Editor's Note: Here's to a better economy and a better 2011

As they move into 2011, processors are strong and lean from continuous improvement efforts as well as margin success in the switch from prepared foods to in-home dining.

My personal barometer of how the economy is faring comes from a variety of sources. Like the average person, I listen to newscasts, read news reports and stay on top of financial trends affecting my career in the food and beverage industry.

Some of my less scientific observations that the economy is rebounding are based on the amount of traffic in my area. Each day on my commute to and from the office, I drive past America’s largest shopping mall, where historically the evening rush hour has been horrendous.

For the past two or three years, I sailed home every night with no problem. But now, traffic has been picking up for months, though it has yet to reach fever pitch. Another positive sign is my friends’ and family’s recent real estate sales in very difficult and crowded markets.

In the food and beverage industry, the signs of economic improvements surround us. At PACK EXPO, held last month in Chicago, there was a resurgence of energy on the show floor with truly new products and solutions being introduced. Suppliers at the show embraced innovation, sometimes stepping outside of normal product channels to develop real solutions for food and beverage processors, whether it was in food safety, sustainability or lean manufacturing

Food Engineering’s annual State of Food Manufacturing report (see October 2010 edition) drives home the point. Spending for production, packaging and process control equipment is expected to increase 4.6 percent this year. Conversely, in 2009, FE readers reported a less than 1 percent increase in spending in these capital equipment areas. As they move into 2011, processors are strong and lean from OEE and continuous improvement efforts as well as margin success in the switch from prepared foods to in-home dining.

While the outlook is bright for food and beverage processing, let’s hope other industry sectors can keep us with us. Here’s to a better economy, a better year and safe and sustainable food manufacturing in 2011!

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