With all the threats facing food and beverage production -- from contamination in the food chain, to rising input prices -- there appears to be one menace that towers above the rest, namely 'The Weather'.
Over the past few months, a growing number of brewers, dairy groups and processors have suggested that unfavorable weather is adversely affecting their operations, particularly in Europe. Management seems to be suggesting that business is not booming because of "unfavourable", or "adverse" weather conditions -- often without giving any reasons for why this may be so. While fears over the unpredictable effects of climate change may be legitimate, all too often management seems to be increasingly tempted to use weather as the catch all excuse for not meeting expectations. Management at Danone, Britvic and Cott have all been keen to point out that weather has affected sales, and don't seem to have any answer to this weather conundrum. The claims regarding the weather are even more confusing when some of the peers of the same company making the excuse, say that they are benefiting from the very same climate in the region. Coca-Cola Hellenic, a major European bottler of soft drinks, Heineken, and the Czech Brewery Association all said the weather helped boost sales. This excuse may work fine when explaining the reason for a disappointing holiday, but surely not when accounting for declining sales by some of the most significant international food and beverage manufacturers and experienced management. When apparently the income of leading multinational companies is dependent on glorious summers or white Christmases, are companies just looking for a scapegoat in Mother Nature for not hitting profit targets? The weather is after all, an ever present occurrence in our daily lives, particularly in Britain, often consistent only when it comes to being unseasonable. To suggest therefore that the unpredictability of the weather is the sole unassailable barrier to success is like blaming Tuesdays or the fickle nature of humanity for the difficulties. Multinational companies, often active throughout the world, can either adapt accordingly by moving to sunnier climes or devising new products, or choose to live with the weather, like the rest of us. In a business environment such as this, surely the likelihood of a few wet weekends or mild mid summers must begin to figure in more food and beverage businesses' full year game plans.
Neil Merrett is a staff reporter for BeverageDaily.com and has written on a variety of issues for publications in both the UK and France. If you would like to comment on this article, please e-mail Neil.Merrett 'at' decisionnews.com