Dragons, snakes and lemmings: A look back on 2012, and onto 2013

The year of the snake to bring innovation more private label, and more chocolate

Bernie Pacyniak

About a year ago I was commenting on what the year of the dragon (2012) would hold. In retrospect, I’m not quite sure that my prediction for a less tempestuous year proved true. Global conflicts, presidential elections, severe weather and economic doldrums aside, it was pretty much “same old, same old.”

OK, I can see you’re not buying that proposition. Indeed, 2012 wasn’t exactly the best of years, with millions having undergone a broad range of calamities, be it civil strife, natural disasters, economic meltdowns, political gridlock, higher commodities prices…the list continues.

But in our sweeter-than-most confectionery industry, I’d say that most companies, be they large or small, fared fairly decently. I recognize that many of you are already wondering what kind of Kool-Aid I’m sipping while writing this.

Don’t misunderstand me, I can appreciate the realities of running a business that faces enormous challenges, be it a government sugar subsidy program that artificially keeps sugar prices high or a retail climate that’s not only extremely competitive, but increasingly becoming more complex as we speak.

Need I mention that whole social media challenge or increased commodity, energy, labor, packaging, health care and food safety costs facing confectioners across the board? The challenges are immense, no argument.

Nonetheless, the rewards are enormous. After all, you are selling confections to the world. Yes, you do have to make the numbers work for you, but in the end, few individuals turn up their noses at candy. Why do you think those office candy bowls need replenishing all the time?  

And maybe your presidential candidate didn’t win, which is turning those hairs of yours a little greyer. I’ve even heard a few of you jump on the Mayan doomsday wagon as a result. Well, guess what, I expect to see you all in 2013. That end-of-the-world hysteria was about as truthful as many of those political ads we were bombarded with during the past few months.  

Despite repeated assertions that it was on the brink of dissolution, the European Union didn’t collapse. Despite the stock market going into a tailspin after the elections, I don’t believe our economy is recession-bound.  In fact, many economists predict a more solid recovery in 2013, regardless of who’s in the White House.

Yes, I know, there’s still that fiscal cliff Wall St.  is worried about.  This time, however, I have a feeling that Congress and the President understand that compromise isn’t a dirty word, and that the welfare of the nation comes first. No need to follow the doomsday lemmings as they proclaim Armageddon.

But what else can you tell us Bernie about 2013, readers ask? Keeping on the Chinese theme, it will be the year of the snake, generally a positive sign. Hence, I expect more innovation coming from confectionery manufacturers, large and small. Chocolate consumption will continue to grow globally, with consumers seeking value, validation and virtuosity.

U.S. retailers will be pushing their own store brand confections more and more, providing opportunities for midsized manufacturers. Nostalgia will loom large, and savory/sweet treats continue to evolve.

More flavor fusion, more fruits and nuts, more social consciousness, more targeted marketing and more attacks on candy consumption. No change in the Farm Bill, reasonable commodity prices (No, Illinois was not one of the states to legalize marijuana) and continued consolidation.

Finally, expect more pharma applications for candy. There, that what I see for 2013. As always, Candy Industry wishes everyone sweet fortunes and good health.

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