers, companies faced massive supply chain disruptions and government advice that people remain two metres apart – making factory workers rethink how to function and grinding productivity to a halt.

While the initial outlook seemed bleak for CPG companies, major industry players, who should have been badly hit, surpassed expectations and adapted their business approaches in both an empathetic and business savvy way. From food to personal care, companies revolutionised their processes at an accelerated rate, taking into account changing demands and challenging working conditions. Businesses made quick decisions. With a stalling customer market, a number of factories switched their production at a pace never before seen in the industry. Unilever substituted deodorant production for sanitiser. This move was replicated by businesses outside personal care products such as perfume and gin producers. With technology and machinery already in place these rapid transitions proved easier than some were expecting.

In the first half of 2020, a number of CPG companies moved production toward manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE). Companies such as General Motors and Nunet, who usually produce files, ring binders and office equipment, focused their production on face masks and PPE. This transition required time and commitment. Technology played a massive role in this transition. Companies have access to highly technical equipment and, with the correct support, this can be updated to new production needs. Businesses in the CPG space made these changes not only because of the direction of market demand but because it was the right thing to do. This showed the power of empathy in a crisis and how, with the support of technology, changes for the better can be implemented quickly.

This has taken us into a new era for the sector. CPG producers now know how they can change production for the better. Technology is thriving, with new technology being implemented all the time. Artificial intelligence and machine learning use is growing, allowing smarter automation in production. This enables faster, more efficient and greater production at scale. As we move into a post-pandemic era, what lessons can companies take forward? Can this same approach be used to tackle other issues like sustainability and ethical resourcing?

Now, we know it’s possible that some of the industry’s biggest and smallest names were able to adapt their supply chains in days. This should not be forgotten. These businesses can now examine their production with a critical lens, using the same force to disrupt for good with technological support.

CPG businesses should be proud. They have survived one of the biggest industry disruptions ever seen and supported society through a global pandemic, thanks to business nous, making use of new technologies, and by allowing human empathy to direct their production. When looking to the future, these meaningful changes will be what distinguishes businesses. The CPG industry has proven their worth. As consumers grow ever more aware, the industry can now draw on these lessons into the future.