Here is a text a I wrote some time ago for a project and I thought this would be of interest for a wider audience as well. It is about competitive intelligence especially in the entomology industry. What are the aspects you should look into and how to collect the relevant information? Enjoy!
How the intelligence is gathered
Competitive intelligence gathering can be divided to four steps; Planning and Direction, Collection, Analysis and finally Dissemination.
In the beginning of the process, the planning and direction, the company must define what the questions are, the Key Intelligence Topics (KIT), which the company must track and understand in order to be successful. Example KIT-questions could be for example “Where do you and your rival sell products, and to which target audiences”, “What products does your rival have in the pipeline, and how will they be marketed” and “How is your rival’s company organized and how well operations are performing”. The KIT- process is necessary so that the research done in the field will be done on the relevant topics because no matter how big or small the company there is only a limited amount of time and resources to be used on the research. Additionally, the overload of information can bury the relevant information under the irrelevant. Suggestions for the KIT’s of IFF-industry are presented later on.
Overload of data is a real danger so keeping the focus on the predefined questions is essential. Once the data is collected is time for the analysis. Here the relevant is separated from the irrelevant and the knowledge is looked into for pattern and a report is created.
The last step, dissemination, is the step where the analyzed data is given to the company management for them to adjust their plans accordingly if needed. It is likely that new questions will arise from the given analysis. The new questions require the cycle starting from the beginning. Because of the repetitive nature of the CI- collection it is collect a process and a project. Project is thing with a clear beginning and an end, but in this case the collection does rounds one after another so it is a Competitive Intelligence process.
Competitive Intelligence in IFF-industry
What is special about the IFF- industry compared almost every other industry is the novelty state combined with the rapidly growing interest. Before FAO-released their publication “Edible Insects” in 2013 to promote insects as food and feed there were only around 10 small companies rearing insects. At that time the products were sold in Asian markets and for pet animals. Now in 2016 there the number is somewhere around 200 and increasing all the time. You can look at the entomology database in the this site, just select the database from the top menu.
As the high scale insect farming has never been done is such extent and by Western regulatory requirements the technology, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and logistics networks are missing. Additionally, the legal environment is not up to date. For example, it is unclear when EU will allow the insect to be sold for human food or is the slaughtering act of EU will concern insect in the same way as other animals. This is simply because there has never been interest on topic before. The missing data, operational standards and changing legal environment all increase the importance of Competitive Intelligence and they form the Key Intelligence Topics of the industry.
How to collect Competitive Intelligence in IFF-industry?
As mentioned earlier the industry is still in its infancy meaning that there are only a limited amount of operators in the field. As the number is limited keeping an eye on the identified competitors through news, social media and their homepages is not too big of a task. Though, the situation will change eventually.
Before the industry grows further networking is possibly the best way of gathering Competitive Intelligence. The circles are small so even if you would be missing a contract to a certain company, it is possible to reach a company that knows them well.
The biggest forum of the industry is IPIFF, the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed. According to IPIFF’s webpage their goal is to “help the insect industry to prosper in Europe and worldwide by composing an industry network, encouraging collaboration amongst the members, gathering the interest of members for institutional representation and support high-level research and development”. Even though the description tells that they want to compose an industry network and encourage collaboration so obviously no secrets are shared, but the latest news and trends around the topic are discussed. It is essential for the ambitious company to be part of this knowledge database. One example topic could be the legal issues. It is in the interest of all the members of the IPIFF that the legal changes are tracked and lobbied for. As it serves the common good, the latest information is available for the members and they get a real upper hand against competitors who hear about the news only later on.
The IPIFF- forum only offers the “public” information, the information the industry players are willing to tell and what they consider will not harm their operations, but in IFF-industry the way companies see their competitors vary at least until certain extent from other industries. The lack of companies in the field increase the transaction cost of their clients, for example fish feed manufacturers. When there are only a limited amount of players, the fish feed manufacturer has limited options for horizontal integration meaning higher risks of price fluctuation and delivery difficulties. This leads to situation where the IFF-companies benefit from competitors as they bring more interest and new possible clients that see that relying on only few companies would too risky. This situation will change once the IFF- industry has established itself and once that will happen the companies will certainly co-operate more conservatively.
KIT 1. New competitors and business models
Because the market is very new the companies are still looking for the best business models and trying different approaches how to differentiate themselves from the competition. It can be said that once a company in the field find a successful model of operations, the competition will follow fast.
KIT 2. Technology and GMP
The technology used today by IFF-farms are either self-made or the machines and tools are not used in the farms to something else that they were originally designed for. For example the containers the insect are reared in are in many cases actually containers made for bread industry. Other example are the egg-cartons used for cricket farming. IPIFF says in the homepage that they are aiming to create “white papers” and standardize the best practices of the industry to promote high quality and this way the credibility of the industry. Before such standards are formed the companies are going their own directions looking for the best solutions, others succeeding better than others. The companies must be alert of the technological advantages in field to be sure that they are the one with the best solutions from all the used ways of operating.
Also, by understanding the state of the technology and the expected developments in the near future the investments done today might be outdated tomorrow. For this reason especial care must be taken with this KIT right from the beginning.
KIT 3. Legal changes
The companies that are aware of the coming legal changes the best have a huge advantage in the planning of their operations. The main question in the legal and regulatory field is when EU will open the markets for food and feed. More specifically, in which order the products will be released, is it the fish feed or maybe poultry? These questions have huge impact on to which aspect of research and development the companies should focus on, and when the marketing campaigns are started. Just like in EU, also USA is still thinking of its approach to the topic. At the moment some states allow farming and selling for food and feed, while in the other end some states do not allow any of these activities.
Competitive intelligence is very important in the IFF-industry. Because of the three KIT-issues explained a conclusion can be made that for proper risk management and success in the future a company should do its utmost to find the latest CI. Additionally, the companies must to be flexible and agile to modify its technology and business model according to the latest information from the field.
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