Perhaps it’s because of the season or our profiles of three Hispanic food processors. In any case, I find myself wanting to belt out “Feliz Navidad” the 1970 classic from Jos‚ Feliciano.
Let’s face it. There’s something about this mind-numbing ditty (think Walt Disney’s “It’s a Small World”) that provides escape from too much thinking about the economy, stock markets and bank failures.
Not that I’m an escapist. Nor am I a pessimist. In fact, I’m fixed on Mr. Feliciano’s lyric, “Prospero ano y felicidad,” which, translated, means, “[wishing you a] prosperous new year and happiness.”
I’m encouraged because many of you already are hard at work at this whole prosperity thing. For example, Fortune magazine recently profiled General Mills’ ongoing success with cost cutting. In part, the Golden Valley, Minn., company has saved millions by simply reducing extraneous materials - from shaped bulk ingredients to yogurt lids - which add cost but not much direct consumer value.
Meanwhile, suppliers at the recent Pack Expo / Process Expo event in Chicago confirm that food processors continue to invest in new production lines as well as line improvements (including retrofit work) to increase capacity, productivity (efficiency) and energy savings.
I’m finding even more observations from third parties such as Industrial Info Resources (IIR), a Sugar Land, Texas, researcher of industrial process, energy and financial market news.
In an October report on food and beverage industry expenditures, IIR concludes that “capital spending at the manufacturing level has been robust and is expected [in 2009] to remain fairly healthy, provided that the economy does not edge closer to a recession.”
The firm says productivity improvement and energy-efficiency goals will drive most low-investment, high-return capital spending. Meanwhile, several larger $50 million to $200 million projects (new plants mostly) remain on track. The primary threat to any large capital project, however, is bank financing.
Now, there’s a dark cloud that dampens the spirits of even a non-pessimist like me. Seems like a good time for my exit. But, as Jose says, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas - and a prosperous new year.