The food and beverage marketplace is evolving – rapidly and often unpredictably. With at-home food consumption still strong across the world, manufacturers have increased production and turned to new co-packing partners to meet demand coming from the retail sector. At the same time, they must plan for the eventual and likely surging increase in foodservice/hospitality when pandemic-related restrictions are lifted. Even as they scale up and plan for the future in this omnichannel environment, manufacturers must meet ever-stringent food safety standards and assure quality control in the food industry. Advanced x-ray systems help manufacturers stay profitable in this evolving marketplace, by automatically inspecting and rejecting physical contaminants, performing key food quality control checks and providing item-level traceability. Inspection technologies aren’t just a product safeguard – x-ray machines also protect a business’s bottom line.
The pandemic has certainly turned many consumers’ worlds upside down, including their buying behaviors. For example, the shift to omnichannel buying – already trending that way – sped up and became more pronounced in the past year.
Going forward, people will continue to shop in new ways, whether it’s buying groceries via e-commerce, expecting their favorite restaurant to deliver prepared meals or ordering from ghost kitchens The lines between retail and foodservice and between online and brick-and-mortar locations will continue to blur.
These changes have impacted many aspects of the supply chain. As a food and beverage manufacturer, you are likely running your business different than you did pre-COVID, like adding entirely new product lines, implementing new practices to control food safety hazards and establishing relationships with new customers.
Listening to our own customers in recent months, we’ve heard a similar, steady drumbeat of concern: how can we maintain profitability in this re-shaped, competitive and still-uncertain marketplace? One way to stay on course is through the use of x-ray technology as a proactive and protective measure.
Advanced inspection systems help processors and manufacturers in three crucial ways:
- Preserving precious uptime: Ongoing strong demand in the retail sector and soon-to-be strong demand in a returning foodservice marketplace has affected manufacturers’ pace of production and their use of co-packers to fulfil orders. X-ray machines keep the pace running quickly and smoothly by automatically detecting and removing food safety hazards at a high throughput and conducting multiple food quality control checks to root out products that do not meet quality standards. One prepared food company that uses Eagle x-ray machines reports that productivity has increased by 50% and yield improved by 0.5% since the system was installed, saving $75,000 annually. For those with diverse product portfolios, Eagle offers versatile solutions, such as machines with multi-lane options and a product switch feature that scans a package’s bar code to automatically adjust inspection parameters on the fly. A manufacturer can bolster profitability by using just one machine to conduct tasks quickly and reliably. This type of streamlining is especially helpful at a time when companies have had to create new lines, add shifts or change procedures due to COVID-19 restrictions.
- Opening the door to new business opportunities: The pandemic has led many companies to move their focus from foodservice to retail, leading to new customer partnerships. In addition, the events and changed behaviors of the past year have widened the market for prepared foods and caused greater interest in smaller or single portion sizes. Some manufacturers are making dramatic changes, such as a seafood company that is now producing soup as a copacker in addition to supplying ingredients to foodservice operators. By having preventive measures like x-ray in place, manufacturers can protect their full range of products and also verify their commitment to food safety standards to both existing and new customers. In this new era, some retailers are putting into place their own strict codes of practice; Walmart, for example, requires its suppliers to pass audits by company-approved services. We expect more retailers to take that approach in the future.
- Easing labor challenges: The tight labor market of the past few years was followed by illness-related absences and shortages. In this ongoing labor crunch, multifunctional x-ray machines can be deployed to automatically check for safety and quality issues and help companies automate to do more tasks at once. One of our customers reported that its multifunctional x-ray system has saved them substantial labor costs by concentrating inspection into a single point. This, too, keeps a lid on costs and helps preserve profitability.
As the global marketplace for food and beverages expands to more channels, it’s also becoming more transparent. While x-ray machines are a signal to retailers, foodservice operators and distributors that a manufacturer takes food safety seriously, more companies are also telling their consumers that they are using such technologies to keep their products safe and ensuring that they are the highest quality.