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Erica T. Kuhlmann Market Executive & Managing Director, Food, Consumer and Agribusiness Group
"The Now Normal"- I recently heard this phrase to describe where we are today. I believe this is an apt description and more appropriate than the proverbial The New Normal. We are all learning to adapt and change and, in some cases, transform our way of doing business. Employees are slowly, very slowly, returning to the workplace and consumers are quickly adapting. One thing is for sure – constant change and unforeseen disruptions requiring a nimble response are here to stay.
The food industry, however, is an essential business and employees in the industry never left the workplace. These people are heroes– continuing to work in the face of tremendous ambiguity and uncertainty. What I have found so amazing during this time, is the ability of food manufacturers, retailers and restaurateurs to pivot and innovate to meet demand and health requirements due to the pandemic.
COVID has dramatically changed the way we do business and upended our business models. More importantly, the consumer is truly at the center of all things food and beverage, like never before. Retailers have quickly adapted to e-commerce and curbside pick up to meet consumers’ demand for safety and convenience. Being shut-down overnight, restaurants moved to delivery and pick-up. Food service distributors have worked to repackage and relabel product to meet retail needs and provide product to consumers. Manufacturers have had to adjust to a whole host of dramatic challenges from sourcing raw materials to forecasting through never before seen demand swings. And all these stakeholders have had to react to keep their employees safe, informed, and effective.
Looking ahead, manufacturers are quickly developing digital strategies and investing in technology to go direct to consumers. The traditional model of manufacturer to wholesaler to distributor to retailer and finally to the consumer, is being upended. The new model, direct to consumer through digital is accelerating. The food industry is transforming.
So, what does this mean? Having access to an industry association like the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network has never been more key. CFBN provides a forum to exchange best practices, access industry expertise and develop new relationships. The membership is engaging, innovative and supportive; regularly sharing ideas and contacts to help food and beverage companies grow and succeed. In short – BMO and I have found the membership to be worthwhile and I’m confident you and your organization will as well.
And it doesn’t stop there, CFBN members give back to and invest in our community through Bigger Table, bringing together industry in a new and unique collaborations to help those in need.
The food and beverage sector is quickly changing to adapt to a COVID world. Changes we see today in consumers’ purchasing habits are here to stay. Join us in membership at CFBN to keep abreast of these trends and challenges and to develop new strategies for success. I’d be happy to discuss why I support CFBN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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