Data Sharing Between Food Tech Group Companies: The Cantilever Strategy

February 18 2021

Contributed by: Chris Martin, Managing Director, Food Tech Group

The food supply chain directly affects all of us. Socrates told us to let food be thy medicine. History tells us that societies rise and fall with their food supplies. Bombs and bullets get the headlines, but what do we need three times a day?

Without question, awareness of our food system’s frailties has been heightened in the last year. The Food Tech Group companies have been thinking for a long time on making the food supply better. Now, that thinking has become a reality: we call it the Cantilever Strategy.

“Sharing data just to get ‘visibility’ isn’t enough.”

Why doesn’t the food system, particularly the foodservice channel, share data well? The simplistic answer is that this industry has a complicated ecosystem of supply chain relationships. Manufacturers and Distributors heckle over who owns the end customer. The food tech vendors are not well incented to help everybody get along. The few data standards we have are not easy to implement. The average EDI 867 project takes 18 months!

Vendors also tend only to serve one link - think supplier or customer - in the supply chain. At Tibersoft, I proved this to myself the hard way. Loyalties must be crystal clear, or the market will not fully support you, and success will hang in the balance.

So here is the proposition: join the Food Tech Group - a buy and hold investor - and when a client needs to share data across the supply chain, across the buyer-seller relationship, collaborate with your sister Food Tech Group companies to unlock value for your respective clients. The head of sales at a household name beverage manufacturer gives a great example. “We craft a very sustainable product, but aside from a few certifications on our website, we really can’t easily prove this to customers.” After a little priming on how Cantilever might work, he continued, “if the customer could easily find out the fruit in this beverage came from a farmer a few towns away, that would be a game-changer.”

I like this potential application of the Cantilever strategy because it directly solves a business challenge. One company might handle the grower.
management data (think ExtendAg). Another could manage the go-to-market data (think Tibersoft). Add a restaurant tech company that helps their operator clients connect this information with patrons.

This data sharing could take many different forms, but it will always be customer-driven. And sharing data to get visibility is not enough. The feature-driven from this data has to be specific. Since that data feed is proprietary, that feature could feed the “special sauce.” Individual applications of this strategy are in the formative stages now. Will this strategy see progress in traceability, promotion measurement, food quality tracking? It will be fun to see how this evolves.