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Impact of Coronavirus on Food Processing and Food Safety

There are no more topical issues than the coronavirus pandemic. And while it seems the pandemic has affected everything in some way, our focus is Industrial Microbiology and one of the largest areas in IM is food safety.

So, working with Food Safety Magazine, we conducted an international survey to find out how food processors and service companies have been impacted, and what steps they have taken in response to the virus and mitigation efforts.  We conducted the survey on March 18, 2020 and received responses from more than 330 food processors and service companies from around the world.

Find out what we learned here: https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/food-safety-magazine-survey-results-impact-of-coronavirus-on-food-processing-and-food-safety/

 

 

Food Safety Priorities and Plans for 2020 – Part II

In our Food Safety Insights column in Food Safety Magazine’s Dec/Jan issue, we detailed what processors told us about their project plans for 2020. We received responses from more than 200 processors from around the world across all types of food products.

We are back this month in Food Safety Magazine’s Feb/Mar issue more details about what processor are focused on.

What do processors consider to be their most important initiatives for 2020?

Leafy Greens?  Environmental Monitoring?  Supply Chain?  Employee Training?  Food Fraud?

Find out in Food Safety Magazine here    Food Safety Priorities, Part II

 

Food Processors to focus on Microbiology and Training in 2020

There have been many changes to food processing since the signing of FSMA in 2011. Looking forward to a new year and a new decade, we wanted to see how processors are managing their new responsibilities  and what they see as their priorities for the next few years.

So, to find out, and as part of our Food Safety Insights program with Food Safety Magazine, we surveyed and/or interviewed more than 200 food processors from around the world. In order to avoid guiding the responses, we asked open-ended questions where one could offer any answer in any category of food safety or operations related to food processing. The first question, for example, was, “What would you say are your top priorities for food safety for 2020?”

It was also clear from the responses that issues related to microbiology, environmental monitoring, and pathogen control will continue to occupy an area of primary focus for many processors as roughly one in five mentioned some aspect of microbiology and control as a key area for investment in 2020. Some mentioned specific targets, such as Listeria and, specifically control of L. monocytogenes. Several processors in the meat and protein category also mentioned looking to improve their Salmonella and Campylobacter control programs, most likely in anticipation of impending regulatory and enforcement initiatives.

Training will also be a key area of focus (confirming what we have seen in previous studies) with about one in six citing training as a top priority. Many respondents indicated an intent to develop and incorporate new and improved training methods into their training programs. Some mentioned making better use of technology, including using more self-guided training programs that people can more easily access or use for refresher training as needed.

The full article can be found in the December/January issue for Food Safety Magazine – Food Safety Priorities – Part I

 

Note: In the data shown in Figure 3 from the article, “Regulatory Compliance” was cited second most after Microbiology.  Regulatory Compliance encompasses many issues and activities, including most of the other activities cited in the Figure.  From our interviews, however it was clear that Microbiology and Training were the two top distinct areas of focus.   

Review of Current Worldwide Microbiology Testing Methods and Markets in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Presented in 2019 at the 14th Annual PDA Global Conference on Pharmaceutical Microbiology, Bethesda MD

PDA Bethesda 2019

Strategic Consulting, Inc. was pleased to have had a poster presentation at the 14th Annual PDA Conference on Pharmaceutical Microbiology.  The poster presented the results of our work in studying and measuring the volume and market value of worldwide microbiological testing in the pharmaceutical sector.

Strategic Consulting, Inc. collected primary data on the number and types of tests conducted worldwide, using interviews and electronic surveys with key knowledgeable individuals at more than 300 pharmaceutical facilities in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia (incl. India and China).  The market at the end of 2018 was validated as consisting of a worldwide test volume of 415 million tests and a market value for test materials of $1.64 billion.

It is important to recognize that Strategic Consulting defines the worldwide pharma sector as including approximately 5,400 plants with 25 or more employees. Our research project focused only on these facilities and did not attempt to collect data from smaller facilities.  These facilities were found to conduct an average of approx. 77,000 tests per year, with a very wide range in test volumes with smaller facilities that may collect “thousands” of tests per year to the largest pharma plants that collect more than 1 million tests per year.

Due to the crucial nature of this testing, and the steady growth of the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, the growth of this market has continued steadily since we first started tracking this market in 1993.  The worldwide Pharma Sector has shown steady growth in test volume from 105 million tests in 1993, 206 million tests in 2003, 348 million tests in 2014 to our estimated volume of 415 million tests in 2018.  This growth is expected to continue at a slightly faster growth rate and reach 526 million tests in 2023.

