FMCG at IFA 2018

Published on: 11th September 2018

The DCA team has just returned from the IFA show in Berlin. This behemoth of a technology show covered such an incomprehensible range of product categories that summing it up in a handful of words would never do it any justice.

With a show this big it’s always going to be difficult to see everything or pick out highlights that appropriately summarise what is most relevant. Which is why, just like CES, every year we send out a handful of the team from DCA to get inspired and absorbed in the zeitgeist of all things electronic. We all have a different lens through which we see the show. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to offer some of my observations as I looked at it from the perspective of FMCG and sustainability.

It seems that despite the environmental backlash surrounding plastic packaging and single use consumables they still featured quite heavily in appliances such as coffee, laundry and dishwashing machines with an increasing number of air purifiers and vacuum cleaners incorporating replaceable filters and fragrance infusers. In fact, I found only one or two instances where manufacturers referenced the issue of plastic and packaging waste.

There was no doubt that the connected home continues to dominate the show with all major appliance manufacturers appearing to offer their own seamlessly connected ecosystems. I am yet to be convinced that a fully connected home with appliances dedicated to a single manufacturer is realistic so I’m sure that the compatibility across systems will be critical to the widespread adoption.  

Smart fridges with internal cameras and sensors offered convenient reordering and a good solution to help minimise food waste. Changes to the design of packaging and labelling will undoubtedly help to improve the reliability and uptake of these systems.

Meile heavily promoted their PowerDisk all-in-one refill which offered intelligent multi dosing but was delivered in what looked to be a difficult to recycle pod. It also seemed equally difficult to replenish as it was only available direct from the Miele shop or their online store. A closed system that is difficult to replenish seemed to limit consumer choice on price options, fragrances, functional claims etc. for negligible gains. Open systems from a selection of other appliance manufacturers including Haier and AEG incorporated large detergent reservoirs which seemed to be a more credible way of delivering intelligence to the laundry category and allow consumers to continue to use their trusted FMCG detergent brands.

The coffee category continues to grow with many emulating Nespresso’s single serve coffee pods. Despite the recycling initiatives offered to deal with these aluminium pods the growth of this category is at odds with public mood on the sustainability issue. A notable exception to this was Philips Senseo who offered a compostable pod.

The simple, flexible and unobtrusive connectivity from a single interaction point offered by Amazon and Google’s voice assistants are increasingly being leveraged by manufacturers of connected devices. As these smart devices continue to drive online ordering and subscription services, greater opportunities to deliver personal brand experiences become more achievable. The limits on packaging and system configurations defined by traditional retail can be pushed further and even allow FMCG manufacturers to test out new initiatives at a low risk.


Written by Dai Sanders, Consumer Sector Manager