Josh Sosland: Baking must keep up with changing shopping patterns

by Josh Sosland
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An infectious sense of optimism in the face of a difficult economic and legislative environment characterized the 2010 annual meeting of the American Bakers Association. Perhaps accented by the beautiful setting in Boca Raton, Fla., it was difficult to resist the sense that baking was headed in the right direction.

In succeeding as A.B.A. chairman Kenneth (Chip) Klosterman Jr., president of Klosterman Baking Co., Allen L. Shiver, president of Flowers Foods, Inc., rightly credited his predecessor for insisting that the group focus on issues of the highest priority. Adding to the upbeat spirit was a continuing sense that grain-based foods, while surely facing challenges, was faring considerably better than many other economic sectors.

By contrast, a sobering moment occurred during a presentation by Todd Jones, the chief executive officer of Publix Super Markets. Showing a bleak photograph of the bread aisle at an Atlanta store largely out of stock at a peak shopping time on a recent Sunday, Mr. Jones pledged to help bakers find ways to ensure shoppers are able to find the baked foods they want, whenever they shop.

The baking aisle is among the most susceptible in a supermarket to such problems. It is incumbent on the industry to keep up with changing shopping patterns. Baking can ill-afford to lose “share of stomach” because of inadequate supplies on supermarket shelves.

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