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Food Industry Eyes “Big Data” for New Answers

HOUSTON, March 15, 2016  Big data is getting big buzz among food industry leaders as a potential game changer in the critical arenas of food safety, product development and supply chain management.

Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created in our digital society. Big data refers to our ability – or lack thereof – to harness that information for practical use, whether in a social or economic context.

“For food industry organizations, the potential is enormous,” says Kathleen Wybourn, Food & Beverage Director for DNV GL. “The sourcing, production and delivery of food and beverage products, worldwide, generates enormous volumes of data. The last 20 years of tech innovation has focused on collecting that data. The next 20 years will be the revolution – which has already begun – in using that information to make the food supply safer and the businesses involved more efficient.”

Ms. Wybourn’s views reflect those of many food industry leaders at the recent 2016 GFSI Global Food Safety Conference, where more than a 1000 professionals gathered to address the most pressing challenges in food safety and food security.

As a leading certification body for the GFSI food safety certification programs, DNV GL is exploring new applications of big data to advance the goals of a safer, more reliable food supply. DNV GL itself is the steward of deep data repositories generated by the auditing process of GFSI certification. This information may hold keys to helping food organizations to see safety hazards before they occur, or prevent public health impact from hazards that do defy protective measures.

“In some ways, big data is the key to what we say as a company, which is ‘safer, smarter, greener,'” says Ms. Wybourn.

Is the industry ready to take advantage?

In an effort to see how ready the food industry really is to take action, DNV GL has conducted a wide-ranging survey of big data in various industries, including food and beverage. The results are slated for release on April 13.

A sneak preview of findings shows that the food and beverage industry is ahead of most others in its approach to big data. It is on par with the market when it comes to exploring big data concepts in their current business, and more than 25% of the respondents indicate that big data application has already boosted their productivity and value creation. Almost 50% expect that big data will impact their company in the near future, and overall he food and beverage companies indicate fewer barriers in taking advantage. Food companies are also more optimistic than the total sample, as more food and beverage companies indicate that big data capabilities will be important for them in the future.