New Beginnings

by Steve Berne
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With memories of IBIE still lingering in our minds as well as our to-do and follow-up lists, there seems to be little time to recoup after the latest triennial gathering. Bakers experienced countless innovations from suppliers and learned valuable knowledge from the scores of educational sessions and industry competitions. Suppliers were rewarded for their diligent preparation with significant solid leads for their ingredients, equipment and services. While the economy is still far from stable, and the recovery may or may not be proceeding as we hoped, there is sufficient confidence in the market and production demands that all show participants I talked with were walking away satisfied with the outcome of their time and efforts spent.

While I seldom use this column to review the issue content, it seems very appropriate in this case when thinking about new beginnings. The plant feature on Flowers Foods’ newest bakery at Bardstown, KY (Page 24), showcases the company’s quantum leap in energy management and automation that “could profoundly change the way the company operates for years to come,” according to Robert Benton, corporate vice-president of manufacturing. In the past six years, Flowers has made eight acquisitions, spent $482 million in capital investments and added 15 new production lines that now supply nearly 50% of the US population. Although Flowers now operates 40 bakeries, lessons and ideas from this industry-leading organization can apply to bakeries of all shapes and sizes.

Food safety, recalls and the growing responsibility of baking companies are well covered in “No Dirty Secrets” (Page 39), an article on corporate responsibility. Recent peanut butter and egg recalls are still fresh on the minds of many bakers who were impacted directly and indirectly by media zealousness and poor communication from industry sources and, in some cases, outright refusal to communicate. Some progressive baking and snack companies were leaps and bounds ahead of the curve on “first response” to their consumers and rode out the storm. Others … did not. Speed and openness of response in cases of food crises will only become more critical. Get on board!

A true new beginning is the impact and influence that sustainability is having on industry, especially ours, which is at the upper end of energy consumption rankings.

For companies like Frito-Lay, sustainability is now locked step-in-step with business strategy. As Dan Malovany wrote in “Exploring the Next Frontier,” on Page 91, “Like many baking and snack operators today, Frito-Lay initially perceived sustainability as a side benefit that resulted in additional cost savings from strategic capital investments and good manufacturing practices.” Al Halvorsen, Frito-Lay’s director of environmental sustainability, stated, “[In 1999,] our environmental program was 100% focused on productivity and how do we flow the benefits of that program to the bottom line. [Now,] sustainability is not just driving the bottom line, but we’re seeing if we can use it to potentially help improve the top line as well. It’s become embedded in our DNA.” Talk about new beginnings.

We all just returned from IBIE and will soon start the 21st century’s second decade (although some say the year 2010 marked the start of the second decade). Isn’t it time for your new beginning?

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