OFI, Olam Food Ingredients, is a leading supplier of raw materials and ingredients – cocoa, coffee, dairy, nuts and spices – to 8,000 food and beverage manufacturers around the world.
From commodity trader to value-added solution provider
To compete and win in an industry that deals in commodities, OFI needed to transform into a value-added solution provider. They added capabilities, especially in product development, and started sharing consumer insights with customers, to inspire new product concepts. Their mission: “making it real from plant to palate.”
Daniel Hitz, then VP of Business Development APAC at OFI, explains: “We started to look at our customers’ customers, the people in the street, you and me. What do we consume? What are we looking for? We needed an intimate understanding of the end-user. And with that, we can trade applications or innovations that address the consumer’s need-state.”
Adopting trendspotting technology
One team that quickly adopted this approach was the Cocoa Powder Division in APAC, which sells cocoa ingredients – cocoa powders, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor – to chocolate makers, confectioneries, bakeries, beverage makers and frozen dessert producers across China, Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia and India.
Charissa Leong, VP Sales, Cocoa Powers for APAC, knew that food manufacturers needed to address fast-evolving consumer preferences in health and wellness, sustainability and traceability. They used to rely mainly on market intelligence reports, but this was no longer enough to give their proposals a competitive edge.
“We used to go to research companies and ask for reports on past trends,” Charissa explains. “But I realized that it’s all about the past, there’s nothing about the future. All the reports are on last year’s trends, last year’s database. How can we prepare our customers better for the future?”
On Daniel’s recommendation, Charissa and her team evaluated Ai Palette to understand how the platform transforms data and identifies trends. “If you look at AI Palette, you can classify trends, and we can use the data for product applications. That was the wow factor for me.”
Their sales and marketing team is now armed with these insights, bringing it into sales proposals and marketing programs that provide added value and relevance to their customers.
A new commercial mindset and clear impact
AI Palette has been adopted widely across the organization. Ramki Prasad, OFI’s Commercial Lead for APAC, recognizes advanced consumer insights as a key differentiator for the company. He says: “The lifecycle of a trend is extremely short, and it is important for you to be leading this curve. It all depends on your ability to capture a sense of the market as quickly as you can, and be ready to act on a trend. Only then can you go back to your customers and get them to be a part of a trend.”
Using AI Palette has helped transform their commercial engagements in the key growth sectors of snacks and beverages. “In these two areas, if you back a winner, you gain high volume throughput. The biggest advantage by far is showing a potential customer that we understand their customer. To see the faces in a boardroom when you make a presentation to explain to them what their customer is actually looking for, versus what they’re actually providing to their customer, is pretty priceless, because you can’t really argue with the numbers and the facts.”