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Becoming Future Fit: Challenges and Opportunities for Today’s Consumer Products Companies


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Faced with changing consumer preferences, accelerating technology change, and competition from nimble startups, today’s consumer products (CP) companies know they need to make major changes to their operations within the next half-decade to remain successful.

But while many have started down the path of transformation, progress is uneven, with some companies stalled by a combination of conflicting leadership priorities and a shortage of the talent and capabilities needed to make change happen. Unless companies find ways to overcome these hurdles in the near future, they may fail to achieve their transformation goals and grow increasingly out of step with the demands of tomorrow’s consumers, rather than becoming the models of efficiency and responsiveness they wish to be.

These are some of the findings revealed in a new MIT SMR Connections/EY LLP Global Consumer Industries research study based on a survey of 370 CP business leaders in 10 countries. Conducted in June and July 2021, the survey asked these leaders about the challenges they face as they endeavor to make major changes in operations ranging from manufacturing and supply chain to finance, marketing, and talent acquisition to meet changing consumer needs.

Though respondents’ priorities differed, they were nearly unanimous (98%) in citing the need for transforming how they operate, with 86% saying change is essential to becoming ready for the future.

There is great uncertainty about whether these leaders are taking the right steps to steer their organizations through the future’s challenges. Consumer buying habits are very different from what they were just a few years ago and continue to evolve. Technology is upending the way people select and purchase products — and the way companies design, produce, market, package, and deliver them.

What will success look like in the future? What path should companies embark on today to become future fit? This survey report describes how CP companies can avoid common pitfalls that can doom transformation initiatives to failure. It also offers actionable insights and expert perspectives on ensuring successful operational transformation by setting clear priorities and working with the right mix of talent, technologies, and partners.

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