The market value of Industrial Microbiology testing in the Pharma Sector has gained steadily from US$ 365 million in 1993, US$ 995 million in 2008, and now reaching over US$1.640 billion in 2018.  With a slightly decreasing rate of market value growth expected, due to developing competition that will add to pricing pressure, the Pharma Sector is projected to reach an estimated US $2.1 billion in market value by 2023.

What are Processors doing to combat Food Fraud?

What are Processors doing to combat Food Fraud?

Economically Motivated Adulteration (EMA) – otherwise known as Food Fraud – can be committed in many ways, including mislabeling, product substitutions, or product adulteration. There are no shortages of reports of this type of fraud with stories of sugar being added to honey, lower quality vegetable oil being misrepresented as extra virgin olive oil or horse meat being sold as beef being common in the popular press.

It may be tempting to think that because our food supply chain is so large and complex that some of these incidents occur simply through errors. If this were the case, we would often find a more expensive ingredient substituted for a lower quality one – and yet this is rarely found to happen.

In our article in the Oct/Nov issue of Food Safety Magazine, we asked processors what they were doing to combat food fraud.

 

As you can see in the full article, there were varying levels of concern about food fraud throughout different processor types and processors in the US and Canada seemed to be less concerned (or perhaps had better control) than those suppliers and processors outside of the US/Canada.

The processor vertical that reported a different response was Spices and Ingredients where we saw a much higher level of concern than in other food areas. It has been known that this market has had a history with EMA with many cases of substitutions and alterations. And “spices” are not a food type but a broad category with a far larger and more global supply chain than what most other processors deal with. This complexity provides many more “touch points” that are very difficult to track providing ample opportunities for someone tamper with a product.

When we asked about the testing that processors are doing, most reported that they are not testing or doing limited testing with the most common control being to deal only with known and trusted suppliers and make sure that they have Certificates of Analysis (CoA) from each of those suppliers.

Consistent to what we heard from Spices and Ingredient processors about risk, these processors are doing far more testing than other verticals and using more varied types of analytical tests.

Food fraud is not new, and it is not going to be eliminated any time soon. As supply chains get longer, more global and more complex there will be ever more opportunities for food fraud to occur and food companies will have to remain vigilant.

Find out more in the full article – Economically Motivated Adulteration: What Are Processors Doing to Combat Food Fraud? http://bit.ly/34raGxm

FSMA Intentional Adulteration Rule

The first compliance date for FSMA’s Intentional Adulteration Rule occurred in July 2019.  This compliance date applies to the largest facilities – >500 employees – with additional dates for smaller facilities coming in 2020 and 2021.  The FDA has also said that they will not commence with compliance inspections until March 2020 to give processors time to get ready.

In our article in the Aug/Sep Food Safety Magazine, we asked if processors felt they were ready for this new rule and most said they they were.  Greater than 70% of those US and Canadian companies with fewer than 500 employees, and nearly 90% of those with more than 500 employees reported being ready.

As with many of these new FDA rules, the processors said that they believed that they were ready but that they really would not know until they had their first inspection under the rule when they could find out if their interpretations matched – or at least were acceptable to – those of the regulators.

What were they most concerned about?  Most were worried about how broadly they needed to consider risk scenarios and how unlikely does a attack need to be before it no longer needs to be considered in their IA plan?  Do they need to address every scenario that a regulator can dream up?

We’ll find out more about how ready processors are come next year.  In the meantime find out more about what they are saying in our Food Safety Magazine article.  The link is below.

The FSMA Intentional Adulteration Rule Is Here: Are Processors Ready?   http://bit.ly/2HvimFE

The New Face of Sanitation Programs: New Rules, New Challenges

The October – November edition of Food Safety Insights is now available in Food Safety MagazineIn this version, we look at the Sanitation Programs of food processors, how they are changing under FSMA, what tools – new and traditional – are being used and how processors are reacting to the new FSMA FDA inspections.

Food Safety Insights is a cooperative program between the industry experts at Food Safety Magazine and the food safety market experts at Strategic Consulting to bring you the latest market research, insights and trends in food safety, analytical testing, diagnostics, laboratory services, sanitation and related topics in quality and safety testing and assurance in the food and beverage industry.

In each edition of Food Safety Magazine, the Food Safety Insights column will review a market topic in food safety.  Our insights come from primary research conducted each month with food processors and laboratories throughout the United States and around the world and provide you with up-to-date facts and figures not available anywhere else. This unique program will advance your understanding of food safety markets and where the best opportunities are developing.

Strategic Consulting Expands to Meet Needs of Industrial Diagnostics Market

Strategic Consulting, Inc., has added Robert J. Ferguson as Managing Director as it continues to expand to meet the growing demand for market intelligence and business strategy in the industrial diagnostics market.

