Digital Transformation Creating Opportunities to Drive Growth for CPGs

Digital transformation is connecting billions of people worldwide, empowering consumers and enabling consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to manage the enterprise more effectively and efficiently to drive growth, according to a new study published by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and PwC.

Called, “Thriving in a Connected World: US 2011 Food, Beverage, and Consumer Products Financial Performance Report,” its research includes analyses based on public information from 148 companies in the food, beverage, and consumer products sector.

Despite rising commodity costs, the CPG industry is now in recovery mode with companies focused on their growth agenda and looking to international expansion as an opportunity to enhance both the top and bottom lines, the report found. The value of shipments in the CPG industry rose 6 percent to almost $124 billion in 2010 versus the prior year. Across the board, financial performance generally improved over 2009, with the manufacturing sector achieving strong median one-year shareholder returns of 15 percent. In addition, median earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) growth overall improved from 4.3 percent to 12.9 percent.

The study noted that major opportunities for CPG companies are being created with digital technologies. “CPG companies of all sizes harnessed digital technologies in the past few years to become more productive and efficient,” said GMA president and CEO Pamela G. Bailey. “This study shows how food, beverage and consumer products manufacturers are leveraging innovation to optimize service to consumers and trading partners.”

Business mobility has been shown to boost productivity in sales, supply chains, distribution centers and stores, as well as to contribute to individual productivity. To determine the best use of mobile devices across the workforce, the report suggests that workforce productivity should be viewed through three lenses: mobility on the floor where workers use their digital devices for instant information, in the field where mobile employees can make decisions on the spot with their devices, and in flight where sales representatives, who historically travelled to each location to analyze performance, now use mobile technology to monitor activity, thereby increasing productivity. The report notes that as devices and wireless data networks grow, rich multimedia capabilities will continue to be added to business work flows and businesses will continue to capitalize on the opportunities mobile devices create within the workforce.

“Today’s consumers are more empowered with greater control of their shopping choices with the growing array of digital technologies like smart phones, tablets and social media,” said Susan McPartlin, PwC’s retail and consumer industry leader. “And they aren’t shy about posting their feelings online about products, where they literally are handing over reams of potential insights that can create a tremendous opportunity for CPG companies that can find the patterns in the noise. Just a few years ago, digital information meant one thing to senior executives – risk. However, companies are no longer just thinking ‘defense,’ they are using the digital data to advance their competitive position, help improve all aspects of operations and get smarter about international expansion plans.”

To this point, the report notes that currently, CPG companies lack detailed insights about consumers in China and other emerging markets. Many of the norms taken for granted in developed markets -- point-of-sale SKU numbers, predictable pricing models, even accurate information about how to reach a store or when it will be open -- cannot be assumed in emerging markets. According to the survey, connecting with consumers on their own digital terms will allow companies to learn how these markets work.

For the analysis, the GMA and PwC examined a variety of financial metrics to see which common characteristics link the CPG companies that performed best during the slow economic environment of 2010, and how those characteristics have changed during the past five years. The 148 CPG companies reviewed were sorted into performance quartiles and scored based on their relative performance across three metrics: economic profit spread, return on assets and free cash flow relative to sales.

Each group returned to growth in 2010 (2.9 percent for top performers and 1.5 percent for the bottom quartile), with the top quartile showing less volatility year-to-year and achieving more reliable sales growth over the long run. Most of the sales growth came organically and from acquisitions, with the strongest organic growth coming from emerging markets in Latin America and Asia. The report also found that top performing CPG companies are both generating and hoarding more cash than poorer performers – 18 percent cash flow to sales for the top performers versus 3.8 percent for the bottom quartile. Additionally, top performers paid out an average of four times more dividends per share during 2010 than the bottom performers.

“Our analysis found that CPG companies were hard pressed to generate overall sales growth in 2010; however, some companies still managed to produce very healthy margins, free cash flow and other financial results,” added Lisa Feigen Dugal, PwC’s North American advisory retail and consumer industry leader. “They made good progress building their brands in those fast-emerging markets, and were able to balance long-term investment with smart cost management in ways that still generated substantial dividends for shareholders. Yet CPG executives are guardedly optimistic, despite a fragile economy, high unemployment and volatile commodity prices. Companies should aggressively take these risks into account in their planning processes to better position themselves to take advantage of growth prospects that await them at home and abroad.”

Thriving in a Connected World will be presented via webcast by PwC and GMA Wednesday, June 29 at 1:30 p.m. EDT

To register, visit:

To download the complete report, visit:

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds