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Looking Forward by Looking Back

Jan 07, 2020

As we reach the final days of the decade, there’s no better time to look back and see how the changes and trends of the past 10 years set the direction for the future 10.

In the dairy industry, 2010 through 2019 can be summed up by one word: DISRUPTED.

Oh, the changes this industry has witnessed.  In a short span of 10 years, we’ve seen the abrupt reversal of 8500 years of gradually growing dairy products consumption –especially when it comes to fluid products.

The Great Recession near the end of the last decade had a polar effect on fluid milk sales.  A tight economy and uncertain dollar had families appreciating the cost-effective nutrition a glass of milk could offer.  Fluid milk sales finished strong.

Today?  Forget about it.  I’m continuously amazed at the never-ending array of new products and packages on display at my local grocer’s.  Sometimes, when I want to just find that plain ol’ product that I have bought for years, it takes a search.  Organic?  Nah.  Too expensive.  Vegetal?  Fine... for some, but I live in the dairy state and just want cows’ milk, please.  Ultra-filtered?  Sounds healthy, but I digest lactose just fine.  Protein-enriched?  Great, however, my bodybuilding days have passed.  Ah, there it is!  Finally.  2% cows milk in a plain white jug.

Not so easy anymore, is it?

Many of the products cluttering store shelves didn’t even exist in 2010.  The pace of change is reaching unprecedented levels.

The introduction of widespread social media use has largely played a role in this pace change, too.  It’s amazing how quickly this communication tool can change the waters for even the smoothest-sailing companies.

Think your sustainable, unpasteurized, organic rainwater beverage business is safe?  Just wait till someone authors a scathing blog on your company’s destruction of the native mosquito larvae-hatching habitat and suddenly you, too, are disrupted.

As the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus used to say, “The only thing that is constant is change.”

I’ll drink to that, Heraclitus.  2%, white, if you can find it.

As equipment manufacturers, we’ve seen this coming for a while.  Even before the Great Recession, we could see consumer demands and preferences – and processor/packager’s needs – changing.  All the recession did was place change on pause for a bit.

Looking into the next decade, it’s clear that disruption is the new norm.  Investments made in a company’s processing and packaging equipment should provide for maximum flexibility, with the ability to produce and package the largest range of potential products possible.  There are limitations, of course, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a target for which to strive.

As an example, look at the classic type of fill-to-level hygienic filling systems that still widely populate the industry.  These nearly single-purpose machines are great for producing a narrow range of products, day after day, week after week, year after year, and so on (i.e., my 2% gallon jug filler), but when Marketing demands a new high-viscosity, cultured, oat-based performance beverage with vegetable bits, you will be in for a challenge.

It’s best to be prepared with a machine that can handle a wide variety of potential product and package types.  Non-contact filling machines – like the kind we offer at Pneumatic Scale Angelus and our subsidiary, Hema – strive to future-proof your business by engineering systems with the ability to hygienically handle a wide variety of fluid beverages.  Agitation to keep solids in suspension and sterile air pressurization are just a few of the tools we have in our belt to provide this flexibility.  Couple these tools with our technical advancements in filling precision, automated cleaning, and data recording, and you will have a machine that prepares your business for whatever disruption throws at you.

A final note, in February 2019, McKinsey & Company published “A Winning Growth Formula for Dairy.”  While the document is approaching a year-old, I suggest it as good reading as it delves much deeper into market fluctuations and trends – both domestic and global.  But one suggestion this paper made was making numerous quick and small investments versus a few big bets.  That suggestion has stuck in my head ever since reading it.

I can easily imagine a developed system that fulfills this recommendation, offering hygiene, traceability, precision, and flexibility.  In fact, we’ve already developed it and it has been in operation since May.

If you’d like to learn more, please drop me a line or visit me on LinkedIn. I’m always happy to discuss.

All the best in 2020 and beyond!

Mike Collins, Business Development Manager for Dairy Applications, Pneumatic Scale Angelus