Strategic Consulting, Inc. (SCI), the leading knowledge resource for business strategy and market intelligence in the industrial diagnostics industry, announced in advance of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Meeting that Robert J. Ferguson has joined the company as Managing Director. Founded in 1996 by President, Tom Weschler, Strategic Consulting focuses on microbiology-based, quality and safety testing in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries, and in environmental and industrial process water.

“In our 20-year history, we’ve seen tremendous growth and change in the industrial diagnostics industry, particularly in the food safety sector,” Mr. Weschler said. “With Bob Ferguson’s expertise in all aspects of the market, plus extensive experience in business management, strategy development and international business, SCI will be expanding its services and offering our clients an even deeper skill set and knowledge base.”

Market research is vital to the development of the industrial market, and continues to be in demand. In 2017, we anticipate delivery of new editions of our report on Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry as well as the Food Contract Lab Report.

With more than 30 years in industrial and environmental diagnostics and laboratory businesses, Mr. Ferguson has expertise in accelerating growth, international business development, business turnarounds, M&A, and new product development in businesses ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. Prior to joining SCI, Mr. Ferguson was Worldwide Vice President and General Manager for Becton Dickinson’s (BD) Industrial Microbiology and Clinical Media Business Unit; a $350M global business serving the clinical and industrial diagnostic markets in food safety, pharmaceutical, personal care and medical devices, with customers in more than 100 countries around the world.

Ferguson, Managing Director, Strategic Consulting, SCI

Robert J. Ferguson, Managing Director

“Having worked with Tom and Strategic Consulting for many years, I am well aware of SCI’s reputation as the leading market knowledge and strategy resource for industrial diagnostics, “Ferguson said. “I’m pleased to be joining SCI, and I look forward to contributing to and building on its outstanding work.”

In its 20-year history, SCI has built a reputation as the “go to” source in the industrial diagnostics space, in part through its 19 well-researched market reports, which are widely accepted by leading diagnostic manufacturers and investors as highly credible analyses of the industry. “SCI market reports having been developed through literally thousands of interviews with production companies worldwide in the food, pharmaceuticals and personal care industries,” Mr. Weschler said.

“Market research is vital to the development of the industrial market, and continues to be in demand,” Ferguson said. “In 2017, we anticipate delivery of new editions of our report on Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry as well as the Food Contract Lab Report.”

IMMR—4 is currently available online at www.strategic-consult.com, and a new edition of “Global Review of Microbiology Testing in the Industrial Market”(IMMR-5) will follow Food Micro—9 and FCLR—2, Mr. Ferguson said. SCI also will be expanding its capabilities to provide market research projects specific to individual client requirements.

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Strategic Consulting, Inc. (SCI) provides market reports and business consulting on microbiology-based quality and safety testing for food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, environmental water and industrial-process water. With more than 100 combined years of international management in the food safety testing and industrial diagnostics marketplaces, SCI’s principals have proven success in working with venture capital backed start-ups, publicly traded companies, technology acquisitions, and transformation of underachieving companies. For more information on Strategic Consulting and its current market reports, visit www.strategic-consult.com or call +1 443 244 5245.

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Faster, Better, Cheaper… What’s Most Important in a Pathogen Test?

SCI interviewed major food companies and food contract labs to determine what’s most important when choosing a pathogen test method.

For close to 20 years, Strategic Consulting (SCI) has been following the industrial microbiology market, and food safety testing applications in particular. As part of the data gathering for our most recent report, Industrial Microbiology Market Review, SCI interviewed 15 senior managers at major food companies and food contract labs (FCLs) to understand their priorities when choosing a pathogen diagnostic method. The interviews were roughly split between food companies and food contract labs.

SCI identified ten important attributes for evaluating a diagnostic method or instrument, and asked the interviewees to stack rank the top five items most important to them.

pathogen test, diagnostic methodThe three top-ranked choices were the same at both food companies and FCLs, with sensitivity/specificity the most important attribute. Second in importance was the ability of the method to be utilized in a broad range of food matrices. Ranking third was the cost-per-test for diagnostic reagents.

For food companies, time-to-results (TTR) was tied for third in the stack ranking, followed by ease-of-use (EOU)/automation in fifth place. Clearly food companies want quick results but only after they are assured that the pathogen diagnostic they are using provides accurate results and is able to work with a range of food types.

For food contract labs, the cost of the pathogen diagnostic instrument ranks fourth, and TTR is tied with the cost of labor per test for fifth. For FCLs, most of the key attributes in method selection are based on operational considerations, which makes perfect sense given testing is their business.

