Peter Becker reflects on an ever-expanding iba

by Dan Malovany
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Peter Becker, the president of the German Baker’s Confederation, talks about how the baking industry connects.

MUNICH, GERMANY — For more than a decade, Peter Becker has been a guiding presence for iba, the international baking trade fair that runs from Sept. 12-17 in Munich. As president of the German Bakers’ Confederation since 2003, the affable Mr. Becker has seen iba grow in size and in prestige.

Once considered a mostly European baking event, iba has emerged as one of the must-attend exhibitions for the global baking industry. In fact, when iba was last held in 2012, the triennial event attracted more than 70,000 visitors from 164 countries who had the opportunity to visit 1,255 exhibitors from 58 nations. It’s no wonder that this trade show is often referred to as the “World of Baking.”

For Mr. Becker, this year’s iba is a special one. It’s going to be his last show as president of the confederation. Prior to the show, Baking & Snack asked Mr. Becker to share his thoughts on his tenure with the confederation, how iba has evolved over the years and what trends are impacting the international baking community today.

When was your first iba and how has the show changed over the years?

Peter Becker: I experienced my first iba in 1986 in Hamburg. Back then, I was responsible for the bakery of the Hamburg Baker's Guild at the trade fair. I led iba for the first time as president of the German Bakers’ Confederation in 2003. I had already been involved in iba as a member of the confederation's executive board in 2000, and the election for the presidency only took place shortly after this. To have been able to experience and help shape the evolution of iba over the years has been an extremely exciting task. The trade fair has not only grown continuously but also has become more international and, yet, has never lost sight of the German market.

What are some of the biggest technological advances that you’ve seen at iba?

I find all the advances in terms of shop-fitting and layout to be impressive. This demonstrates a clear trend that bakers no longer simply impress customers with excellent bread and baked goods, but that they can also be successful in the fields of gastronomy and snacks and, in fact, already are. This trend can be seen worldwide. In the field of technology, the issues of energy-saving and efficiency have seen huge progress, and this has been witnessed at iba as well. It is also exciting to see that increasingly more equipment initially intended for industrial growth is now being adapted to the needs of small- and medium-sized enterprises. This year, the subject of packaging has gained significant importance at iba, and a new section called the “Packaging Area” has been created for 2015. The subject of hygiene is another extremely interesting and much-discussed field worldwide. As for raw materials, there are huge regional differences to be observed. Particularly noteworthy, in this respect, is the positive increase in the consumption of bread and baked goods in Asia, as well as a renaissance in Europe of classic types of grain, such as amaranth and einkorn wheat, not to mention the rediscovery of apparently more healthy grains, such as chia seeds and quinoa, becoming popular all over the globe.

What trends are driving sales in the global baking industry?

Every three years, iba is an opportunity to witness all the global developments in the fields of technology, hygiene, packaging, raw materials, as well as experiencing new trends and products. Anyone who visits iba brings themselves up-to-date and also learns how to develop and drive their businesses forward in the future. For example, we are currently observing a global development in the baking trade in the field of gastronomy. The topic of shop layout and design should also be mentioned. It was a subject first raised in Germany and many other countries years ago, yet is becoming increasingly important outside of Europe, be it in Cairo or Tehran. The subject of quality improvement will also play a role, as there is demand for the very best, high-quality equipment in order to raise standards of quality. Visitors will find that all of these fields are well covered at iba.

Reflecting on your career, which iba trade show was the most memorable and why?

Each iba has its own particular appeal. I found iba 2006 in Munich exciting because that was the first time I had been able to catch the iba-UIBC-CUP, the two iba international competitions for bakers and confectioners. Of course, iba 2012 must also be mentioned, at which the iba summit with its exciting international guests took place for the first time. iba 2015 will also be particularly memorable for me because it will be my last iba as president of the confederation. So I hope that it will be especially successful.

What would you consider your greatest milestones from being involved with iba?

In addition to the introduction of the iba summit three years ago, the international competitions at the trade fair and the expansion of the iba forums with numerous talks and practical demonstrations from international experts (for example, from the U.S.A., Denmark and Italy) are all great achievements that took place while I was in office. Furthermore, it is very significant that we have been successful in expanding iba — both in terms of size and internationalization. I am proud that all of this has been a success during my time as president.

What are the special plans for this year’s event?

My main goal is that exhibitors and trade visitors are exceptionally satisfied and that, by the end of iba 2015, people will already be looking forward to iba 2018 in Munich. Although there is stress involved with planning iba for me because of having a lot of meetings in a very short time, it is an unusually positive and pleasant stress. I particularly look forward to meeting long-term partners and colleagues from the U.S.A., among others, with whom I have formed friendships alongside our business relationships. All in all, I will be happy if the event runs according to plan and if exhibitors and trade visitors are just as satisfied with this iba as with the last.

What advice do you have for the baking industry going forward?

Anyone leaving should not really be giving large pieces of advice. However, I would say that, thanks to what has been achieved thus far, we should look to the future with a great deal of optimism. The trade should be open to new ideas and recognize the trends. Then, I believe, consumers will continue to appreciate and enjoy the quality services of our trade.

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