‘Big Data’ will transform food marketing

08/30/2013 09:36:00 AM
Bill Bishop and Kerry Tucker

“We’re using GPS to map fields to accurately measure yields and yield differences so we can be more precise about using inputs,” said Joe MacIlvaine of Paramount Farming Co., Bakersfield, Calif.

Paramount is developing technology to monitor in real time the moisture stress of 15 million trees a week — one tree at a time.

As we move to more precision farming, we’ll be generating a lot more data that’s intended to drive productivity, but with the advent of big data tools, agricultural businesses can now, for the first time, take advantage of 21st century marketing and merchandising methods. It’s a major opportunity for grower-shippers.

Stronger supplier-retail links open up all sorts of new possibilities for surprising and delighting shoppers with just what they want. For example, would we sell more pomegranates by building larger displays to drive impulse purchases? Are there better ways?

Retailers will have the data to confidently explain the care and handling their products receive while consumers can have validation of a product’s physical quality and that the way in which it was grown and brought to market embodies the values they hold.

There’s leverage in connecting what’s happening on the supply side with opportunities to drive demand.

Retailers, for example, are building store-specific assortments with their supply system, and, in the process, are driving increased sales and shopper satisfaction because customers are more likely to be able to find and buy what they’re looking for.

Today, best practice retailers are applying an inventory planning tool used for years for packed goods to produce (e.g., days of supply).

This tool allows the retailer to know how much of a particular produce item will be demanded over a day or two and creates the possibility for putting just that amount on display using basket merchandising or other devices to project abundance while limiting exposure to shrink.

There are opportunities to take a closer look at what’s happening on the farm with precision agriculture to see what data is being developed and used to improve productivity.

There’s also opportunity to identify where and how these new points of influence help us better understand and respond to the needs of 21st century shoppers.

Bill Bishop is chief architect of Brick Meets Click, Chicago, and a founding panelist with Food Foresight, a trends analysis process of the California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research and Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Inc. Bishop spoke about online retail trends at the 2013 Midwest Produce Expo. Kerry Tucker is chief executive officer of Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, a San Diego-based strategic planning and public relations firm.

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