Thriving in the Vegas Era, IBIE 1981-97

by Laurie Gorton, Baking & Snack
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Although the decision to move Baking Expo ’81 to Las Vegas was a risky choice, the new venue proved well worth the gamble, and a record number of exhibitors and visitors came to the show. The halls of the 1981 event gave evidence of the increasing role computers would play in bakery processing. Such applications included ingredient systems and individual machines run by PLCs as well as handheld computers for sales and distribution use.

At this show, one exhibitor laid railroad track on the hall floor to bring in a pressurized-discharge railcar capable of delivering flour in silo-sized lots. This Expo introduced encrusting, a technology that automatically wraps one dough around another. And it launched rotary dividing for bread.

At the 1985 show, full plant computerization (computer-integrated manufacturing, or CIM) was seriously discussed by a number of exhibitors. They unveiled computer-run master batching techniques and micro-ingredient handling, as well as the first touch-screen computer control panels to be applied to bakery processing systems. This show also brought overtilt bowls to the mixing room of many bakeries.

Visitors to Baking Expo ’85 saw the first robotic basket loading systems for bread. In-floor basket conveying debuted here, too. The first applications of machine vision for cookie and cracker inspection and of a checkweigher electronically interlocked with a dough divider were also launched. The first steamed bagel system — a rack oven equipped with steam — was exhibited.

When the industry gathered for the 1989 show, key technical innovations included in-line pizza pressing systems and the introduction of gravity-controlled stress-free dough handling for pastry lines. Cream yeast, an old idea, was re-introduced at Expo ’89, and oats earned “buzz” status as the hot new ingredient addition.

By 1993, open architecture had come to computer systems for controlling baking lines. Plastic link belting turned up on several conveying and forming machines for the first time. High-volume thermal oil ovens made their wholesale debut here. Bagel processing took a big leap forward with introduction of several new high-volume systems, including a line capable of outputting 10,000 bagels per hour.

Catalytic oxidation systems, an emissions-control technology, were seen for the first time at Expo ’93, although several units had been installed in the field already. Amylase’s anti-staling function was featured, another old idea made new again by advances in enzyme isolation and manufacturing.

At the 1997 show, par-baked methods made news, as did technology for producing artisan-quality baked foods at wholesale rates of speed. Stone-hearth ovens, adapted for volume production, were prominent, and so were the low-stress makeup lines necessary for handling high-absorption doughs. Flour cooling systems came into their own. Other standouts included high-rise fermentation rooms, serpentine proofing and baking systems and ultrasonic slicing methods.

Tailored fats, enhanced enzyme functionality and specialty sweeteners caught the eyes of attendees, too. And Expo ’97 featured introduction of phytochemical and nutraceutical ingredients, including improved soy-based materials, to allow bakers to participate in the emerging functional foods market.

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