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Where Has the Growth in Food Safety Testing Gone?

Recent earnings reports from large industrial diagnostic companies in the food safety sector indicate a slowing of growth in this typically robust market. What’s going on? Has growth in the food safety testing market peaked, paused with the economic downturn, or just moved elsewhere?

Strategic Consulting (SCI) has just released our 19th market research report on the industrial microbiology market. Industrial Microbiology Market Review: Global Review of Microbiology Testing in the Industrial Market (IMMR-4) examines the industrial diagnostics market, which includes the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, personal care products, environmental water and industrial process sectors. You can read more about IMMR-4 here.

In addition to a detailed analysis by test volume, market value, organisms tested and methods used, IMMR-4 also provides a thorough discussion of market trends, drivers, and regulatory and topical issues specific to each sector. IMMR-4 also includes a business review of competition, consolidation and key success factors, and profiles 20 leading test manufacturers serving the industrial diagnostics market.

Extensive Primary Research in the Industrial Market

industrial market, primary research, strategic consultingIMMR-4 is based on extensive primary research into all aspects of the industrial microbiology market, including detailed interviews with producers, regulators and diagnostics competitors. SCI conducted more than 650 interviews in 23 countries around the world, with close to one-third of those interviews conducted in Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam) due to the region’s economic importance, in both production and consumption, in the industrial market sectors.

Interview data and other information were analyzed using a combined bottom-up and top-down approach. For example, overall market estimates were derived from the test volume numbers given by production companies, and then triangulated with other information gathered through SCI interviews and pubic information research.

In hundreds of interviews over the last two years, when QA/QC managers in production plants were asked about test volume growth, the general response was “yes, growth”. The drivers for test volume growth, such as new regulations and ongoing customer demand, are not consistent across all geographies however. North American and Asian/ROW plants report growth in test volumes, while test volume in European facilities remain flat. Although somewhat diminished, growth in micro test volumes continues even in the face of world economic issues.

In fact, the total market for industrial microbiology tests is projected to increase 25.7% over the next five years, from 2.0 billion tests in 2014 to 2.5 billion tests in 2019. This represents a 4.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in test volumes, which is slower than over the past 20 years. In other words, testing is increasing but not as robustly. With many production companies implementing process improvements over the last decade, growth in test volume may be tied to increased consumption alone going forward.

What’s Up with Recent Financial Reports from Diagnostics Companies?

Given the test volumes and projected growth reported by food production companies, I was a bit surprised by the financial reports of some key companies in the food safety testing market. Roka Bioscience had no new sales of its Atlas System last quarter. Neogen reported that their food safety business grew only marginally (3%) for the current quarter. And although we can’t isolate the food safety business of industry giant bioMérieux, overall their industrial business was flat for the first nine months of the year.

With leading businesses showing little or no growth in the sizeable food safety testing market, are we seeing a market that has become overcrowded, with little or no growth remaining? Based on financial reports, it’s hard to know specifically where growth remains and where things are flat or declining, as these large companies do not report on a geographic or product basis.

Is it time to recalibrate expectations for the traditionally robust food safety testing market? Has the food safety diagnostics business reached its peak in spite of major drivers such as continued media coverage of foodborne outbreaks, ongoing implementation of FSMA, industry-wide efforts such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), and the increased consumption of food that is sourced from all over the world?

Perhaps it’s time to recalibrate expectations for the traditionally robust food safety testing market.

I’m going to venture an uncharacteristic answer and say “perhaps”. Perhaps the increased focus on industry testing over the last ten years means that for the most part, major food producers have their testing programs (and thus volumes) in place. Perhaps the five-year economic malaise that has impacted so many countries and businesses is now affecting the until now unmatched growth engine of food safety diagnostics? Or perhaps it is all of the above.

Food Contract Labs Taking Market Share

One other possibility comes out of SCI’s recent review of a particular segment of the market, contract test labs. Over the past few years, there has been a shift in where analysis is performed with some sectors sending a greater percentage of samples outside to corporate facilities or contract testing labs. The Food Sector, driven by lab accreditation requirements among other factors, is utilizing contract labs more heavily in certain geographies.

Is competition for diagnostic manufacturers coming from businesses that had previously been among their best customers? Eurofins reported 15% growth in revenues for the first nine months of 2014. As food contract labs grow their market share in food safety testing, they are able to increase their influence over the test methods and products in use, and their purchase patterns can be different from food plant labs.

Stay tuned. As 2015 approaches, we’ll continue to watch, report and comment, here and on Linked In and Twitter.

And in the meantime, let us know what you think. Are the days of double-digit growth in food safety testing a thing of the past?

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