Scenario planning for food chains

Updated: 2012-03-01 15:58

By Marcos Fava Neves (

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This article shares a method for scenario planning of food and agribusiness chains. It may be useful to exercise how will, for instance, the coffee chain, sugar chain, poultry chain look like in 2022 and how a company operating in this particular food chain can better position itself.

A food chain is an integrated network of companies operating in the flow of products, services, communications, payments and information required for a specific product to be built (transformed) and to reach the final consumer. An example will help to clarify: when talking about the coffee chain, we consider the agents coming from the input suppliers (fertilizers, farm machinery and others) towards the final consumer of coffee. In the middle of the chain we have coffee farmers, coffee roasting and processing industry, distributors, supermarkets, coffee shops and other agents.

The same applies to other food or agribusiness chains like poultry, beef, soybean, sugar-cane, orange juice, paper and pulp, leather, ethanol, tobacco and others. This method based on three phases is designed to predict how the chain will look like in a certain amount of time.

Phase 1 requires a design/description of the chain to understand how it looks like and who are the participants in each of its levels.

Phase 2 would involve the vision of the future. Here we should come backwards, starting the analysis from the final consumer (1), distribution (considering retailing, wholesaling, foodservice and other channels (2), food industry (does the secondary processing, more marketing activities – 3), agro-industry (primary processing level – 4), farming (5) and finally the input suppliers (6). Some chains have different organizational schemes, and even may have other level of participants. The thinking process is the same.

Some questions dealing with consumers are: How will the consumer look like? What will be value for them? How new products can affect their behavior? What are the trends in income (effects in developing and emerging countries)? Which changes will occur within buying behavior (conscious, environment, sustainable)? How demographic (urban, older, lonely) trends will affect consumption? How preferences (flavors) will change? How will be the acceptance to GMO’s and other technologies?

Some questions dealing with distribution are: What are the trends in retailing? Will retail concentration and global operation movement continue? What to expect from private labels? Which will be the effects of technology and price transparency? Which will be the policies toward supply chain (purchasing)? How competition among retailers will affect the chain? What will be the role of foodservice?

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