Food companies are looking to new customers for the majority of increased product sales in 2013, according to a new survey from accounting, tax and advisory services firm WeiserMazars LLP.

Survey participants, which were drawn from companies across the food and beverage industry, are confident sales will increase 13% compared to 2011 and project net profits to rise by almost 6%. These solid gains, though, are offset by rising commodity and production costs, resulting in a modest net profit.

This inaugural study, a joint effort between WeiserMazars and The Food Institute, delved into the trends, performance, plans and challenges of food and beverage companies. According to WeiserMazars, the study, titled  “Food & Beverage Industry Study: Benchmarks for Better Management,” offers food and beverage companies data against which to assess 2012 performance, insights into potential drivers for the industry in 2013 and best practices to stay ahead of the competition.

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“The purpose of this study is to provide executives with comprehensive insight in comparing the state of their company to the overall Food & Beverage industry,” said Louis J. Biscotti, partner & national director of WeiserMazars’ Food & Beverage Sector. “This benchmarking can provide organizations with insight into predicting realistic levels of growth in 2013.”

Survey participants expect that the most important industry factors influencing sales growth in 2013 will be new customers (59%), new products (51%) and increased selling prices (40%).

“With food prices forecast to move 3% to 4% higher this year, it is not surprising that the major concern among food and beverage companies surveyed was the cost of goods,” said Brian Todd, president and CEO of The Food Institute. “Inflation almost entirely offset sales increases last year at grocery stores, with the Food Institute noting that sales in the sector increased less than 1% last year after inflation was taken into account, based on the association’s exclusive pricing indices.”