Where will the grocery industry be this time next year? Probably about where it is now, except more so.

Looking back through The Grocer over the past year, there is a clear continuity in the issues that have preoccupied contributors to this column - for example, the future of the high street, the nation’s eating habits, minimum pricing, the cost of living, our food ‘system’ and the eternal battle between big and small. All centre on the sort of food industry we variously want to see and the relative roles of government and of individual and corporate enterprise in shaping it.

“The great middle market will go on taking the strain next year”

Are there any pointers for the coming year? One thing is very clear - despite the 20-year rise of an entire sub-industry dedicated to making the nation eat more healthily, conventionally defined as a big reduction in the average daily intake of calories, most people eat pretty much as they have always done.

What has changed, of course, is the replacement of calorie-consuming forms of employment by sedentary, computer-bound occupations, so waists expand accordingly. One day a nanny statist may well advocate an Orwellian programme of compulsory physical exercise for all IT workplaces.

We can also expect more pressure on real incomes as both food prices and other items continue to increase. Specialist food retailers catering for a minority of still-affluent consumers will probably hold their own or even grow, as will the discounters, but the great middle market will go on taking the strain.

Retailers large and small doubtless anticipate another year of hardscrabble that, despite some easing in business rates, will accelerate the decline of high streets already on the skids. Portas, Grimsey and other panaceas have strutted their hour on the stage but proved futile against both the locational logic of modern retailing and its increasing dependence on the internet.

Finally, we may expect more high-level casualties in businesses already trying investors’ patience.

But it’s not all gloom - more mergers and bankruptcies will be good news for consultants, lawyers and corporate scavengers in general. Bless ’em all.

Kevin Hawkins is an independent retail consultant