keynote address:
Bronwyn Williams
to the future!
cedric Mboyisa


Delegates at this year’s South African Sugar Technologists’ Association (SASTA) Congress have a date with the future.

Although time travel is technologically impossible, there are tools of analysis which are employed to carefully map out strategies for the future. Trend Translator and Future Finance Specialist Bronwyn Williams from Flux Trends is set to mesmerise the 91st SASTA Congress delegates on 14 August 2018 as she delves into future scenarios for the sugar industry with her keynote address entitled “The Business of Disruption – The Ripple Effect of Game Changing Technologies”. 

Williams explains: “As a Trend Translator, I identify, research and write about the socio-economic and technological trends that impact on consumers and businesses today. I then unpack these trends into actionable business strategies to help companies succeed in the future. In my work, I focus on how the intersections and interactions of ‘men and machines’ (i.e. social and technological trends) impact on the future of money, management and marketing.”

Williams says the “Business of Disruption” talk focuses on the biggest consumer and technological trends impacting on businesses today and explores the things businesses can do to make themselves more resilient and more agile in the future. “With regards to the sugar industry, among other points, the presentation covers how technologies such as drones and hydroponics are making farming more sustainable and more efficient; as well as how businesses from previously unrelated industries, such as the consumer electronics brand, Panasonic, are “pivoting” into agriculture. It also looks at how changing consumer appetites and demands are impacting on the industry”.

Williams’ keynote address will also cover the following points:

The technologies that kick-started business disruption and continue to do so
tracking which industries that have already succumbed to digitisation and what the ripple effect was, of the disruption
case studies of how industries have managed to embrace change and reinvent themselves for a tech savvy customer
mass customisation, instant gratification, comparative shopping, spewing shade and other “new normals” of consumer engagement in a digital era
the industries that are currently in the firing line of disruption
and other hard-to-swallow concepts that the boards of directors are going to have to embrace. 

What are future opportunities the industry ought to consider exploring? “The sugar industry should consider how it can leverage its intrinsic strengths, systems, products and processes into entirely new industries. Growing sugar for ethanol rather than for food is an example of a previous ‘pivot’ in the sugar industry. Another would be pioneering smart farm technology and then selling that technology to other countries and other agricultural sectors. There are many more potential ‘pivots’ the industry can explore,” says Williams. She firmly believes there are more opportunities than threats for the industry, stressing that if the industry acts proactively it can become a leader in Africa and even beyond in smart agriculture.

The sugar industry should consider how it can leverage its intrinsic strengths, systems, products and processes into entirely new industries. 

How can the industry mitigate against external factors such as drought and pests? “Smart farm technology, such as sensors that automatically turn on irrigation systems when, and only when, soil moisture drops below a certain level can help save water. Drone-based pest control systems can similarly help control pests. The sugar industry can also invest in its own water creation and preservation projects.” Although the country’s industry is ranked among the best in the world in terms of competiveness, the pressing issue of the insufficient tariff has had a devastating effect. What is to be done to ameliorate the situation? “From my perspective, the sugar industry could become more globally competitive by exploring technology-driven efficiencies to drive down the cost of production at the same time as exploring potential ‘pivots’ into new industries not currently saturated by competition - an example of a pivots could be exploring uses for and investing in R&D to discover how sugar could be used in non-food related manufacturing processes.”

Williams has more than a decade’s experience in marketing management and trend research, working predominantly with brands in the financial and B2B industries. Prior to working with Flux Trends, Bronwyn worked as the Publisher of the South African office of the Agora Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial publishing houses, headed up by the international New York Times best-selling author Bill Bonner. “I started my career in direct marketing, where I learned about the importance of results-orientated marketing and business strategy. When it comes to direct marketing, every rand and cent needs to be accounted for, and to generate a real return on investment. As such, I studied consumer behaviour to see what worked and what did not, at the same time I found myself using increasingly sophisticated marketing technology, software and systems to monitor and improve my marketing messages and results. Through this work, I became increasingly fascinated with cause and effect feedback loops that drive business today.

“From marketing and consumer analysis, moving into consumer trend analysis was just a small step. I started working part-time as a trend researcher and writer for Flux Trends back in 2011, and I have slowly become more immersed in the trend analysis and forecasting industry. In addition to my undergraduate BCom Degree in Marketing and Business Management, I have studied economics, theology, design, and foresight. When it comes to trend analysis, you cannot study too much or too widely. I also read at least one book a week to keep up with the latest ideas that shape the world around us.” She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Economics through the University of London with a focus on post-cash markets.

Cedric Mboyisa

Cedric is the Communications & Media Manager, External Affairs, South African Sugar Association.