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Looking forward and back

2024 forecast

As the start of 2024 races into focus, this is both a season of thanksgiving for what’s been accomplished and a season of hope for what’s to come.

I encourage you to take time to consider both perspectives. As the adage goes, “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”

Kirk Soule, Chief Executive Officer photo

About this time of year is when organizations start to release their “Year in Review”-themed content. Invariably, I’m impressed by the thought, “Wow, all this happened just in the last year?!”

This year’s industry headlines suggest no deviation from that sentiment. Consolidation continued at an aggressive pace in 2023, with the industry announcing a new M&A deal about every third day. Price inflation was also a consistent storyline with commodity indexes showing industry prices up a whopping 20 percent year-over-year.

Then there was the weather. Although it always has and will be an integral part of the industry, epic rains in California—200 percent over the historical average—eased persistent drought concerns. And who can forget the Canadian wildfires that turned summer landscapes into eerie post-apocalyptic scenes.

Looking ahead, change is both a challenge and an opportunity. One of the biggest opportunities in our industry is the harnessing of technology to accelerate growth and profitability.

The tech industry has infused itself into our everyday lives. As an example, the software application ChatGPT was released in December 2022 and reached one million users in only five days; it took Facebook sixty times as long to accomplish a similar threshold in 2004.

Technology use-cases for ChatGPT, among many other capabilities, abound in our industry. I invite you to read “Get Smart” in this edition’s Applied Technology department, as we begin to consider how artificial intelligence can augment initiatives and processes.

Another adage coaches “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”—so with that, I urge you to enjoy the holiday season, reflect on what’s been accomplished last year, and with equal vigor focus on next year and how to best influence our industry.

This is the CEO’s Perspective column from the November/December 2023 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.


Kirk Soule is Chief Executive Officer of Blue Book Services