Top of mind for decision makers

CIES, the global food business network, released its annual Top of Mind survey, affirming the No. 1 priority for the food industry in 2009 is the economy and consumer demand (up from No. 4 in 2008). The survey, in its 14th year, asked 596 retail and manufacturing decision makers across food and consumer goods industries in 54 countries for their insights between December 2008 and January 2009.

For the second year running, food safety is the No. 2 concern. “The return on investment on food safety is only apparent if there is an issue, yet the risk of ignoring it can be massively damaging to a brand. And therefore food safety is one of the top-of-mind concerns in the boardroom,” says Alan McClay, CEO of CIES. “With today’s global sourcing this becomes even more imperative, which is why even global competitors work together through the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) to improve food safety standards.”

No. 3 on the list is corporate responsibility. Many industry observers have asked whether the best laid sustainability plans of corporations would survive in a downturn. This survey suggests that it can indeed survive in a global recession. 

Businesses in all sectors across the globe are up against financial challenges as a result of the credit crunch, with exposure to volatility in currency value and stock prices adding to the current complexity. Retail and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies however, face additional challenges. The downward pressure on price associated with a recession coincides with upward pressure on the cost of raw materials in food and significant changes in consumer spending patterns, and (to some degree), away from national brands. Retailers must therefore re-evaluate their assortments and the size and scale of their store networks.

Priorities in order include: The economy and consumer demand; food safety; corporate responsibility; the competitive landscape; retailer-supplier relations; retail/brand offer (price-points); consumer health & nutrition; consumer marketing; technology & supply chain; human resources; internationalization; and regulations.