Fruits and vegetables are important sources of vitamins, essential minerals and fibre. The production of fruits and vegetables have shown an increasing trend over the last decade from 2011 to 2020 (Fig. 1), which is evident owing to consumer awareness about the benefits of fruits and vegetables. The total fruit production had reached 887.0 million tonnes during the year 2020 as against 757.4 million tonnes in 2011. As far as the production of fruits is concerned, the world had observed a growth of 17.1%, with an average growth rate of 1.8% per annum from 2011 – 2020. The maximum growth rate that was achieved was observed during the period 2012-2013, amounting to 31.5 million tonnes and 4.1%, while the lowest growth rate was observed during the period 2015-16 , amounting to 0.7 million tonnes and 0.1% only. The vegetable production had been higher as compared to fruits every year starting from 2011 to 2020 and had reached 1148.4 million tonnes during the year 2020 as against 972.1 million tonnes that was recorded during the year 2011 (FAOSTAT, 2022). In the production of vegetables, the world has observed a growth rate of 18.1%, with an average growth rate of 1.9% per annum from 2011–2020. The maximum increase was observed during the period 2013-14, amounting to 34.4 million tonnes and 3.4%, while the minimum growth was observed during the period 2017-18, amounting to 1.7 million tonnes with an average growth rate of only 0.2%. The increased level of technology, sound inputs and handling practices had been some of the critical factors that had contributed to continuous growth in the production of fruits and vegetables during the period 2011–2020.
Information Technology has played an important role by touching every aspect of our lives. Its role in the Fruit and Vegetable Industry has become crucial for handling large volumes of perishables, which require timely delivery of perishables to the consumers for consumption after processing them by utilizing the suitable processing technologies. The vital role played by Information Technology in Fruit and Vegetable Processing includes marketing of products through websites, social media, apps, including by the offering of loyalty programs and various other tools for the effective handling and utilization of fruits and vegetables that are being produced on a daily basis.
1. Application of IT in Marketing of Food Products
There has been a significant change in the ways in which the Food Businesses have been advertising their products to the consumers in the market. With the evolution of the IT industry, the Food Industry has resorted to greater promotion of their brands and their products on social media, blogs, etc. With the development of the IT industry, customers have also become conscious of the ingredients used, levels of nutrition in a product, the product source, presence of harmful or chemical elements, including the cooking process.
COVID-19 has drastically impacted the lifestyle of millions of people across the globe and food transparency has become a vital part of our lives. The Food Industry has been able to utilize the available IT infrastructure to offer more personalized products and recommendations to their customers. Many companies have been taking the lead by creating their own websites, mobile apps, including having a presence in various social media platforms, apart from offering customer loyalty programs and maintaining effective communication with customers.
The website provides an identity to any business on the Internet. Companies have started gravitating towards interactive websites by utilizing Smart Artificial Intelligence and delivering customized content to customers. Websites vary from simple to complex based on the type of business. Websites also have a suggestions and complaints page, which indirectly helps in saving the reputation of businesses operating in the Industry. The compliments received from this page can be utilized to provide incentives, while complaints should be acted upon on a timely basis, so that such complaints do not go viral on the digital platforms.
A new and simple way of connection:
Restaurants have been connecting with customers over social media by posting menus, preparation videos, mini vlogs, etc. Social Media has become an open sky for industries with limitless advertising opportunities. They have resorted to indirect advertising by offering perks like discounts and freebies to the customers, who share their posts and help in indirectly promoting the company by providing it with enough publicity. Customer reviews are considered trustworthy, as they cover more aspects of a product than the traditional advertisements of the product.
Mobile Apps – Easy to connect and process:
With the human population becoming busier day by day, the demand for a one-stop solution for seeking information and purchasing products has increased exponentially, giving rise to mobile apps. The restaurant industry has utilized mobile apps by enabling ordering of products through apps and payments online. Further, third-party apps ex (Dineout) have also entered the race, wherein, the customer can not only seek the info and menu of a particular restaurant, but can also reserve tables, find promotional discounts and much more. Food Delivery apps have gained the customer’s trust; These apps can facilitate takeaways and deliveries.
Loyalty Programs – A Way to Retain Consumers:
Loyalty Programs had been introduced, so that it can create a positive impact in the minds of the customer about the service provider. Physical cards are being issued and special perks could be claimed by customers using their cards. The problem with the cards were that when a customer forgets to bring his card, the service provider will not be able to provide the perks, which could impact the consumer negatively about the brand and this would be opposed , to the primary motive of offering Loyalty Programs to the consumers. With advancements in technology, these physical cards have been replaced by electronic cards and now the customers would be able to avail of such loyalty benefits anytime.
2. Information Technology Tools for the Food Industry
What differentiates a Company in the Food Industry?
