The last time I used a Latin phrase in a headline, one of my colleagues teased me unmercifully, arguing that no one had the faintest idea what I was trying to convey. After all, they don’t even use the “dead language” when saying Catholic mass anymore.
But I’m going to risk my reputation once again, figuring that if Queen Elizabeth II was able to use it in a Guildhall speech back in 1992 on the 40th anniversary of her accession, it would probably connect with most.
I’m sure most readers don’t recall the year or event, but I sense they’ll remember the context. The Queen’s reference to 1992 being a horrible year stemmed from her enduring family scandals, the publication of Princess Diana’s tell-all book, “Diana, Her True Story,” and the disastrous fire at Windsor Castle.
As we close out 2009, does that Latin phrase apply? I have a feeling it might, particularly if one’s holdings and investments were tied to certain American banks, say, Lehmann Bros.
There’s little doubt that the global economy - and, thus, everyone who participates in it, including the confectionery industry - took it on the chin this year. I recall chairing our European Suppliers Roundtable in London at the start of the year, quizzing executives about what kind of impact the global recession would have on their businesses. It was clear that nearly all expected a decline in orders and a hunkering down by confectionery manufacturers on capital investments until the winds of fortune began to blow favorably again.
Some even looked at the downturn as an opportunity to catch their breath after a record-breaking 2008, which would allow them to devote more time and resources to research and development, thus positioning themselves better for the recovery.
Amongst confectioners, opinions varied. Those dependent upon contract manufacturing and private label revenues were notably apprehensive about the future. Anyone that was over-leveraged anticipated the worst. And the major multinationals, well, they also did a bit of belt-tightening.
And yet, on a scale from 1 to 10, with one being the worst, I’d say the global confectionery industry posted a 6 in the midst of one of the worst recessionary periods in recent times.
Fourth-quarter results from the holiday season may alter that grade, upward or downward, but I am confident that most professionals within our industry will concur that 2009 wasn’t the “annus horribilis” cited by Queen Elizabeth II.
Mind you, it wasn’t any “annus mirabilis” or year of wonders, either. Rather, it was tough sledding, as our neighbors to the north might be inclined to say.
Has the journey made us better prepared for the future?
It’s a question all of us have to answer individually. There’s no doubt that some companies have taken measures to trim their cost structures, measures that have perhaps streamlined operations and improved efficiencies. Others may have had to simply slash costs to survive, critically impairing quality and shortchanging continuous improvement as a result.
One thing’s for sure: Everyone’s been tested in this tough environment, with each organization’s strengths and weaknesses exposed.
As we all bid adieu to 2009, let’s take stock of those discoveries and apply them to what 2010 has in store for us. And, hopefully, unlike what an acquaintance told me at a party recently, we won’t be saying how good 2009 was at this time next year.