Unilever’s push to raise prices of its brands in Britain in response to a fall in the pound exposed the vulnerabilities of the company – and the wider consumer brands industry – that can no longer count on selling more goods to deliver revenue growth. A recent industry study revealed that the global growth for the majority of the core FMCG players has been anaemic, showing sluggish revenues coupled with worsening margin. For some, there is no longer a clear decision between prioritising revenue growth or margin growth – as the majority of the consumer goods players are struggling to achieve either.
Consumer Goods, as an industry, have ridden the wave of emerging market demand over the past decade to achieve growth, and the impact of recent currency fluctuations is like further pouring oil on the fire for some. Tesco’s CEO John Allan publicly warned shoppers last week “price rises are likely”. Was it such a surprise? We would say No! As much as this feels like a series of Brexit triggered events, the real issues are much deeper and more fundamental than a cyclical dip in industry performance or macroeconomic influence. Compared to other faster-growing industries, FMCG is classed as a traditional industry – indirectly it means not fast pace, not lean or not agile in responding to market demands.
‘Traditional’ organisations are struggling to handle the fragmentation of consumer demand across developed and emerging markets. In Western markets, shoppers and consumers are demanding products tailored to increasingly specific and fragmented needs – which could be in the form of new flavours, new formats, new price points or even new products!
So is anyone winning in the market? Of course there are some bright winners. Douglas Lamont, CEO of Coca-Cola owned Innocent, believes that its separation from the mothership since the 2009 acquisition has been essential to its continued success. “The relentless pace of change and fragmentation in the market requires the kind of agility we have. Moving fast is critical to our success. We see pace as de-risking, not adding risk.” At Ensere consulting, we have pinned the agility factor as one of the key contributors to the reasons behind those who are winning versus losing… even above Innovation! WHY? Organisations should be able to make quicker and better decisions to take advantage of the ANY opportunities in the market place. Is price increase better than pack changes? How do we respond to competitor’s promotional tactic? What price architects should we have? How to leverage trade terms to influence our customers? Where should we focus our innovation pipeline? Can factory meet our promotional demands? The list goes on and on. If your department requires even a month-long series of meetings across the organisation on what to do for these challenges, it is time to review how things are being done in the first place.