B&CMA heads to Nashville
89th Annual Technical Conference big on education, discussion of hot topics.
BakingBusiness.com, Feb. 1, 2014
by Ryan Atkinson

One of the industry’s largest technical conferences is gearing up for another round.

The 89th Annual Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturer’s Association (B&CMA) Technical Conference is slated for April 27-30 in Nashville, TN.

As in the past, this year’s meeting will provide a combination of education, discussion and networking events.

“It really is a good mix,” said Kerry Kurowski, education and meetings manager for B&CMA. “There are plenty of networking opportunities, but the educational opportunities are a big focal point. They are traditionally the highlight.”

The conference kicks off on April 27, with the annual golf outing and tour of Nashville precede registration.

Things get underway in earnest on Monday with the general session, including the State of the Industry address by David Van Laar, vice-chairman of Oak State Products, Wenona, IL.

“We’re excited about the State of the Industry address,  Ms. Kurowski said.

Monday afternoon welcomes the breakout sessions, which include talks on Computerized Maintenance Management Systems, Cracker Packaging Technology, The Importance of Preventative Maintenance and Process Control and more.

A hot-button breakout session is likely to be E. Pearce Smith’s talk on GMO Testing and Complex Supply Chains. The GMO issue could be a burning topic during the entire meeting.

“We’re known for coming out of the gate early and talking about things before a lot of the industry,” Ms. Kurowski said. “We’ve seen that in the past with trans fat and allergens, and I think you’ll see that with GMOs this year. When you look at our sessions, we work on core topics that are constantly being updated.”

Breakout sessions continue into late afternoon April 28 and in the morning April 29 before giving way to the Allied Table Top Exhibit and Luncheon. It’s the only table top exhibit designed specifically for the cookie and cracker industry. The two-hour event features allied supplier members displaying their latest products and services.

“This is high, high repeat attendance,” Ms. Kurowski said. “It’s a great chance to see new products, and it’s a good time for a little bit of networking as well.”

April 29 wraps up with an Ask the Expert Production Panel and a Women in the Industry reception. The Ask the Expert panel, Ms. Kurowski said, will likely cover more of this year’s hot topics. “That panel is always a key part of the conference,” she said. “Attendees can pick the brains of industry veterans with more than 60 years of combined experience.”

Things wrap up on April 30 with a continuation of the general session in the morning.

The conference, Ms. Kurowski said, is well-attended by people throughout the industry, and what attendees take away likely depends on where they’re coming from.

Mr. van Laar recalled feeling envy toward those who got to attend the conference when he got his start in the industry. Now, as a keynote speaker, his admiration for the event hasn’t weakened.

“No other technical conference addresses the ¬≠cookie and cracker industry so directly,” he said. “This is a meeting of bakers, about baking, led by bakers. From planning to execution, it is the cookie and cracker community that runs this show.  From suppliers to bakers, we are focused on one goal, educating the bakers of today and tomorrow.”