2014 was a bullet train. It seemed the year passed so quickly I couldn’t even distinguish the landscape as this internet-driven locomotive swooshed past 365 mileposts toward 2015. And yet, one needs to only take a look at this year’s Global Top 100 in our January issue — our annual listing of confectionery companies freezing events in time — to get a snapshot of what happened.
As the headline in the article states, “Wow! What a year for acquisitions!” An understatement if I ever heard one. Lindt & Sprüngli acquired Russell Stover, Yildiz Holding Co. snacked on United Biscuits, The Hershey Co. picked up Allan Candy, Cloetta A.B. snatched up Alrifai Ntisal Ab and The Jelly Bean Factory, 1-800-flowers.com, added Harry & David to its basket, Chocolat Frey swallowed Sweet Works and the Elvan Group expanded its product line with the purchase of Balaban Gida.
Of course, I’m writing this in December, so there’s plenty of time for several last-minute sales and acquisitions to add to the list. So, do you think there’s a pattern here? Aside from the natural ebb and flow of industry consolidation, 2014 did prove to be a good year to make strategic moves given the stability of the confectionery sector.
“We’ve also seen a rebirth of the chocolate renaissance… It does the body and soul good to see so many artisan candy makers and chocolatiers cropping up throughout the United States and elsewhere.”
— Bernie Pacyniak
See what a bit of stability and cheap cash can do?
Amidst this consolidation, there also was plenty of angst involved with the surge in commodity prices, everything from milk and hazelnuts to cocoa and sugar. Fortunately, all those headlines screaming an imminent shortage of cocoa beans proved to be sensationally incorrect. And even concerns of certified cocoa beans being in short supply didn’t pan out, pardon the pun.
I don’t expect any of these commodities, however, will return to pre-2014 price levels, however. My hope is that these higher prices, particularly for cocoa, will actually translate into improved incomes for the hundreds of thousands of farmers harvesting the food of the gods.
I recognize that there’s more coordination as well as emphasis on cocoa sustainability, but those efforts need to increase in both speed and spread. Nevertheless, as an industry, the multinationals, suppliers and non-governmental associations and agencies do deserve kudos for staying on task.
During the past year we’ve also seen a rebirth of the chocolate renaissance that was evolving prior to the onslaught of the Great Recession. It does the body and soul good to see so many artisan candy makers and chocolatiers cropping up throughout the United States and elsewhere.
I wish all those of entrepreneurs courage and confidence, perseverance and patience, attention to detail and inspired artistry as well as a good dose of luck and love.
Then there’s the creep of media madness that continues to send shivers down so many executives in the industry, revelations about sugar’s malicious role in the diet, the subliminal conspiracy that’s trying to make children only eat candy, and the onslaught of snacking 24/7 that’s blurring the line between food and treats.
Common sense seems to have been shoved aside by self-promoting activists anxious to save the world from sweetness, delight and joy that confections can bring to a weary world. But we should take this with a grain of sugar, since consumers throughout the global are smarter than they get credit for; most understand that a diet that includes moderate consumption of all foods allows, in fact, encourages time for personal rewards, especially confections. So folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have some chocolate.
In the end, I am quite sure that 2015 will pick up where 2014 left off, a year of challenges and opportunities, of hiccups and headaches, of oohs, aahs and even blahs. And yet, regardless of the pressures, price hikes and politics, it’s still damn good to be sweet.