In Tough Times, There Is Still a Silver Lining

Mercifully, 2008 is coming to an end. It was a brutal year for every aspect of the economy. Living in New York and watching so many financial sector friends join the ranks of the no-longer-employed showed me first-hand evidence of the ruin. It was kind of the National Bureau of Economic Research to finally concede that a recession was at hand, and had been since last December. We could have told them that: people from every segment of the economy have been ravaged by the current events. Our savings, 401k’s and IRA’s plunged to levels that I have not seen in my 60 years.

As with everyone else, the beverage business did not escape unscathed. The skyrocketing ingredient, production and transportation costs cut into margins and profits early in the year. The cost to do business became too great an obstacle to surmount for many companies. As the magnitude of the second half economic collapse became all too clear, the vital investment money to fund new and small companies dried up. Marketing and advertising initiatives took a back seat to struggling to pay the bills. In-store support and field work slowed and made it harder to generate sales. Retail was squeezed, and had to raise pricing to survive, again driving away customers.

I know that I do not paint a pretty picture. But in all this I see the essence of our business still shining through. As you read this issue, you’ll see the heart and soul of the beverage industry, the brands themselves. This issue is devoted to some of the best the market has to offer: BevNET’s Best of 2008 awards showcase the stellar efforts of marketers, innovators and executives. The New Product Guide banners the initiatives of so many marketers to give the consumers what they desire. In my eyes, all of the entries are winners. The number and the quality of the entries speaks well of an industry that’s second to none in creativity. In a tough year we had hundreds of new launches worthy of consideration. While the other aspects of the business were challenged, the innovation process never wavered.

The economy will recover, the business will be back and we’ll go forward. I’m happy to report that the main driver of the beverage industry, its creativity, has never been better. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and profitable year for all.