Bosses to assess prospects for 2013

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Business leaders Economics

Former Uniq boss Geoff Eaton is now chief opperating officer with Premier Foods
Former Uniq boss Geoff Eaton is now chief opperating officer with Premier Foods
Manufacturers in the food and drink sector could be in for a bumpy year ahead, as uncertainty rises about the economy and how consumers will respond.

As we move into the all important Christmas trading period, companies in the sector are bracing themselves for "the toughest Christmas yet"​, according to the latest business leaders' confidence survey from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). Optimism had waned in the fourth quarter (Q4) of the year after a strong Q3, said the FDF.

Over half of the survey's respondents reported that their domestic sales had grown in Q3, with businesses benefitting from August's good weather and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Despite a drop in overall optimism due to rising costs and uncertainty about the economic outlook, respondents reported continued investment in new products, upskilling staff and in research and development.

The FDF's economic and commercial services director, Steve Barnes, said: "The results of our latest survey show that food and drink business leaders are bracing themselves for what could potentially be one of the toughest Christmas trading periods in recent years."

In view of this growing pessimism in the sector, Food Manufacture's Business Leaders' Forum​, which takes place on January 15 at the offices of host sponsor legal firm Stephenson Harwood in London, will shed some much needed light on what the movers and shakers in the sector expect for 2013.

The event will be chaired by Paul Wilkinson, who has a distinguished record over many years on the Boards of various well-known UK food companies. Wilkinson is also the chairman of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink.

The Forum will start by reviewing the events of the past year and hearing about the important issues that influenced performance of the delegates' businesses. This will provide the starting point for looking forward at what the industry is facing and finally to come to a view on the degree of optimism on the outlook for food and drink manufacturers.

At a similar event earlier this year at the Institute of Directors in London, business leaders were remarkably optimistic about the prospects for the year ahead, despite the huge challenges they faced in terms of declining consumer confidence and rising input costs. Whether such optimism prevails or not in 2013 is open to question, but it will certainly be on the agenda.

As well as the general economy and political landscape, next January's Food Manufacture Business Leaders' Forum will also discuss trading relationships and changing consumer behaviour. It will look at potential mergers and acquisition activity, as well as expectations about raw materials and energy prices. Other topics will include investment in the sector; employment and skills issues; the impact of new regulations and prospects for the sector's future sustainability.

Food Manufacture's Business Leaders' Forum is open to senior executives working in the UK food and drink manufacturing sector. Places at the event are free, but by invitation only.

If you would like to attend, please email the editor of Food Manufacture, Rick Pendrous at:

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