Before I went grocery shopping last weekend, I joked to my husband that I was off to stock up on macaroni & cheese and bologna. “Really?!” he asked.

Like most Americans, I’m worried about the economy. And, like most U.S. consumers, I’m waiting to see what all this credit mess means to me.

In the meantime, companies are dusting off their recession strategies and suiting up for a serious and prolonged downturn.

Proactively, here are a few things you can do:

Position your products as a “good value”regardless of the price. Campbell Soup, for example, is advertising its condensed soups as a “bargain buy.” It might be worth the expense to redesign the front panel of your package so you can make your case at the point of purchase.

Protect your brand imageso consumers don’t lose trust, because it can take years and years to repair the relationship. Some food and beverage manufacturers have decreased the amount of product in a package without lowering the price as a sly way to pass along increases (see“Beware the downside of downsizing”). Many consumers do notice, and they see this practice as deceptive.

Look beyond our borders.The weak dollar might urge you to boost your export business. Is your global supply chain as efficient as it could be?

Realize that innovation is imperative.Don’t take “no” for an answer when asking for dollars to invest in innovation, even if it means being creative in how and where to get the buy-in from upper management. Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, a marketing professor at the University of North Carolina’s business school, reminds us in an article in BrandPackaging’s September 2008 issue that “The basis of all enduring success is innovation.”

Trust the American people.This is the riskiest when you’re setting survival policy. Almost everyone agrees that it won’t be business as usual. But economist Alan Beaulieu gave this optimistic advice at the annual meeting of the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute: “There’s a downturn coming. It’s going to be long. It’s going to be painful. It’s going to hurt your business. But the other reality is just as important. America is competitive, is vibrant and is able to maneuver. …We’re not beaten. We’re not knocked down. We’re not done.”F&BP