Bright outlook for Expo among many positives seen for A.B.A.

by Josh Sosland
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AVENTURA, FLA. — Exhibitor space sales for the 2013 International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas are nearly at the budgeted target and have significantly outpaced sales from three years ago, said R. Jack Lewis Jr., president of Lewis Brothers Bakeries, Inc., Evansville, Ind.

Speaking April 21, Mr. Lewis offered an upbeat outlook for the 2013 Baking Expo when he addressed the all membership meeting of the American Bakers Association. The meeting was part of the A.B.A. annual convention April 21-24 at the Turnberry Isle Resort in Aventura. Speaking to A.B.A. members, Mr. Lewis was a late fill in for I.B.I.E. co-chair Mike Beatty. Mr. Beatty, executive vice-president of supply chain at Flowers Foods, Inc., Thomasville, Ga., was unable to attend because of a family illness.

Days before the A.B.A. meeting, exhibitor space sales were $6,800,767 for the 2013 show, Mr. Lewis said, equating to 97% of budgeted final sales.

“The figures have been updated since these came out, and we’re now 99% of the way to our budget,” he said. “We’re much further along than we were three years ago.”

In remarks to open the membership meeting, Harold (Robin) Alton, A.B.A. chairman, recounted highlights from what has been a busy year for the baking industry.

“For a sleepy industry that never changes, there has been quite a bit,” said Mr. Alton, who is president of Pan-O-Gold Baking Co., St. Cloud, Minn. “A large supplier exited the market and changed the marketplace considerably.”

Commenting further on the abrupt shutdown of Hostess Brands, Inc., Mr. Alton focused principally on the positives of what was a very dramatic development in the wholesale baking industry. He noted that within a few days, other bakers around the country largely were able to fill the supply vacuum created when the Hostess plants stopped operation.

“It says something about how much overcapacity there was in the baking industry,” he said. “The bakers who are remaining are in a good position.”

While many baking companies benefited from a sudden injection of new demand, this turn of events should not be confused as making disappear the many challenges facing the baking industry, Mr. Alton said.

“There were many issues facing our industry last year, and we are still facing them,” he said, citing pending legislative and regulatory moves creating “changes you will not like.”

Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A., used his presentation at the membership meeting to review a strategic planning process undertaken by the A.B.A. the year before. He said planning reinforced the association’s emphasis on maintaining a focused agenda while also highlighting the need for effective communication between the A.B.A. and membership as well as key legislative staffers in Washington.

Noting that 16 new members joined the A.B.A. in the past year, Mr. MacKie pointed out a third of these are baking companies.

Subsequent to the strategic planning, Mr. MacKie said the A.B.A. executive committee devoted serious attention to “realistic prospects” for additional new membership, including efforts to reach out to companies beyond the traditional commercial baking companies currently at the core of the organization.
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