Abandon the Cookie Cutter: One Size Does NOT Fit All

July 3, 2019

By Amy McDonald, FONA President

During a forum at IFT this year, I was asked, “What’s different about today’s consumer environment than years past?” The answer to that question could take days, but there’s one aspect of the modern consumer that stands out for me. Today’s consumer environment is all about the fact that “one size fits all” is an idea that should stay in the past. We see the repercussions of this behavior in food & beverage – and hiring and growing talent in the workplace.

With a shorter-than-ever launch cycle, companies must adapt to survive. We must all flex to changing consumer interests. That includes a huge population that expects what they need when they need it, and not a moment later. Consumers demand and deserve to be seen as individuals. This concept is evident in a new generation of employees who want to thrive as themselves.

For manufacturing, keep refining

To succeed in today’s consumer environment, manufacturers need the ability to iterate. I’ve talked about the benefits of failure before. The ability to try, fail, iterate and try again — that iterative process is missing in so many business today.

If you’re building products or strategy around demographic assumptions, you’re creating mediocrity instead of excellence. All Baby Boomers do not behave the same, nor do Millennials. Today’s consumers strive to break out of those defined boxes.

Consumers want to be a part of the process.

There’s no place for one-size-fits-all in the future consumer environment. Everyone wants to be heard, to be seen. Crowdsourcing and sharing your opinion – it’s a way of sharing a part of yourself. My advice is to make consumers a part of the conversation. FONA’s Shopper Panel and consumer surveys are successful and helpful to our customers because of an active base of people who are happy to share their viewpoints. And, you gain a following when you let consumers join in the creative process.

Iterative learning + Consumer Feedback = Flexibility.

The future of food & beverage manufacturing will see shorter runs and more flexible lines. The companies that grow will be the ones that attempt many SKUs because they will be willing to fail a few times in order to hit the mark. Growth will rely on flexibility, speed, and an ear for consumer needs.

For hiring, see & enable the person

What’s remarkable are the parallels between the consumer environment, and employee needs. It makes sense, of course! Consumers are employees and employees are consumers. Those internal needs don’t go away when we clock in or join our first meeting of the day. The best workplaces will be the ones who flex with the times – and they’ll do it by enabling their employees.

Employees deserve to be heard. Engagement surveys, town halls, open-book communication – all of these (and more) are what today’s employees demand, and with good reason! The people in today’s workplace need a variety of outlets to share their viewpoints and receive information.

Diversity strengthens a workplace. To grow and thrive, business leadership must embrace a diversity of thoughts, backgrounds and viewpoints. Gone are the days of cookie cutter management. Individuals thrive when they’re enabled to grow and thrive and contribute as themselves. Just think, we’re in a world where college students can choose and develop their own majors. Workplace is strengthened by lifting up and enabling the best in the person --- and not only as “an employee.”

Moving Forward

How does this play a role in your business? Are you finding your manufacturing efforts are becoming more nimble? Are your employees making their voices heard in new and unexpected ways?

We’re always happy to hear from you. Visit www.fona.com/chat, or email feedback@fona.com.

Thanks for reading,