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Report: Happy days are here again for CPG companies, thanks to digital technology use

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The vitality of consumer packaged goods companies is healthy again, according to a new report issued by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers on Wednesday.

Despite rising commodity costs, the CPG industry now is in recovery mode with companies refocused on a growth agenda and looking to international expansion as an opportunity to enhance both the top and bottom lines, according to the report, titled “Thriving in a Connected World.” The value of shipments in the CPG industry rose 6% to almost $124 billion in 2010 versus the prior year. Across the board, financial performance generally improved over 2009, with the manufacturing sector achieving strong median one-year shareholder returns of 15%. In addition, median earnings before interest and taxes growth overall improved from 4.3% to 12.9%.

A lot of this growth can be traced to CPG companies’ incorporation of digital technologies. “CPG companies of all sizes harnessed digital technologies in the past few years to become more productive and efficient,” GMA president and CEO Pamela Bailey said. “This study shows how food, beverage and consumer products manufacturers are leveraging innovation to optimize service to consumers and trading partners.”

To determine the best use of mobile devices across the workforce, the report suggested that workforce productivity should be viewed through three lenses: mobility on the floor where workers use their digital devices for instant information, in the field where mobile employees can make decisions on the spot with their devices and in flight where sales representatives, who historically travel to each location to analyze performance, now use mobile technology to monitor activity. The report also noted that as devices and wireless data networks grow, rich multimedia capabilities will continue to be added to business workflows, and businesses will continue to capitalize on the opportunities mobile devices create within the workforce.

”Today’s consumers are more empowered with greater control of their shopping choices with the growing array of digital technologies like smartphones, tablets and social media,” added Susan McPartlin, PwC’s retail and consumer industry leader. “And they aren’t shy about posting their feelings online about products, where they literally are handing over reams of potential insights that can create a tremendous opportunity for CPG companies that can find the patterns in the noise.”

"Thriving in a Connected World" will be presented via webcast by PwC and GMA June 29 at 1:30 p.m. EST. Click here for registration information.

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ShedRain rolls out new umbrella innovations

BY Allison Cerra

PORTLAND, Ore. — ShedRain has introduced new umbrellas designed to protect users from all types of weather.

As we enter the warm summer months, ShedRain is offering users a way to shed harmful sun rays and protect themselves from the rain with the new ShedRays umbrella, which touts an ultraviolet protection factor of 50+, ShedRain said.

ShedRain also announced that it has expanded its WalkSafe line of products with umbrellas just for kids. The WalkSafe kids’ umbrellas feature 3M Scotchlite reflective material affixed to each panel to assure the users are seen from every angle. What’s more, the umbrellas are available in six prints and smaller sizes.

In addition to the kids’ line of WalkSafe products, ShedRain also is helping protect golfers from the dreariest days on the course with a vented manual golf umbrella. Similar to other WalkSafe products, the golf umbrella also features 3M Scotchlite reflective material that adorns each panel of the umbrella.

ShedRain umbrellas are available online and in various retailers.

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DSN video captures CES healthcare buzz

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — An unprecedented 100-plus vendors presented the latest in healthcare technology earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show. CES added the healthcare-driven Digital Health Pavilion to its show some years ago, and the number of exhibitors participating continues to increase.

“There’s definitely a distinct interest now from a consumer perspective around health, and we’re starting to see that grow,” Continua Health executive director Chuck Parker told Drug Store News.

Drug Store News recently caught up with Colleen Lerro, Consumer Electronics Association communications specialist and fitness instructor, in a video interview to talk about some of the health-related electronics that were showcased this year. 
In addition to the hot health products identified by Lerro, Continua Health Alliance member ZyXEL introduced its Smart Home Gateway, a battery-powered 3G wireless platform for health monitoring and assisted living solutions that was recognized as a CES Innovations Honoree.

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