In the context of sales, the USA is often described as a group of small markets versus one country.
The sheer size of state capitals, regional cities, and their supporting airline infrastructure, is often larger than many individual countries across the globe.
However, the need for a localised approach to product supply chain management presents a real challenge for airlines wanting to standardise their food and service model across domestic and international inbound/outbound flights.
Traditionally in the USA, the airline, caterer and broker-led menu development models often result in International airlines having inconsistent product across their global network. It also requires local and international airlines to understand the logistical capabilities of operating a supply chain across multiple regional locations in a country that spans 9.5 million km².
The challenges in operating a logistics model in the USA are also compounded due to a real shortage in long-haul transport. This places pressure on costs and extending delivery time across what needs to be a just-in-time supply chain. The American Trucking Association (ATA) says there is a shortage of 51,000 truck drivers nationwide, up from 20,000 in 2013 and 36,500 in 2016. In addition, the ATA projects the driver gap will increase to nearly 100,000 by 2021, meaning the problem is only going to get worse.
This is where working with a travel industry specialist partner that focuses on sourcing innovative food, packaging, design and logistics efficiency can reduce complexity while ensuring a consistent high quality product is presented to passengers. Working this way enables airlines to enhance their greatest asset – their brand.
Under the historical locally-sourced model, airlines have had to manage multiple last mile caterers to ensure consistency and product specifications that meet both their vision for quality and their customer service promise to passengers.
When this is coupled with the increased use by airlines of passenger net promoter score benchmarking to drive performance, a new sourcing and product development strategy could well be a way to drive improvement.
A number of international airlines engage an innovation, product and logistics partner to develop solutions that solve branding, packaging, product and logistics challenges to ensure their brand equity is maintained across their global network.
This allows them to implement a network-wide solution that leverages total purchasing volume to extract best value, while ensuring the onboard and lounge food service delivers product and brand consistency. Categories where this approach is particularly successful include frozen bakery products, branded snack boxes, second service hot snacking items and freshly cut premium cabin cheese.
Airlines should look for companies that are creative and agile, while also demonstrating the ability to bring projects from concept to fruition in a matter of weeks – not months – via an efficient global supply chain and logistics platform.