Mérieux NutriSciences: Transporting food testing to the digital age

Mérieux NutriSciences: Transporting food testing to the digital age

With over 100 laboratories spanning 22 countries, Mérieux NutriSciences is ushering in a new era of innovation with state-of-the-art food testing techn...

In a digital age saturated with data and information, transparency has emerged as the must-have ingredient for any successful consumer goods company. Whether its contaminants, pathogens, insecticides or pesticides, consumers are increasingly questioning what is in their food and consumer products. This is where Mérieux NutriSciences fills a critical gap in the market.       

As part of Institut Mérieux, one core mission drives operations at Mérieux NutriSciences – the desire to protect consumers’ health across the globe. To this end, the US-based company delivers a wide range of food safety and quality services to the food and nutrition, agrochemicals, pharma, and cosmetics industries.

Responding to transparency and globalization

As companies are compelled to work towards a more globalized and transparent future, Agnès Houpiart-Dupré, Vice President Digital Solutions, says that digitization is helping Mérieux NutriSciences usher in a new era in the food testing and consulting sector.

“I would say investing in technology and digitization is even more important than ever,” says Houpiart-Dupré. “With social media, any event, especially negative ones, can spread quickly. Yesterday it might have been a local issue but tomorrow it will be global.

“Consumers want more transparency,” she continues. “They want to know what is in their food. They want to know where it comes from and that's where technology comes in because, without technology, you don’t have a clear vision of every single action that happens to your food throughout the supply chain.

“Our customers are also becoming more global. They are selling their products abroad and have more suppliers abroad, but they want to ensure that they have the same level of quality. This is really a big challenge and one which you cannot overcome without technology.”

Recognizing the importance of digitization in the food testing space, Mérieux NutriSciences has embarked on an ambitious digital transformation journey which has seen a complete root-and-branch transformation of its capabilities.

“More and more we're seeing technology at the forefront of, not just how we're doing our tests, but how we're tracking the results, the quality of the results, the analysis that we can provide, and at some point even the predictive analysis we can provide,” says Edward Rybicki, Global Chief Information Officer.

“For us, technology has definitely taken a leap beyond automating a process. It’s really at the heart of what we're doing.”

Digital evolution

Experiencing what Rybicki calls an “inside-out transformation,” this digital transformation is having a far-reaching impact on both employees and customers alike.

For customers who are moving away from a detection to a prevention model, Mérieux NutriSciences’ technologies are helping help them anticipate tomorrow’s challenges.

The company has accelerated its digital focus by creating a business unit dedicated to Digital Solutions which offers three core strands of digital services - EnviroMap, QualMap and myMXNS. Featuring state-of-the-art technology, these platforms go beyond traditional testing to offer real time access to information, transparency and data management to clients which are helping companies protect their brands and the consumers.

In parallel to this, the company is also driving internal efficiency by using technological platforms such as Labware, Freshservice, and Leanix. As a result, all of these innovative platforms culminate to promote a consistent global level of food safety and quality.

Leveraging data analytics

Perhaps one of the biggest areas of focus for Mérieux NutriSciences has been data analytics. By building an integrated data management platform, the company’s enhanced data analytics is helping it grow exponentially. 

“Internally, data and analytics have certainly been an area of concentration, especially because we recognise that we don't produce a product, we produce information,” says Rybicki. “Now we’re taking that data and building a data management platform which is at the core of our operations.”

But data isn’t just about providing numbers. It’s about providing data in a digestible way that allows companies to interpret what this means for them on a practical basis.

“It's more about providing them with the right statistical analytics so that they can understand when, they have a contamination, for example, where it came from, and what they should do to fix it,” explains Houpiart-Dupré.

Transforming the customer-employee dynamic

This technological overhaul is not only transforming Mérieux NutriSciences digital infrastructure, it is revolutionizing the company’s culture and the way it does business.

“We're in the process of a major architectural shift,” Rybicki states. “Like many companies, we're shifting to the cloud. We're working on core platforms that are helping us respond to changing needs quickly. In the past, we had a lot of structured, homegrown solutions that took a lot of time, effort and money to adapt. Now we're able to shift much more quickly.

“I think we’ve also seen a shift in the way our customer sees us,” he continues. “In the food industry, things are changing rapidly. Processes used to be done manually through older technologies like Excel, and our customers realize that they can't continue like that forever. They are happy to find a partner that has started this digital transformation because they can share with us, they can ask questions, and they feel supported.”

Responding to consumer needs

As industries become more global and supply chains more intricate, more variables and concerns can arise in the food testing space. With its detailed data analytics, Mérieux NutriSciences is able to answer the very specific needs and requests of its customers, including those they may not have even considered yet.

“Thanks to our digital solutions, we are able to create an advisory relationship with our customers because we have better visibility and a data-driven approach,” says Houpiart-Dupré. “It allows us to be much more proactive in understanding our customers needs.”

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Attracting and retaining talent and expertise

By all accounts, the company’s digital transformation journey has been an impressive one, which has helped to protect consumers’ health across the globe. This technological transformation is just one element of the company’s 50-year journey.

The Institut Mérieux was founded in 1897 by Marcel Mérieux, a student of world-renowned scientists Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux. With a wealth of scientific expertise, the company commits its experience in industrial biology to serve medicine and public health services across the globe. 

As a subsidiary of this historic institution, Mérieux NutriSciences recognizes that it owes its advancement to the expertise and talent of its staff. But with over 100 laboratories spanning 22 countries, how does the company ensure streamlined management and work culture?

“We try to have a federated approach, where there is one IT culture and one set of values that we try to live and act by as a team,” explains Rybicki. “However, we recognize the differences in the markets and work cultures because attracting and retaining a person in India is a lot different than in the US, for example. This approach makes sure that we're attracting and keeping the right people.”

Close industry ties

What’s more, the company also promotes strong cooperation within the industry by working with external partners which have the skills and competencies needed to work on new solutions.

“We have worked closely with Mirketa to help us develop our customer portal and Centric is also helping us build our QualMap platform,” notes Houpiart-Dupré.

“We are also developing great partnerships with Amazon, Google and Salesforce as well,” adds Rybicki. “I think more of our services will migrate to these platforms. We have good partnerships with some consulting firms, such as West Monroe Partners.”

A market leader

By tapping into the latest industry know-how, revamping its digital infrastructure and realizing the potential of new technologies, Mérieux NutriSciences has firmly cemented itself as a leader in the food safety and quality landscape. Thanks to its strong bimodal IT strategy, the company has truly revolutionized how it interacts with employees and customers, and so both Rybicki and Houpiart-Dupré remain optimistic about the company’s future legacy.

“While we are already a leader in our industry, in a few years’ time, I see us as a strengthening our position in consumer product testing, with food being at the forefront,” reflects Rybicki. “I see us being a truly digital company leading the way in using data to offer better analysis and products. I see us helping global food and product companies make sure that what they are providing their consumers is going to be, not only sustainable and profitable but, of course, safe.”

“When our customers within the food industry ask themselves what partner they want to work with to protect consumer health, I want them to think of us,” Houpiart-Dupré concludes.

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Edward Rybicki