Technology has made significant improvements to the food supply chain and in doing so has also made food companies and their supply chain more visible to the public. Technology has improved communication channels in the supply chain, created efficiencies, and has changed the way food makes its way to the consumer. Producers and distributors take advantage of technology through solutions such as improved packaging systems and inventory controls through the internet and other solutions which allow for visibility in the food supply chain. Food companies now have the ability to monitor their inventory and make changes in real time. This allows companies to be proactive versus reactive to the consumer based on changing demands for food products and outside influencing factors to food products like weather and disease.

Another example of technology improvements in the food industry is the ability of the consumer to place orders online and receive their orders in a short period of time. Consumers can take advantage of online grocery shopping that can be picked up or dropped off within a few hours. With technology, consumers have the ability to get access to foods in a short turn around time without losing quality in the products.

Technology also plays a factor on sustainability of the food supply chain. There is a growing demand for more transparency to know where food is coming from, if it is organic, and what impact it has on a community and the environment. There are solutions in place to provide real time insight into the food supply chain and track such things as food origin and how product is shipped to ensure operations are lean and sustainable. Even investors in food companies are making it more apparent that they want transparency into the supply chain. Organizations like Oxfam are assisting with providing more visibility to the food supply chain by creating a scorecard “Behind the Brands”. This scorecard evaluates 10 of the largest food and drink companies and provides a score (1=poor and 10=good) to compare companies against one another on seven different themes: land, water, women, workers, farmers, climate change and transparency. A maximum score of 70 is possible for each company. These scores are based on public research and analysis of each of the top 10 companies. Some of the top companies that are evaluated include Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Mars and Danone. Based on the “Behind the Brands” scorecard, companies like Nestle and Mars are responding to the results and working towards improving their supply chain to ensure they are reducing any risk associated to workers and the environment. This scorecarding tool can also provide motivation to these large companies to continue to improve their supply chain and look to invest in additional technology such as solutions to track emissions.

The food industry continues to grow which means the supply chain is expanding with the need for more technology that provides immediate insight to ensure product is efficiently getting to the consumer. Food companies have to continue to find ways to manage their supply chain, reduce risk, provide transparency, ensure sustainability and address social issues. This is a large undertaking but companies in the food industry continue to push forward addressing these needs with some help from technology.
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Lindsey D.

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