Executive Editor Marina Mayer sounds off on 10 things she’s thankful for in the snack and bakery market.

1. The HFCS versus sugar debate. The controversy surrounding high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) exploded just as quickly as Charlie Sheen turned his coveted acting career into a crazed train wreck. However, this debate forces consumers to become serious about actually reading labels and making hard-nosed decisions about the foods they bring into their homes for their families to eat. It also allows bakers and snack manufacturers to go against the norm and maintain the essence and foundation of their portfolios.

2. What is old is new again. Part of being innovative isn’t necessarily creating something new from scratch, but rather enhancing a tried-and-true success. That’s why many bakers reinvigorated white bread, a type that was shunned because it didn’t offer as many grains or fiber as its wheat bread counterpart. But companies such as Flowers Foods and Sara Lee Co. enhanced white bread’s nutritional value to include higher fiber content, more nutrients and other better-for-you ingredients.

3. Be thankful, not wasteful.Several packaging suppliers are making it so that consumers can do their part in saving the earth. It’s not every day that I can recycle the clear plastic packaging that houses beef jerky, or that my bag of chips is made of compostable materials. It’s also refreshing to see food makers doing their part. Earth will thank you later.

4. Bold looks, bold tastes.2011 brought out the spiciness in food makers. Whether it was a zesty flavor, bold texture or just good old-fashioned innovation, grocery store shelves displayed sharp packaging, vivid colors and graphics and a host of varieties designed to make any plain Jane consumer ooh and aah.

5. That’s what food friends are for. Between tornadoes, hurricanes and massive flooding, the food industry struggled to maintain business as usual while competing against the violent acts of Mother Nature. However, several companies stepped up to the plate to ship out samples to the hungry and homeless, build homes for Habitat for Humanity or donate a portion of the proceeds to various non-profit organizations.

6. Food safety. It takes time, money and resources to bring a facility up to par in accordance with government standards, but thankfully, several bakers and snack manufacturers failed to bend the rules. In fact, some companies went above and beyond the rudimentary guidelines to achieve superior certifications, awards and ratings.

7. Tradeshows.While walking and/or exhibiting at a tradeshow can be exhausting, grueling and let’s face it, hard on the feet, it’s also the best (and sometimes only) way to really connect with bakers and snack producers. Many times, I’ve returned from a tradeshow with bags of press kits, contacts and leads, most of which resulted in future interview opportunities. Essentially, tradeshows are the most successful way to facilitate that B2B connection.

8. Little Debbie Swiss rolls. Who can forget my obsession withLittle DebbieSwiss rolls? If you type in “Little Debbie” in the search box of www.snackandbakery.com, you’ll find my ongoing commentary on this luscious treat. But what I’m most thankful for is the fact that the folks at McKee Foods, the Collegedale, Tenn.-based producer ofLittle Debbieproducts, hasn’t muddled with the formula, which means I’m not forced to find an alternative.

9. Power of social media.In putting together this Top 10 list, I did what I sometimes tend to do, and that’s reach out to my 500 Facebook friends for a bit of assistance. I surveyed them to find out what they’re most thankful for when it comes to snacks and baked goods. Answers included donuts, Nutty bars, pies,Oreo’s, cheesecake, Danish and yes, even stretchy waistbands.

10. Freedom.What separates our country from the rest of the world is our freedom-freedom of speech, freedom of the press and best of all, freedom to eat what we want, when we want. Thank you to the men and women behind the lines who fight so that we can maintain these and other freedoms.