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Dairy Facts 2016

Dairy Forum Features Futurists in Four Fields

Jan 31, 2018
Dan O’Connor, President and CEO of RetailNet Group

Dairy Forum 2018 brought together more than 1,000 industry leaders last week, as well as futurists in the fields of retail, consumer research, business and politics to discuss the future of dairy. The prognosticators shared their predictions on what’s next for retail in the digital age, how products will resonate with evolving consumers, the metrics that will matter in the global economy and what factors will shape the midterm elections.

Data Will Rule Retailing

Dan O’Connor, president and CEO of RetailNet Group, discussed the past and present of retailing, saying that learning to recognize the paradigm shifts as they happen and quickly allocating resources to stay ahead of the curve can make all the difference. Using Netflix as an example, O’Connor explained how the company grew from a provider of DVDs through the mail to an online streaming powerhouse by focusing quickly on the trends and reallocating appropriate resources in real-time.

Today’s consumers live in an “and” world, not an “or” world, he said. They expect a wide range of choice in products as well as delivery options, and product-driven loyalty is important.

Marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba are matching buyers with sellers, and they have tremendous influence over consumer decisions. Artificial intelligence in these markets is key because “it’s the data that tells you what’s next,” O’Connor said. He predicts retailers will have to become technology companies to compete.

Read live tweets from O’Connor’s #DairyForum remarks.

New Era of Convenience

David Portalatin, vice president of industry analysis – food sector for The NPD Group, shared insights from the company’s “32nd Eating Patterns in America” report. Highlighting factors shaping current food and beverage consumption behavior in the United States, Portalatin said what consumers say they eat and what they actually eat are two different things.

He also showed that the bulk of the U.S. population is moving into age groups, specifically baby boomers and millennials, where consumption is no longer the driving demand.  “Flat is the new up,” he told attendees, explaining that, because retail spending is declining, companies with flat sales are most likely taking market share from competitors.

Portalatin had good news for the dairy industry, saying it still has a powerful role to play because protein is the number one nutrient consumers are seeking to add to their diets. Other good news? The most popular diet in America today is one that the consumer creates, and many varieties of dairy products are usually included.

“The majority of Americans have no idea what’s for dinner. This is an opportunity to be a solutions provider,” he said, adding that this would be an effective way for the dairy industry to remain competitive.

He pointed to research demonstrating that more meals are being eaten at home, including 47 percent of restaurant meals, and that digital food orders have increased 54 percent in the past two years. He told attendees to keep an eye on digital companies entering the retail and food-service sectors because their access to analytics makes them quick and successful competitors.

Read live tweets from Portalatin’s #DairyForum remarks.

Charting Better Leading Indicators

The world’s financial markets are more interconnected now than ever before, but the economic tools used to measure success and growth fall short in today’s dynamic global economy, according to Zachary Karabell, author of The Leading Indicators, who presented last week at Dairy Forum. He told attendees that although “there’s no foreseeable end to the trend of providing more and more stuff to more and more people at lower and lower costs,” traditional economic figures won’t show that because they measure scarcity, not abundance.

He noted that many traditional economic indicators, like the unemployment rate, are not capturing the fast-growing “gig economy,” which includes wages earned through Uber, the popular ride-sharing app, or AirBnB, the home-renting app.

To compete successfully in today’s swiftly changing marketplace, Karabell suggested that leaders craft their own indicators that will enable them to effectively evaluate their businesses.

Read live tweets from Karabell’s #DairyForum remarks.

What’s Shaping the Midterm Elections?

Dairy companies looking to make an impact in Washington, D.C., need to understand the political climate and know where the political winds are blowing, and renowned political forecaster Charlie Cook provided insights at Dairy Forum. Cook, who is editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report, discussed 2018’s biggest political milestone: the midterm elections.

Cook said determining who will control Congress after November will largely depend on three factors: who gets credit for a strong economy, which party brings the most intensity to the polls and the competitiveness of House seats with boundaries redrawn by Republican-controlled legislatures. Cook, whose presentation was full of historical anecdotes and statistics, noted that one or both houses of Congress have flipped to a different party four times in the last six midterm elections. He put the chances of the House flipping at about 60 percent and the Senate at only 35 percent.

He noted that midterm elections typically have 40 percent fewer voters than general elections, and they are usually seen as a referendum on the current president.

Read live tweets from Cook’s #DairyForum remarks.

The links to presentations for download are located under My Profile, My Meetings (under Personal Information), Meeting Documents (under Dairy Forum).

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