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Futurist Keynote, Vienna: The Future of FMCG and Innovation, Henkel



In the next decade the world of FMCG will be irrevocably altered by the new technologies and autonomous retailers who design, manufacture and deliver goods autonomously, at speed, and on demand.


This Monday I was supposed to be delivering a keynote in Vienna, Austria, but due to unavoidable, and tragic, family circumstances I was unable to attend in person. However, not one to let people down I would like to extend my gratitude to Harald and Jürgen from Pioneers, and all the executives at Henkel for their flexibility and support, and for letting me deliver my presentation which was entitled “The Future of FMCG” to an audience of just under two hundred people via a video presentation.


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Henkel, a DAX 30 company based out of Germany with $23 Billion in annual revenues and over 52,000 employees, might not be a household name but the products the company produces and distributes, such as Loctite, Persil and Schwarzkopf, among many others, most certainly are. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve got at least one of their products sitting on one of your shelves at home right now.



As one of the world’s largest chemical companies, with a strong portfolio of both B2B and B2C products it would be easy for Henkel, like so many other companies to rest on their laurels, but Henkel isn’t your typical company. Founded in 1876, over 140 years ago, it’s clear to everyone who knows them that they have an unstoppable drive to innovate and seek out new markets. They also happen to be one of the few western companies I’ve come across who have a planning horizon of 2050, and consequently it should be clear for all to see that they still intend to be here in another 140 years time.


My Virtual Futurist Keynote


Henkel’s global business is split into three distinct categories which are Adhesive Technologies, Beauty Care, and Laundry and Home Care, and all three compete in some of the most competitive and contested market segments in the world so it’s imperative that Henkel not only remains competitive but that they continually explore new opportunities, new markets and new technologies.


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During my “virtual keynote” I focused on the two core areas that were of the most interest to them, namely the “Future of FMCG” and the “Future of Innovation,” both of which are intertwined and both of which present them with new disruptive opportunities and threats.

Diving into the presentation I discussed how over the past year I’ve witnessed the emergence then rise of what I call the Creative Machines, AI’s predominantly, that are able to innovate and iterate products as diverse as aircraft parts, chairsclothes and shoes that will soon be able to innovate new chemicals, gene therapy treatments and materials, millions of times faster and more cost effectively than many of today’s best product development teams. I also shared insights into the dramatic improvements in the performance of certain key technologies across the advanced manufacturing, augmented reality and robo-automation space before tying it all together to, as you’ll see when you watch the video, show what this means for the future of FMCG, Henkel and innovation in general.


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The future we’re building today is one unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, one where Amazon, and likely Alibaba who will be a fast follower, becomes the world’s first autonomous end-to-end retailer, using AI to design new clothes and new home wares products while the Amazon Echo scans their customers body measurements and lets them “try” on new clothes in the comfort of their own home using augmented reality displays or mirrors, before the goods are finally purchased, manufactured on demand in Amazon’s cavernous warehouses, and fulfilled, and shipped autonomously to their homes. All within hours not days.

Amazon aren’t the only ones innovating in this space though, other every day FMCG items, including trainers, like these ones from Under Armour are also already being given futuristic treatment, designed and iterated by AI before being manufactured on demand, in this case, in the backs of stores, helping Under Armour eliminate inventory and collapse their product development cycles and supply chains into next to nothing.


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All of that, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. As the video explains, over time these same creative machines will no doubt find themselves working side by side with Henkel’s product development teams to help them create next generation adhesive, beauty and home care products, and even new chemicals and materials that help Henkel open up new markets, such as healthcare, and create new environmentally friendly protein plastics and more…

Enough talking though, don’t you have a video to watch?

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