Of Note: Remembering There's "Fast" in Fast-Moving Consumer Goods

Consumer goods has a reputation for being a sleepy industry. However, the numbers paint a different picture. Revenues grew 7% annually from 2004 through 2014, according to IHS Global Limited, which is better than the performance in technology, telecom, media, financial services, healthcare and a few other industries. In addition to impressive revenue growth, industry players have jockeyed for positions: The list of the top 20 companies by market capitalization resembles a game of musical chairs over the years. Nearly half of the highest-valued consumer goods companies from 2005 no longer rank in the top 20. For example, Anheuser Busch was number 10 in 1999; in its new incarnation as AB InBev it now ranks 4. Sara Lee (the 14th largest consumer goods company by market cap in 1999) is no longer on the list.

The rapid change of order shows how the industry constantly moves to address shifting consumer needs, shopping behaviors and demographics. The lineup on a typical cooler beverage shelf today would have been virtually unrecognizable 15 years ago, with energy drinks, coconut water, kombucha tea, iced cappuccinos and the like. Knowing how to keep those shelves stocked is a science. In the video on perfecting sales execution, Marcello Tripodo explains the scientific methodology to increase market share and profits by targeting the right stores and the right products and taking a disciplined approach to supporting sales execution.

There’s nothing sleepy about channel growth either. Fully 20% of personal care products purchases in China and 9% of wine purchases in Europe now are made online, according to industry experts and Bain analysis. In India—where Bain partnered with Google to survey approximately 1,600 “lead” consumers and spoke with several FMCG companies, retailers and other ecosystem players—e-commerce is the future too. Internet penetration is only one-third of that in the other three BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia and China), but more than 650 million Indians will be online by 2020.

The resulting report, “Adding to cart: Digital’s impact on consumer goods in India,” spells out what’s at stake for FMCG businesses and the need to act quickly. Few companies have articulated a digital strategy, it finds, and most are not fully using digital technology across the value chain. Some industry leaders have begun to experiment and innovate, but even they seem to systematically underestimate the power and potential of the Internet to transform businesses.

And while brands enjoy 10-year high operating margins and capture a growing portion of the industry profit pool, companies need to prepare now for the challenges they will face in the years ahead—everything from managing the complexity of their growing scale to anticipating the increasing presence and power of activist investors. We spell out five ways to get in shape for what lies ahead in the Bain Brief “Winning with brands”

Clearly, this is a dynamic industry.


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