A discussion between two seasoned data professionals in the foodservice industry exploring the data management challenges faced by foodservice manufacturing companies and solutions that can help them uncover and leverage actionable insights from their data.

Data has become a crucial asset for organizations, offering invaluable insights that fuel growth and foster a competitive edge. However, foodservice manufacturing companies grapple with significant challenges in effectively managing and leveraging the vast amounts of data at their disposal.

In this conversation, Dean Rallo, Director of Client Solutions at Tibersoft and Lee Swearingin, a seasoned data consultant in the consumer-packaged goods industry, delve into the dynamics of data sources and management within foodservice manufacturing companies.

Dean Rallo: Lee, it’s great to have this opportunity to discuss data management challenges among foodservice manufacturers with you.

Lee Swearingin: It’s a pleasure to be here, Dean, and share insights on this topic with you.

Dean Rallo: Data comes from so many sources and in different, inconsistent formats. You can get ten of the same data sources, but you can also get a single velocity report which is in a totally different format. If you don’t normalize the data, then you can’t make proper comparisons and derive insights from it, or worse, an incomplete picture may lead you down the wrong path.

The first question I am curious about is, how many data sources, on average, do you think large foodservice manufacturing companies are dealing with today?

Lee Swearingin: The number of data sources varies depending on the company. In my experience, large foodservice manufacturers have a substantial amount of data and continually acquire new sources, in some cases, on a weekly basis. In general, these companies are investing in data and seeing the benefits but how many data sources they’re acquiring, and the frequency still varies from company to company.

Dean Rallo: It’s not surprising then that many of the foodservice manufacturing companies I speak to struggle with handling large quantities of data. They find it challenging to extract actionable insights. Have you found this to be a common issue? Do foodservice manufacturing companies often struggle to make data actionable?

Lee Swearingin: Yes, this is definitely a common challenge. There are a couple things I’ve noticed as being critical to an organization’s ability to use data to drive decision making and action. First, the organization must have clearly defined objectives around leveraging data to make decisions and communicate those objectives throughout the company. Second, visualization. Being able to distill vast amounts of data into something easily understandable for those using it requires visualization tools.

Dean Rallo: I agree that clear objectives and visualization tools are key to being able to uncover and act on insights that can impact the business, specifically when it comes to recovering lost revenue and driving new business.

What about data quality though? How can foodservice manufacturers trust that the insights they’re acting on are based on timely, complete and accurate data?

Lee Swearingin: Data completeness and quality are extremely important, yet the ability to handle and cleanse data depends on the organization’s maturity in data management. There are very large foodservice manufacturers that are very successful in this regard because they have prioritized it and allocated resources accordingly. Others that are less mature and don’t have a partner like Tibersoft supporting them to not only ensure data cleanliness but also enhance their datasets with additional attributes, missing locations, and so on run the risk of making decisions based on incomplete data.

Dean Rallo: That’s so true. It’s the combination of the foodservice organization’s cleaned data and the verified industry data from Tibersoft that yields accurate, complete insights that help these organizations identify double dips, understand market trends and take strategic action to protect revenue and increase sales. Their own data, combined with verified transactional data for the entire industry is the holy grail of actionable insights.

Lee Swearingin: Absolutely.

Dean Rallo: On the topic of increasing sales, do you think there is still a strong focus across the industry on comparing pre-COVID sales levels to current ones?

Lee Swearingin: There has been a strong focus on getting back to or surpassing pre-COVID sales levels over the past couple years. I think we’re finally seeing foodservice manufacturers get closer to pre-pandemic levels. The pandemic forced manufacturers to shift their priorities and use data to really understand where they see good growth opportunities for their products.

Dean Rallo: Talking about new priorities and opportunities, one of our most popular dashboards at Tibersoft is our whitespace dashboard. It helps our clients quickly identify what their clients are NOT buying. Do you think there’s more value in understanding what existing customers are not buying vs are buying?

Lee Swearingin: Being able to easily understand white space is incredibly valuable for sales teams, specifically whether existing customers are not buying products they should be buying because sometimes customers only purchase a subset of available products. Being able to assess white space opportunities, determine the size of the prize, and enable sales teams to make informed decisions can give manufacturers a significant edge. Looking at locations that buy with related products can also reveal valuable growth opportunities.

To be continued…

Stay tuned for part two of this series in which Dean Rallo and Lee Swearingin continue this insightful conversation.