Good and bad, the year 2008 will be one for the record books. The food safety recalls that plagued the food industry during 2007 seem like a century ago compared to what our nation has experienced the past 12 months.
In 2008, the United States elected the first-ever African American President. Gasoline prices rose to $4.00 per gallon, only to be cut in half by year’s end. Americans felt the pinch from the unemployment line to massive drops in their 401ks.
All too often, consumers were shortchanged by the economic crisis. The news media alerted shoppers to beware of smaller food and beverage packages containing less product, but for the same or an increased price. As for those ubiquitous smaller containers of ice cream, I see these as a somewhat positive effect on healthy eating! In addition, I am sure I am not the only one who noticed less beef on the nachos or the conspicuous absence of meat in a pasta dish at my favorite restaurants.
Just as our President-elect is telling the nation things will get worse before they get better, food and beverage manufacturers are still trying to recoup the losses suffered from high prices for raw materials and fuel. As a result, food prices will remain high well into 2009.
Out of challenging times, often come determination and innovation. The greening of corporate America has spawned more interest from food manufacturers in areas such as wastewater treatment and energy independence and has some savvy processors investing in self-powering their facilities with byproducts such as methane gas.
The increased demand for comfort food is reflected in other industry trends. Due to the economic crisis, some pundits are predicting a return to simpler times. This holiday season, parents are expected make the switch from electronic gifts to less expensive retro toys such as Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. Retro foods, as well, will remain in vogue due to comfort level as well as price level.
Here’s hoping 2009 will be one for the record books, too, but in a more positive way.