Over 60% of global food industry executives are confident about the prospects for their business this year compared to 2010, results of a just-food reader survey have shown.

Almost 52% of those surveyed said they were “confident” about the outlook for their company in the year ahead. A further 11% of respondents said they were “very confident” about the prospects for 2011.

The survey results suggested a mood of optimism throughout the industry, with almost 56% of readers predicting “some improvement” in the general economic conditions within the food industry in 2011.

Over half of those surveyed insisted that their spending on new product development would rise this year. Just under 48% of respondents said they would target that investment on health and wellness, with almost 45% of those surveyed suggesting they expect more pressure from government in that area in 2011.

Elsewhere, over 43% said their business would spend more on sustainability projects in 2011.

There were some concerns about the year ahead. Almost 57% of readers said they expected the volatility in commodity prices to have more of an impact on their business in 2011. Notably, only a fifth were sure they would succeed in getting their retail customers to push through price increases, although a further 45% predicted they would achieve higher prices on some products.

Cost pressure could be factor behind further merger and acquisitions in 2011 but readers were unsure about who would drive that activity.

Trade buyers and private equity were judged to have “about the same” impact by almost 27% of respondents. Some 26% of readers believed private-equity firms would most drive M&A, with 21% favouring trade players.