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San Francisco Consumer Products Executive Exchange Recap

At the end of April, Clarkston hosted its most recent Consumer Products Executive Exchange in San Francisco.  IT and business leaders from some of the most well known consumer brands in the Bay Area were in attendance.  The lively discussion around consumer products trends ranged from the economic trade-offs of global manufacturing and sourcing to retail execution and data programs.

Several of the leaders in attendance were particularly interested in “big data” and how analytics could drive revenue or business efficiencies.  Most agreed that although data is becoming more available, companies are still struggling with turning the data into actionable insights.  The group discussed a number of collaborative approaches their companies have undertaken with key retailers to obtain data and drive actions in a truly responsive manner.  The jury is still out as to whether these pilots will be rolled out on a larger scale or whether they will be more selectively leveraged where insights can be most easily gained.  This discussion was very much in line with Clarkston’s recent research on analytics.  Read more on industry benchmarks and the Analytics & Insights Indicator.

The group also discussed the current spate of mergers and acquisitions in the industry and its impact to business initiatives.  Many agreed that merged operations typically expect a short-term payoff in synergies.  Investments are often curtailed in hopes that the merged company can quickly assimilate the best practices of one or both of the companies.  Many companies seem to be realizing net value with this approach, as several attendees shared experiences where they offered “no-brainer” practices from previous roles that made immediate impact in their new company.

This brought us to some concluding sentiments about how much can be learned from each other and discussions like these.  The insights shared in this forum came from executives across the consumer products spectrum including food, beverage, confectionary, retail apparel, and packaging.  It was the right balance of similarities and differences that provided a great forum for discussion.