The Small Business Research Board (SBRB) Food & Beverage Industry Small Business Confidence Index (F-SBCI) dropped to 30.67 during the fourth quarter of 2007, a decline of more than 17 points from the prior quarter.

A decline in two of the three major indicators contributed to the F-SBCI of 48.5 registered during the third quarter of 2007, according to the report co-sponsored by International Profit Associates.

The poll of owners and managers of food and beverage companies indicated that only 28 percent are expecting the economy to improve during the next 12 months, or 15 points fewer than the 43 percent who believed the economy would improve as reported in the third quarter of 2007. Plans for hiring also were far less optimistic with 18 percent of the respondents saying they would increase hiring during the next 12 months against the 43 percent who said they would increase hiring during the prior period.

Meanwhile 46 percent said they expect their revenues to increase during the next 12 months. That was an improvement of 9 points from 37 percent who projected there revenues would increase when the study was conducted during the third quarter.

The current Food & Beverage Industry Index is 3 points lower than the 33.67 reported for all U.S. small businesses during the fourth quarter of last year.

More than 950 small business owners participated in the nationwide poll. The universe of participants is developed from among small businesses across the United States. The SBRB study is a voluntary survey conducted quarterly.

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