The simple answer is service quality. The Food Industry requires much labour and the labourers are humans; a human’s health and his mental state could act as a constraint for businesses operating in the Industry. Further, there is always a chance of human error that could occur while operating in the Food Industry. Information Technology is now being widely applied by the Food Industry to minimize limitations and human errors, from front-end operations such as food ordering and billing to industry-grade mixers. The Food Sector has increasingly been using Information Technology at every stage, from pre-purchase marketing to post-purchase analysis. Statistical Software can also benefit food businesses that collect data-set containing sales data, purchases, inventory, etc. This data can help the company create strategies in order to maximize its profits.
Point of Sale System and Reservation System:
A Point of Sale System is the most commonly used Eatery Management System. It has a layout of the seat matrix in the system and makes ordering and billing much more manageable. POS system makes seating arrangements easier. A POS system can be synced over a cloud and third-party service providers can be used to facilitate online table reservations. POS systems can also be used to make orders via mobile phones; ordering via mobile phones was widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online Table Reserving system avoids overcrowding at a restaurant.
Placing Orders – Never Been so Easy
The customized order from various consumers or stakeholders in a pre-defined menu is accepted directly and can immediately be directly transmitted to the processing areas for taking necessary action. The inventory of ingredients can also be checked and the addition and deletion of ingredients can be conveyed to the procurement section. The billing section also obtains the information for the preparation of invoices. Revision in terms of deletion or adding is always possible and conveyed to the processors to take up the revized task. The management also obtains crisp information about the orders, which can further be analyzed for deciding the policies for any possible alterations to maximize profits.
Billing and Payment – Smooth, Convenient and Safe
The electronic copy of the draft bill can be shared with the application and finalized after getting consent from the customers. Digital payment platforms like Gpay, PhonePe, PayTM and BHIM are gaining popularity in transacting from the bank directly along with their E-wallets. The ICT-based digital transactions have also made the tracking of expenses easily accessible. The other facilities, such as sharing the bills through splitting also make the transactions easier.
3. Futuristic Opportunities Ahead
Information technological advancements such as the Internet of things (IoT), Cloud computing, Big data management, etc., have a great potential to enhance the operational efficiencies in the Food Processing Industry by ensuring food safety, transparency and logistics management to minimize the fruit and vegetable waste.
IoT refers to the network among various devices, which have the capability to transfer the data to obtain the desired information for acquisition, monitoring and controlling multiple food processing activities. The fruits and vegetables are usually stored at lower refrigeration temperatures during transportation and storage. Even pasteurized foods are required to be stored at a lower temperature, which can easily be measured and conveyed to the control centers. The safety of the food according to National and International Standards and Regulations can be assured using this technology.
The use of various sensors for obtaining the information and activating the necessary controls makes the food quality assured and consistent, impacting consumer confidence in buying the product. Incorporating a global positioning system also provides information about the delivery of goods in order to plan the processes precisely. The right intervention of IoT reduces the cost in the supply chain and reduces food wastage.
Cloud computing refers to a network of remotely hosted servers on the internet for processing the data, which make it easier to share the useful data among various IT tools. It helps food processing companies to identify consumer needs. It also offers excellent flexibility in speed and capacity for judicious use of resources. These also help small-scale units to minimize the cost of hardware and software. However, concerns such as malicious information, shared environment, data loss or leakage, insecure interfaces, auditing and legal compliances are still required to be properly addressed, while using cloud computing in the Food Processing Sector.
Big data management involves the organizing, administering and handling of a massive amount of information that is generated from a variety of sources. The data may be unstructured, semi-structured or structured and it may be generated using various hardware and through a Point of Sale system, like customer preference, age, places, etc. Customer management also collects the data and stores it. The customer preferences may be stored and their spending habits and preferences allow the processor to understand the demand and act accordingly.
Customer information would also enable companies to promote new products according to their tastes and preferences. The Fruit and Vegetable Processing Industry can also understand the sale pattern and arrange the processing facilities as per the future demands of the market. The planning of marketing strategies would also require various inputs collected about the consumer preferences and behaviour. This will also help in creating short-term and long-term production as well as marketing strategies to make the business effective. However, the reliability of data and big data analytics are also of a significant concern that is required to be addressed to utilize big data effectively.
With the production of fruits and vegetables observing an increasing trend recently, it has forced Fruits and Vegetables Processing Industries to process for reducing post-harvest losses. Information Technology interventions in the Food Processing Industry is certainly expected to offer many potential benefits for the food manufacturers, that can help in improving customer service efficiency and satisfaction. The traditional marketing strategies must also be revisited to suit the customer use pattern. Using futuristic IoT, cloud computing and big data management can act as a big support for the Fruit and Vegetable Processing Industry to ensure effective management as well as maximization of profits.
1. The Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT), (2022).
Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations,
2. Tai, C.L.P., Sou, R.O.P. & Lam, C.C.C. (2020). The role of information technology in the Food Industry, In Food and Society, Ed. Gibson, M., Academic Press, 393-404.
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