Our cover story on the World’s Top 100 Food and Beverage Companies is one of the most popular stories Food Engineering publishes each year. In this article, executives at the leading manufacturing companies explain how they’re dealing with the new business reality of unpredictable economic climates. 
Finding novel ways to attract and engage consumers via digital communications is essential for food and beverage manufacturers in these uncertain times. The era of constant electronic connection is everywhere— with people using smart phones in supermarkets to get the best deals, to connecting smart devices to lab equipment to measure the pH of food, to commercial-grade USB chargers for the plant floor. 
A few weeks ago, I attended an industry meeting where most of the people were addicted to their mobile devices. Fortunately, many of them took a rest from the constant contact during the evening meals. But the incessant daytime texting, even in the middle of conversations with other people, requires an intervention in my opinion.
If there’s a plant emergency or an urgent family matter, I get it.  But I don’t think all of these messages were urgent.  I have to believe some of them had more to do with Facebook friends on vacation, the photo of the day or the latest joke.
Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe electronics improve and speed the way most of us conduct business, gather information and communicate with others. Ten years ago, our readers would never have attended a Food Engineering webinar. Today, you can choose from the dozen or so we conduct every year, plus you have instant access to all the past webinars. 
Some of you have attended virtual trade shows and will perhaps attend virtual conferences in the future. Through Facebook and other social media platforms, Food Engineering is able to attract an even wider international audience, and members of our industry can benefit from the experiences of their counterparts.
It’s all part of the new reality of living in the 21st century. But I believe many successful business ideas are still uncovered over a coffee or a cocktail, not on a smart phone, and we have a long way to go to find the right electronic balance for using both human interaction and digital tools to their best advantage.