Food and beverage manufacturers optimistic for 2014

Food and beverage companies are feeling more confident about the coming year’s performance, according to the Grant Thornton 2013 Global Food and Beverage study.

More than 75 percent of survey respondents expect to spend more on equipment, new product development and IT in the coming year. In addition, more than two-thirds of those surveyed anticipate costs will be higher for utility and energy, transportation, labor, raw materials and packing in the next 12 months.

Exports will likely be higher over the next year, and food and beverage manufacturers consider plant expansion a top growth strategy.

Milwaukee-area companies are sticking to the national trend, said Joe Toonen, consumer and industrial products practice leader for Wisconsin.

“If you’re investing in new equipment to automate, it might require that you do some plant expansion to house that equipment, and we’re seeing some of that,” Toonen said. “As you’re automating, you’re probably looking for a different skillset of employee to automate some of the equipment.”

According to the survey, food and beverage companies expect higher revenues, but won’t necessarily be hiring new employees.

“I think you’re seeing some expansions throughout Wisconsin,” Toonen said. “In 2012, there was a huge amount of expansion in the cheese industry throughout the state. A lot of those were completed 2011, 2012, and you’re seeing those companies continue to grow.

“I think the State of Wisconsin has been pretty aggressive as far as credits and incentives out there for manufacturers in the state and I still think that’s going to be out there next year.”

The Food and Beverage Study was conducted among more than 200 food and beverage companies using an online questionnaire from May to July.

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