Executive Summary

Fast-moving consumer goods—at least some of them—have become emblematic for 2020.

If there was ever any doubt about the importance of resilient supply chains in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, one need only recall the expanse of empty shelves that had once held toilet paper or pasta at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, in the UK alone, there was “more than £1bn worth of food stocked in people’s houses than there was three weeks ago,” according to Helen Dickinson, chief executive officer of the British Retail Consortium.

While these events could not have been anticipated, they demonstrated the vulnerabilities within supply chains. Over the past three decades enterprises—not least in the FMCG sector—have become ever more global in their scope. Reducing slack in supply chains, along with inventories, has optimised cash flow and business returns. But the rise of protectionism over recent years had already been challenging this model, and in 2020 the sector was hit by a perfect storm of geopolitical instability, spiralling commodity prices and ratcheting tariffs, topped off with a global pandemic. This report gives an unrivalled insight into the challenges facing the sector—not only from the Covid-19 crisis—and how supply chain executives have been adapting.

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