Editor's Plate: Time to Sharpen the Saw

Jan. 19, 2015
A new year full of critical issues requires some thoughtful time away from the office.
Welcome to 2015, the year of ...

At this point, there’s no way of intelligently completing that sentence. But with a solid economy as underpinning, manufacturing in general should have a pretty good year.

Regardless of the larger economy, the food and beverage industry seems to plod along recession-proof. But also somewhat recovery-proof. That’s the good and the bad of being in this business. It takes a lot to move the needle either way.

We’ve packaged a couple of forward-looking stories in this issue. The most statistical is our annual Manufacturing Outlook Survey. We’ve been taking this survey of how plant operations people foresee the new year for 14 years now. Never has the level of optimism been this high (76 percent). It was 67 percent – a very good rate – last year and, for comparisons sake, 44 percent in 2009.

Our annual product development outlook chronicles trends that should be familiar: cleaner labels, adventurous products for millennials, palliative health for baby boomers and, of course, more protein.

And our cover story looks at four big issues for the year, three of which really look to be landmark moments. Partially hydrogenated oils have been suspect for years; for at least that long, some consumers have been asking for GMO labeling. It looks like both will be at least partially resolved in 2015. And you can debate the impact of the Dietary Guidelines, but they only come around once every five years, and this is their year. Transparency – that’s a softer and longer-running issue, but it should be on everyone’s list of concerns for 2015.

Every year brings its challenges, but this one looks to be more intimidating for direction-setting managers than most. Take some time to sharpen the saw. Get some perspectives on these vital issues. Attend the Food Leaders Summit. See

All of that gives you a pretty full plate. I'd wish you good luck in the new year, but you know this business has nothing to do with luck. You need some guidance and insight on how to respond to all those issues. Maybe some time away from the office for deep thought. You need to attend some kind of summit of food leaders. And we just happen to have one.

We’ve been working on this for over a year now. The Food Leaders Summit will bring together decision- and policy-makers at food and beverage companies for three days of learning and dialogue on issues like the ones I mentioned. The event will be April 27-29 in a hotel in downtown Chicago – easy and affordable to get to, and a nice time to be in the Windy City. Attendance is limited to 250, so it should be big enough for critical mass on these subjects but intimate enough that you can interact with speakers and other food & beverage company leaders.

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