Chris Brook-Carter

New year, new challenges

By: Chris Brook-Carter - 16 December 2003 16:56

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As much of the rest of the business world gets ready to wind down for the Christmas break, the drinks industry is working overtime in what is always its most important period of the year. Just-drinks has spoken to at least three major spirits companies who are sending their executives out to stack shelves on the shop floors to check that every point-of-sale detail is absolutely right, before the annual trade battle gets under way.

The financial significance of the Christmas weeks this year, though, is heightened by the poor start to 2003, when SARS, war and a drab economic outlook looked likely to combine to create the drinks industry’s very own Annus Horribilis.

Half a year on, and that drab outlook appears to be clearing to include the odd ray of sunshine – indeed, it was several rays over the European summer that gave much of the industry its well-needed fillip. As one senior drinks executive told just-drinks last week: “By March/April I was ready to slit my wrists, but things have come round. It’s remarkable just how resilient the drinks industry actually is.”
 
Next week, we intend to publish the December management briefing - a full review of the major stories of the year, analysis of the events and, having talked to a number of analysts around the world, our predictions for next year across the soft drink and alcohol industries.

Certainly both soft drink and alcohol producers are entering 2004 with the cautious optimism that a corner has been turned. However, if economic uncertainty is behind us, the New Year may herald an unprecedented period of legislative uncertainty as governments and health lobbies target drinks companies.

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