Looking back, 2010 was quite a year, says executive editor Marina Mayer. However, from the looks of how 2011 will turn out, the snack food and wholesale bakery industry should buckle its seatbelts because it may be an über-fun ride.

We all may be tired, but here’s to looking forward to a new-and-improved, energized year, assuming everyone wakes up and follows the rules.

Looking back, 2010 was quite a year. From product recalls, food safety issues and large company buyouts to portion-controlled and single-size product servings, eco-friendly plant enhancements and the blossoming private-label movement, this industry has been busy.

As a consumer though, I’ve also been busy trying to keep tabs on what products are healthy, which are not and whether or not I should switch from brands to private-label items or just buy the brands using a coupon. I’m also even studying ingredients labels and Nutrition Facts listings.

I think I speak on behalf of the industry when I say, all of this is making me tired.

From the looks of how 2011 will turn out, now is not the time to catch up on that much-needed sleep. That’s because the New Year will impose some fun, exciting and even industry-changing things that we can’t afford to miss.

For starters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated the dietary guidelines to now act as a lean, mean, fat-fighting machine. Whether the focus is on energy balance, weight management, nutrient adequacy or fatty acids, the revised guidelines present a foundation for how Americans should eat in order to maintain a healthy but balanced diet.

“The updated USDA dietary guidelines, in conjunction with technological advancements and the First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move’ program, will mark 2011 as the year that empowered Americans make permanent, positive changes in their diets,” says Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru. “Finally, people will stop lasering in on single nutrients and begin approaching food holistically.”

Imagine that, not focusing on just one nutrient and looking at food in the big picture. What a concept.

In addition to the enhanced dietary guidelines, Lempert also introduced a 2011 forecast that outlines a host of new trends set to impact the snack food and wholesale bakery industry.

For example, foods containing Vitamin D will be touted as the best thing in the aisles, and some producers may even turn to naturally occurring Vitamin D solutions to provide that added healthy bonus.

Meanwhile, companies will enforce clearer claims on their products and will better highlight better-for-you attributes, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber content, lower sodium, etc. Some companies have already made this switch by introducing a lineup of packaging changes that were put in place primarily to better “speak” to consumers (check out the Market Trends article ofSnack Food & Wholesale Bakery’s December 2010 issue to learn more about what types of packaging initiatives are in store for the New Year).

From my own research, social media and other networking sites are transforming brand awareness into a league of its own. Whether it’s a Facebook contest, an iPhone application, a survey on Twitter or a voting poll on a particular website, companies are giving shoppers every opportunity to be involved with increasing recognition of a particular brand or variety. I predict this will only continue to evolve because let’s face it, everyone has an opinion.

I also foresee consumers sticking with private-label brands as they’ve learned (and I have to) that they’re pretty much the same as their branded counterparts - just easier on the bank account.

For the past couple of years, the snack food and wholesale bakery markets have been riding the waves of a roller-coaster economy and continue to please the ever-changing, sometimes-fickle consumer. Despite the many challenges though, everyone survived - well almost everyone (we can’t forget the lovely “egg” people). Some companies have managed to turn today’s challenge into tomorrow’s opportunity. (Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery’s2011 Snack Manufacturer of the Year did just that. Look for the feature and plant story in next month’s issue.)

We all may be tired, but here’s to looking forward to a new-and-improved, energized year, assuming everyone wakes up and follows the rules.