If 2016 has taught us anything, it should be caution. If even pollsters, with their access to reams of data, can be so wrong, what hope is there for business leaders, analysts, futurologists, politicians, or even journalists, let alone tea leaf readers and astrologers?
Nonetheless, trying to predict the future can not only be fun, it’s an important exercise. It sounds like a gamble (and it is), but if you can’t envision a future based on changes you are already seeing, you will very quickly find yourself stuck in the past. It’s not a good place to be.
That’s why we’ve loads of predictions in this week’s issue. There’s our Top 10 Tips for 2017. We have analysts’ stock market picks. We’ve given columnists free rein too. And for some real blue sky thinking we’ve examined the potential and progress towards commercial reality for lab-grown meats and, with the help of creative agency We Are Path, tried to envision how they might be marketed.
Of course, extrapolation can also result in some fairly safe predictions around long-term trends such as growth in online, free-from, adult soft drinks, healthy food and drink etc. And is it really a stretch to suggest Brexit negotiations will make slow progress, that uncertainty will damage consumer confidence and inflation will return? There is no shortage of pointers, including the increase in prices on KVIs in meat, fish and poultry, and the 18-month high fuel prices hit this week.
So let me leave you with one or two more ‘out there’ predictions of my own. In 2017, I predict one of the leading supermarket CEOs will leave. That more food and drink suppliers will be forced to stop supply to secure price hikes. That reformulation will hurt sales of leading soft drink brands. That there will be a backlash against the obsessive/excessive hydration trend. And that Amazon’s impact and progress in UK food and drink will remain limited. I am also tempted to predict that the Defra Secretary of State will go, but that may be wishful thinking.
If you can do better, tell us. We’ll print the best prediction – and send a bottle of Champagne for your pains.