The industry is in a "profitability stalemate" from which very few retailers or manufacturers will emerge unscathed. That was the gloomy prediction of Alex Lintner, vice president of the Boston Consulting Group. He told the conference rapid consolidation meant the balance of power had shifted to retailers. As a result, suppliers were under increasing pressure to find ways of funding business with retailers. To make matters worse, consumers are spending more, but less of it on food. And any efforts taken to cut costs to gain competitive advantage are quickly nullified as everybody follows suit. Little wonder, said Lintner, that there is a flight of capital away from the fmcg sector and into other more attractive investment opportunities. Retailers and suppliers had to identify the "breakout opportunities" ­ such as real innovation ­ that would help them attract investors back. However, Lintner's analysis was dismissed by top CEOs attending the conference, all of whom insisted the industry faced a bright future. Metro's Hans-Joachim Koerber pointed out that his company was one of Germany's biggest and still had only a 10% market share ­ "so we have a big growth potential". And he pointed out that capital was flowing back into the fmcg sector following the bursting of the net bubble. Tesco's Terry Leahy said: "The real shift in power has been to the consumer and that's a good thing. It's right that consumers choose who are the winners and losers. He added: "There are huge opportunities both in developed and developing markets. As for consumers spending less on food, Leahy said: "This is not a new piece of knowledge." Spending on food in the UK has gone from 35% to 13% in the past 30 years. But in central Europe it accounts for 40% ­ "so there's a new opportunity". {{NEWS }}