We spent the first half of this week in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, FL at the Food Industry Suppliers Association (FISA) 2022 Planning meeting. While we spent much of the meeting planning the 2022 FISA Annual Conference, to be held October 6th-9th in Hilton Head, SC, participants also did a deep dive on their companies performance in 2021 and our areas of interest for 2022. So where are the industry’s leading distributors and manufacturers heads at? In this post, we’ll take a look at the four biggest trends we saw in 2021 and expect to continue into 2022.
Rising Tides Lift All Boats
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, the whole world stopped. Fortunately for our industry, that pause lasted about 3 weeks. And then everything went absolutely bonkers. Polling of distributors and manufacturers showed that almost everyone was wrapping up record years in 2021, with growth ranging from the low double digits to 150% of the prior year’s sales. Absolutely insane! Rather than changing everything, distributors and manufacturers alike reported an acceleration trends we’d been seeing for a few years. Whether it was process automation or excellent customer service mortared by beefed up inventories, industry participants who doubled down on pre-pandemic trends have reaped the benefits in 2020 and 2021.
During our time together, all attendees were asked to “rank” their areas of interest. The issue that polled the highest was Emerging Technology. Discussion of emerging technologies was wide ranging- touching on artificial intelligence (AI), automation, robotics, data analytics, IoT (internet of things), and SaaS (software as a service)- but seemed to revolve around using new technologies to better serve our customers and employees more efficient.
Second in our rankings was the current state of the economy. One thing I was surprised to hear was particularly impactful was the current interest rate environment. Distributors specifically are watching interest rates closely, with rising borrowing costs being on the top of everyone’s minds. Overall sentiment was bullish for 2022 but more cautious looking forward to 2023 and 2024.
Labor & Workforce
I think the only reason Labor & Workforce wasn’t “higher” on everyone’s radars is because it has been such an enduring issue for the last 3-5 years. It’s hard to find talented people to come to your organization. Period. And even more so in a raising wage environment. Across our membership, we are consistently hearing about prospective employees asking for 20-30% more than employees with 10+ years experience with the company. This puts employers in a difficult position attracting and retaining talent.
Compounding this is an increased demand for flexibility and a new generation of employees that aren’t as motivated by money. That can be hard for some of us old dogs to relate to. Today’s generation covet time off and schedule flexibility ahead of more “traditional” values, like cold hard cash or a big 401k match. Distributors and manufacturers alike need to respond to this by rethinking how we present our benefits programs and how we can evolve and change them to meet the current market demands.
As we wrap up the first month of 2022, it’s becoming increasingly clear that trends and opportunities we saw in 2020 and 2021 will continue. And while it will take plenty of hard work and relentless focus on our customers and our customer’s customers, there is no better space to be in than the high purity process space. If you are a manufacturer or distributor in our industry and would like to learn more about FISA or any of these topics, contact a Triplex Sales Engineer today or reach out to FISA here!