Baking companies scramble to help in Japan

by Josh Sosland
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VIENNA, VA. — Reeling from the devastation continuing to unfold from the March 11 earthquake in Japan, baking companies there struggled to sustain operations and help meet massive humanitarian needs resulting from the devastating natural disaster.

Rolling power outages resulting from devastation to Japan’s nuclear power plants are a major impediment. “With no power, you can’t operate your plants,” said Dave Conner, vice-president of human resources at Vie de France Yamazaki, Vienna, Va.

Mr. Conner, who said information from Japan has been spotty as the emergency there continues, offered an update in an interview with Milling & Baking News.

While the earthquake damaged neither Yamazaki’s plants nor headquarters, the hurdles to sustaining operations are considerable, Mr. Conner said. Tokyo-based Yamazaki, Japan’s largest baking company and the parent of Vie de France Yamazaki in the United States, operates more than two dozen baking plants in Japan.

“The company’s plants are very large,” Mr. Conner said. “The company has $7.2 billion in annual sales, and each of the plants has about 3,000 employees.”

According to Yamazaki, its product line includes bread, sweet buns, confectionery products, side dishes and desserts.

Mr. Conner said the company’s employees have been accounted for and are safe. Additionally, family members in Japan of the company’s U.S-based staff also have been accounted for and are safe. On Monday, the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami were estimated to have topped 10,000.

“We’re trying to do what we can to stay on top of things here,” he said. “We’re praying hard. The Japanese are resilient people and they rise to the challenge. They are dealing with so much right now, and there just seems to be more and more, day after day.”

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