There's an interesting story from Bloomberg (which you can read at our sister paper Crain's Chicago Business) about how new data technology and e-commerce are influencing business decisions about food products and food packaging.
Food giants such as Kraft Heinz Co. and Conagra Brands Inc. are using data collected from online orders, social media and even General Mills Co.'s "Boxtops for Education" program to drive a rapid response to consumer preferences.
For Kraft Heinz, that meant creating a "big bowl" of microwaveable macaroni and cheese when it spotted trending comments from teenagers who wanted more than the standard 2.05-ounce bowls. The new 3.5-ounce product was on shelves within months. While the Bloomberg story credits Kraft Heinz with moving swiftly, obviously its packaging suppliers likewise had to adapt quickly.
"For a food brand it's really no longer about who has the biggest factory, or who has the biggest media budget," Taylor Smith, a partner at Boston Consulting Group, told Bloomberg. "It's about what data you have and how you use it."
Take the boxtops program from General Mills as an example of how big companies are accessing new data from customers. Rather than tearing off the physical boxtop, participating consumers scan their receipt. It's easier for them, and the cereal maker now can see other items purchased and use that information in product development.
Is that kind of creepy? Oh yes. But the information isn't much different from what store rewards programs already do, but in this case rather than the data going to the store for customized coupons, it's going into product development that can influence packaging produced by molders around the country.