As 2020 winds down, December would typically be the month I spend analyzing all the exciting predictions for the year ahead, while offering a few of my own.

Feels a bit quaint now though, doesn’t it? Predictions. How sweet. Or maybe “naive” is a better word?

We just spent all of 2020 being hit with one large-scale traumatic event after another. How could anyone possibly know what the 2021 confectionery trends are going to be? I literally can’t even remember what day of the week it is anymore. Today’s still Wednesday, right? Because it feels like a Friday and also a Tuesday. 

I saw an article this morning about M&M’s plans for a 2021 Super Bowl ad and all I could think was, “Are we even certain we’re going to HAVE a Super Bowl in 2021? Because I feel like it could go either way.”

We just don’t have any real reference points for what we’re facing. There’s the 2008 recession for economic predictions, but since it didn’t happen after a mass death event, it’s kind of hard to know which parts will even be relevant. And are we really looking to the 1918 flu for guidance on what’s going to happen to us next? Because it seems problematic to look more than 100 years in the past to analyze the fallout from 1.65 million unexpected deaths in 2020 — a stat that only even works when we add the words “so far” to it. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m rooting for all the experts and market research firms trying to help us navigate the future. I desperately want to know what’s coming next. I’m just weary of anyone who still thinks that there’s much about the world we can predict. 

Seriously, try explaining your current life to the 2019 version of yourself. It would be something like:

“This face mask? Yeah, everyone wears these now. Or, well, almost everyone. How many airline miles did we accumulate this year? Ummmm. Anyway, Zoom is going to be huge soon! Is Zoom a competitor for Uber? No. It’s... What’s that? How was interpack? We didn’t have it. Yeah, they did reschedule it, but then they canceled that, too. Actually, pretty much all the industry events were canceled this year. But I think you’ll be surprised by how much you enjoy virtual conferences. Basically you do a bunch of video call meetings while wearing a dress shirt, pearls, and pajama pants. Don’t worry, though, everyone’s kids are going to be doing iPad school in the background, so nobody is going to be annoyed with that. What’s iPad school? Well, it’s complicated. Oh, the Sweets and Snacks Expo is moving to Indiana next year and it’s going to be in June now. So that’s fun. What happened to Chicago? Well, the city is still there if that’s what you’re asking. But actually, that reminds me, Hershey made bold progress on its diversity and inclusion efforts this year. What inspired that? Weeeelll. Hm. Anyway, trick-or-treating is going to be one of the biggest news stories of the year. Yes, I’m serious. Why would I joke about that? Hey, one more thing. No matter what happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone else is struggling, too. It’s ok. You got this.”

And honestly, all of you really have got this. Every single of one of you. No matter what 2021 brings. 

It turns out, we’re all a lot more adaptable than we realized. Despite all the challenges of the last year, everyone found innovative ways to keep moving forward, whether it was virtual events, new eCommerce programs, using a candy factory for face shield production, or launching Halloween products created in cooperation with competitors

So even if we have no idea what 2021 will bring, or which predictions will turn out to be correct, we can say one thing for certain — no matter what happens next, there’s no challenge the confectionery industry can’t overcome.