In this, the last part of just-drinks' coverage of its annual confidence survey, we analyse the results from the final eight of the survey's 22 questions.

15. Do you expect your company's domestic sales to increase in 2017?

Source: just-drinks Confidence Survey, Dec 2016

Few company executives begin a year envisaging a decline in their domestic sales in the 12 months ahead, so it's no surprise to see a large degree of optimism here. But, as this is only the second year in which this particular question was asked, we can at least make a comparison with the year before.

So: nearly two-thirds of our respondents expect their domestic sales to increase this year, but this is some way short of the 72.7% figure recorded last year; at the same time, nearly 7.5% expect sales to fall – more than double 2016's number (3.1%).

That leaves some 26.3% who reckon sales will flatline in 2017, slightly up on last year's figure of 24.2%.

16. Do you expect your company's export sales to increase in 2017?

Source: just-drinks Confidence Survey, Dec 2016

Similar question, similar response. There's less optimism in the air this year, but not by much, with 93.7% of those surveyed expecting their international revenues to increase or remain largely unchanged – compared to 94.5% last year.

Break that figure down and there's a slightly more pessimistic trend: 52.6% of people reckon their export sales will rise this year, compared to 55.9% in 2016; and almost 7% are predicting a decline, versus 5.5% 12 months ago. Those expecting a static picture are up slightly, at 40.5%, compared to 38.6% last year.

17. Which markets do you expect to offer greatest opportunities for your company's growth during 2017?

As in last year's survey, this was an open-ended question, prompting a diverse and highly fragmented set of answers. Last year, those surveyed mentioned 41 countries or regions, of which 17 were named by only one respondent; this year, there were 53 locations, and 22 secured only one mention.

One thing is clear: the US remains the highest priority market by some distance for the drinks industry, gathering nearly double the number of nominations of its nearest rival, China.

It is perhaps surprising to observe the relative absence of the BRIC markets from the top 10 most frequently mentioned locations. China ranked second but, of the other BRIC nations, only India (sixth) made the top 10. The economic travails of Brazil and Russia have dropped both countries down the pecking order.

Meanwhile, the MINT countries – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – barely made the top 20, leaving relatively mature destinations – the UK, Germany, Australia, Spain, Canada, France and Japan – to account for the lion's share of the top 10.

In some parts of the world, however, the opportunities are viewed more on a regional, rather than market-by-market, basis. 'Asia' drew more mentions than the UK (which ranked third in country terms), while 'Africa' was close behind.

Those countries or regions which attracted more attention this year than in 2016 included Vietnam, Spain (belatedly recovering from its post-2008 slump), Poland, Sweden and the Middle East.

But, overall, the responses here provide a sobering reminder that, for all the latest promise of emerging economies, the apparently less dynamic mature markets of the West still offer lucrative opportunities for drinks companies.

18. Which retail channel(s) do you expect to offer the greatest opportunities for your company's growth in 2017?

Source: just-drinks Confidence Survey, Dec 2016

The phraseology of this question changed last year, in that respondents were allowed to tick more than one channel in their answers. But, even allowing for that, there's a clear trend emerging here from the past three years of surveys. Two years ago, multiple retailers were identified as clearly the most attractive channel, ahead of the on-trade, but this position reversed last year.

In 2017, just over 63% of respondents nominated the on-trade – up from 56.2% last year – compared to 38.6% mentioning multiple retailers, down from 43.9% last year.

The theory runs that retail consolidation in many major markets has made the channel less profitable, and harder to get into, than was the case several years ago. The on-trade may be hard work, due to its fragmented nature, but at least there is some chance of growth and securing listings.

In fact, multiple retail was the only channel to gather fewer mentions on our survey this year. Online, convenience retail and direct selling have all grown in their attractiveness since the last survey.

19. Will your company increase its marketing investment during 2017?

Source: just-drinks Confidence Survey, Dec 2016

Little change here from 2016, when there was a broadly similar and very positive response. In fact, just over half our respondents expect to increase marketing investment during 2017, up from a figure of 47% last year.

However, the numbers expecting to cut spending have increased too, albeit marginally: just over 8%, compared to more than 5% last year. That leaves 41.4% of people this year expecting little change in expenditure, versus 48% in 2016.

20. What will be your most important marketing channels in 2017?

Source: just-drinks Confidence Survey, Dec 2016

A new question last year, the responses here illustrate the changing face of drinks marketing in the early 21st century. Nearly 80% of respondents rank social media as their most important channel of communication this year, up from about 73% last year.

Elsewhere, the trends varied widely. Digital marketing (excluding mobile) was down on last year's showing, but good old-fashioned 'experiential' events and sampling is notably more popular this year – namechecked by 43% of those surveyed, up from about 32% last year.

Below-the-line spend is also likely to be up this year, according to our survey, as is out-of-home, but cinema advertising has almost fallen off the radar altogether. The old staples of print and broadcast advertising continue to attract a steady following, but both rank way below digital channels in 2017.

21. Which aspects of sustainability will grow in importance for your company in 2017?

Source: just-drinks Confidence Survey, Dec 2016

The range of options for this survey question illustrates just how diverse the broader area of sustainability has become, taking in everything from environmental concerns to community investment.

The ranking of the various answers here was remarkably similar to last year's survey, with packaging extending its lead at the top of the list after being mentioned by 52% of respondents.

There was also a greater recognition of the importance of supply chain impacts and sustainable sourcing, as well as community investment and employee volunteering.

22. Overall, do you expect 2017 to be a better or worse year for your company than 2016 was?

Source: just-drinks Confidence Survey, Dec 2016

It all comes down to this. In summing up all the factors that go into creating a good or bad year for business, this is perhaps the truest barometer of industry optimism as we move into 2017.

The changes are subtle, rather than seismic, but they are illustrative of the broader sense of pessimism that permeates the rest of this report. The majority of respondents do expect a better year than in 2016, but that figure has declined to 61.7% from 67.2% last year (and 67.5% the year before).

About 27.5% of people expect broadly similar trends this year – that's in line with the 2016 figure – but, perhaps most tellingly, nearly 11% of respondents are predicting a worse year for their business in 2017.

That's more than double the figure recorded in 2016, and ahead of the 7.6% number from 2015. Evidence of a challenging 12 months ahead for the industry?

For the full results of just-drinks 2017 confidence survey, click here

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