Whoosh! Believe it or not, that was 2015 whizzing by. All right, maybe it didn’t really go by that fast; it just seems like it during this time of the year. And yeah, I’ve used this metaphor before, apologies.
Could be as I gain more wisdom (my way of saying I’m getting older), I’m getting slower. Could be that everyone’s just more frenetic these days, wanting responses instantaneously instead of weighing actions and ideas over a good night’s sleep.
Whatever the cause, I do think this past year has been an interesting journey, marked by both milestones and millstones. As I reviewed the headlines from the year’s past issues, there were plenty of comings and goings, spurred by acquisitions, personnel changes, departures, deaths and debuts.
Gradually, ever so gradually, we’re seeing the changing of the guard in many companies, particularly in midsized and family-run operations. And I’d consider that a milestone, since it’s a natural progression whose time has come. It could also prove to be a millstone for some, although I believe that will be the exception rather than the rule.
Another milestone involves the expansion of nutraceutical confections, an area that’s quickly garnered interest from confectionery and pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, this segment will continue to grow. I remember the category being referred to as medicated confections several long years ago; I think “presfections” might be the new terminology down the road. Over-the-counter drugs in a candy form are just a couple of years away, mark my words.
The continuing chocolate renaissance in the United States is also another milestone I certainly want to add to the list. And by renaissance, I mean the growth and affinity for premium chocolates, the emergence of bean-to-bar chocolate makers, the increased interest in quality versus quantity, and overall passion for all things chocolate. And medical research continues to show that consuming chocolate — in moderation, of course — is a good thing. So yeah, add that to the milestone list.
Continued consolidation. This one is both a milestone and a millstone. There’s no doubt that certain acquisitions benefit both the purchaser and the one being purchased. Similarly, we’ve all seen acquisitions done merely for the sake of generating investor return, ones that often wind up destroying brands, shutting down plants and eventually bankrupting a viable business. Mixed bag.
And what about just millstones? Well, we still have the issue of child labor as well as the related issue of making cocoa farming sustainable. Now don’t get me wrong, the industry has made great progress, with the most recent CocoaAction effort representing a true milestone. Yet the problems persist, and the numbers aren’t so positive. More coordination among all groups participating is needed.
Rising commodity prices. Not sure it’s a millstone. Rather, it’s a fact of life and the cost of doing business. Still, it’s good to vent.
The sugar program. Now, we’re talking millstone. I understand we came close, but so did the Cubs. Actually, the Mets came closer, but we’re not playing horseshoes here. I’m thinking it’s going to take an act of God to change the sugar program.
Rising logistics costs. Yeah, not a real sexy topic, but a growing concern for midsized and multinational manufacturers, despite the drop in gasoline prices. Keep in mind we’re including warehousing costs, fleet expenses (whether yours or somebody else’s), shipping (Internet sales), out-of-stocks, etc. Let’s face it, these can either make or break a company’s year.
Of course, I’m sure you have your own milestones and millstones. Drop me a line if I missed some that you think should be on the list.