I’ll try not to beat a dead horse. Everyone knows it’s bad out there. The floundering economy affects everyone’s personal as well as professional life. Most businesses are suffering — certainly to different extents but affected in some way. But here’s the twist. While some bakers have been forced to close or shutter facilities, cut hours or reduce jobs, other bakeries are implementing new lines and plants or seeking out new markets.
For equipment suppliers, there are very few happy faces in the crowd. Business is tough, no question. However, being the optimist that I am, I see light at the end of the tunnel, and the light is growing larger and brighter.
Last month’s American Society of Baking conference attracted record numbers of attendees. It was unprecedented. More than 1,300 attendees, compared with only 850 last year. An oversold exhibit hall forced some exhibitors to present their wares in side corridors. And by the end of the MarketPlace expo, many reported numerous and solid leads.
I also saw more newly independent consultants seeking work. Well, we all know why that is. However, every one of them I spoke with was busier than there are hours in the day, and several on a global scale — with jobs from Trinidad to Congo to Vietnam to United Arab Emirates and Russia.
Baking and snack companies are starting to shake off the doldrums, come out of hiding and seeing the competitive or economic advantages to improve facilities, efficiencies and capabilities.
And they are. They will have to. Flowers is set to complete its Kentucky bakery next month, Turano just opened a new 107,000-sq-ft baking facility in Georgia (see the article ), or Apple Baking, a small but growing business in North Carolina (to be featured in our May issue), is committed to reinvesting in operations to ready itself for expansion and has already begun the process. These are just a few examples. Others are at least looking, if not yet spending.
The overall economy is in the tank, no doubt. But consumers love their bread, pastries and comfort foods, and they love to have restaurant-style ciabatta, crusty dinner rolls and savory crackers at home as long as they see quality and value. They will continue to purchase these items in place of dining out, and they will continue to look to our industry to offer innovation, variety and convenience. The need for new equipment, capable of providing all this as well as satisfying new food safety concerns, will come back with a vengeance.
For equipment suppliers, facing increased raw material costs and decreased machinery sales, use this time to your advantage and be ready to deliver the demands consumers and processors present. And if you didn’t introduce anything at ASB, consider iba this fall or IBIE, which is only 18 months away. There are great expectations.