Plant-Based Food Company Upfield Maximizes Supply Chain Transparency

Have you ever heard of global food company Upfield? Maybe not, but you probably have at least one of its famous brands of margarine, food spreads, and plant-based foods on your breakfast table. As the world’s largest plant-based consumer packaged goods company, Upfield operates in 95 countries with a workforce of 4,200 employees.

The company was founded in 2018 as a spin-off from Unilever and its mission is to deliver plant products for healthier lives and happier people for a better planet.

“Upfield is a quite new company that operates in a very dynamic market environment sensitive to social integrators and economic indicators,” said Anand Mathew, platform lead, Supply Chain Applications at Upfield. “In terms of planning and logistics, key objectives are to ensure a high service level. Moreover, we aim to reduce product cost while ensuring minimal obsolescence as customer demands are ever changing.”

Upfield set specific targets along its supply chain. “For example, as plant-based is part of our formulations and product development, we must be sure to move towards a 100% natural formulation. Not meeting this goal in particular markets can impact us with negative publicity around packaging or product quality. Also, recent disruptions due to COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine – the biggest producer for sunflower oil, which is a key product ingredient – forced us to change and update formulations very quickly and pass that information on to manufacturing, transportation, and our customers,” Mathew explained.

“Other requirements related to sustainability are to be plastic free for our packages or disclose our methane footprint, including the CO2 product footprint. All this deeply implicated our IT systems and how we run our supply chain. It must be reflected in our product development, manufacturing, and distribution, and ultimately be reported,” the executive added.

The Need for Integrated Solutions along the Supply Chain

The IT solutions portfolio taken over from Unilever didn’t meet Upfield’s needs to align objectives along the entire supply chain and had to be updated to ensure the highest level of integration.

“To achieve our product strategy goals, we have been fostering integration of disparate systems with SAP S/4HANA as the backbone. This integration allowed us to be where we are now,” Mathew said. “For instance, we manage around 4,000 specifications for ingredients and up to 2,500 recipes with SAP Product Lifecycle Management.”

For supply chain planning, Upfield is using SAP Integrated Business Planning for demand, response, supply, and sales and operations planning (S&OP). Mathew explained: “Two hundred of our business users use SAP Integrated Business Planning in 95 countries. The regions have slight variations in managing the solution, but all countries are using demand planning so that we get our S&OP numbers entirely through SAP Integrated Business Planning.”

The executive added: “We are looking to use machine learning-based statistical forecasting via SAP Business Transformation Platform (SAP BTP) capabilities that the latest SAP Integrated Business Planning version provides. Then we can build Python scripts into our end-to-end planning process. For the future, SAP Sustainability Control Tower will be another important SAP Integrated Business Planning component in our strategy as it enables exception-based planning, and we also evaluated demand-driven materials resource planning (DDMRP).”

“Sourcing is done via SAP Ariba solutions to identify appropriate suppliers, also for plastic-free materials. New targets are constantly impacting which suppliers to work with or what criteria to meet when working with a new supplier,” he said. “Within the SAP Ariba solutions, we use sourcing, supplier selection and supply selection criteria, and contract management, completing contracts via DocuSign before handing off to SAP S/4HANA or the supply chain for execution. We use it for direct procurement for our products and indirect procurement,” Mathew remarked.

For its logistics processes, Upfield is leveraging SAP Transportation Management and SAP Business Network for Logistics. Ocean movements are managed via SAP Transportation Management and land movements with both.

“We use SAP Transportation Management for calculating transportation movements, planning shipments, and route optimization. Resulting freight orders are passed on to the carrier. Settlements are then done within SAP Business Network for Logistics. There, our carriers can either log directly into the carrier tenant to accept or reject preorder or use the booking functionality to specify preorder execution,” Mathew explained. “The network supports fixing settlements after freight order execution. Overall, SAP Business Network for Logistics provides better communication with our carriers.”

Achieving Higher Agility and Resilience

Upfield is also tracking the life cycle of each product until its retirement. “At each stage, every system has to be aligned to avoid the risk of obsolescence, and we have been able to reduce cost with help from SAP solutions,” Mathew said. “SAP S/4HANA and supply chain solutions helped us be more agile. The main advantage is the integrated planning capability we have across our supply chain. Thanks to native integration or interfaces we built across different tools, we are able to react much faster to any kind of disruption. It’s all about agility.”

With SAP’s synchronized planning approach, production schedules can be updated quickly, helping to ensure the right ingredients are in place at the right time.

Future Plans to Foster Even More Integration

End consumers benefit from Upfield’s ambitions enabled by this holistic approach with higher quality plant-based products as well as unified messaging and branding.

“Our vision is to have end-to-end integrated planning, from supply chain planning to execution, including finance. We chose SAP because of the completeness of its vision,” Mathew concluded.

Discover how planning can be the cornerstone of a sustainable supply chain and make sure you check out the planning and sourcing report, “Sustainability: A Question of Supply Chain Planning.”


Karin Fent is senior director of Global Customer Success for Digital Supply Chain at SAP.