Don’t look now, but 2020 is almost over. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to suggest that this year has been one of the most convulsive and disorienting years in recent memory. Prior to 2020, we have experienced events that have temporarily driven us to collective psychological turmoil. But as devastating as they may have been, their effects did not endure. As a population, we recovered. We moved on. Life always had a way of drifting back to a familiar groove. In 2020, that hasn’t been the case.
To be sure, we won’t enter an immediate state of relief and certainty at the stroke of midnight on December 31. But 2021 will bring with it a mental shift toward renewal, as each new year does. Some indication of change may already be in our midst. As I write, the presidential election has yet to be decided, but as you read (I hope) that it has. Whatever the outcome, the closure of campaign season will provide us with some fresh mental capacity to confront and absorb what lies ahead. The race to produce a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine is on, and some experts suggest that broad public availability may be achieved by the spring or summer of 2021. And that is just one example of meaningful, measurable positive developments taking place right now.
In my view, we aren’t working toward full restoration of the world we knew this time last year. The limber and adaptive minds among us have realized that as difficult, dispiriting and depressing this time has been, its unprecedented nature comes with rare opportunities for foundational change. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve known for years that some aspects of our society, our systems, and our customs, have required attention. But in the past, our world has moved too quickly for us to address these pressing matters. We all have succumbed to the power of inertia. But this virus, in all of its ferocity and disregard for human life, has realigned the coordinates of our inert momentum. Quite simply, we are headed in a new direction.
For some time now, the majority of the food and beverage industry has been aware of this shift. Food suppliers and processors have positioned their businesses to adapt to exponential future changes. After covering food and beverage for nearly two decades, I have full confidence in the bright minds of this industry, and the ingenuity and resilience they bring to their operations.
In an annual report called “The Food Retailing Industry Speaks,” FMI president and CEO, Leslie G. Sarasin issued this statement: “In this period, retailers, their associates and their trading partners pursued proactive strategies to feed the nation. The food industry will continue to innovate even when faced with uncertainty.”
A future-thinking innovative approach is the basis for successful business operations. Whether it’s AB InBev and Rio Tinto developing sustainable aluminum cans, national restaurant chains such TGI Fridays featuring plant-based Beyond Meat items on menus, or companies such as Organic Valley centralizing sustainability efforts at an organizational level, the food and beverage industry is on the path to a successful and renewed approach to business.