Dan Malovany: Hit the Refresh Button

by By Dan Malovany
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Once in a while, it’s a good idea for every business to press the refresh button. It’s a perfect way to discard what’s gotten a bit stale and check out what’s new. Often, it simply provides a clearer perspective of what’s on the horizon.

For the baking industry, the 2010 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas, NV, did just that for both exhibitors and those baking professionals who attended the show, and the timing could not have been better. After a difficult year or two for many companies, IBIE provided a renewed sense of optimism going into 2011. Bakers seemed like they were in a buying mood, or at least they were shopping as if they were. With show attendance at heights not seen in more than a decade, the general mood was that IBIE was a huge success.

That doesn’t mean many of the industry’s challenges have suddenly gone away. Numerous studies also indicate that many Americans have reset their priorities because of the soft economy and an overall uncertainty about their future. In a recent “Back-to-Routine” Survey by SUPERVALU and Harris Interactive, for instance, 68% of parents listed “saving money” as their top food-related concern for the school year, while 52% of them mentioned “finding healthy foods on a budget.” To better target these consumers, many major retailers are promoting their private label store brands more aggressively and asking branded companies for help with deep discounts or lower everyday prices. Additionally, many supermarkets are reducing the number of SKUs they offer.

Although it may appear counterintuitive, competing in such a value-driven market may be one reason bakers were in a shopping mood at IBIE. Many of them suggested that they were searching beyond the proverbial low-hanging fruit to further reduce their costs so they can provide better pricing without pinching margins too much. Others were looking to invest in equipment that would allow them to diversify their product lines or even contract manufacture items for customers seeking to freshen up their portfolios.

Joe Turano, operations manager at Turano Baking Co., suggested that his family’s Berwyn, IL-based baking company historically has invested during economically challenging times to ensure that it’s positioned to fully leverage a recovery when it occurs or pick up business where others may have walked away. “Our markets continue to progress during these difficult times,” he said. “We’re just trying to run our business as cost effectively as possible and are focused on our classic artisan breads to sell where the market demands are.”

During IBIE, Mr. Turano hit the refresh button by attending the artisan baking workshops offered by the Bread Bakers Guild of America. On the show floor, he shopped not only for new equipment and ingredients but also for ways to more creatively produce artisan breads and rolls. “What has been impressive over the past few years, especially with the low-stresstechnology companies and our ingredient suppliers who are really progressive, are the technical services they are offering us,” he said. “It’s not just about how to run their equipment but how to formulate and how to properly use doughs to our advantage with their equipment. That’s where we’re gaining a lot of new knowledge and where our resources are coming from. Some of these companies are becoming quite innovative in the way they support us.”

In 2011, expect Baking & Snack to also hit the refresh button. As many of you may have heard, Steve Berne has joined the sales staff on our magazine while I assumed a greater role as editor. Although I have been here just a short while, it has been a great learning experience and a lot of fun working with the veterans on our editorial staff and in the sales department as well. Looking forward, while maintaining the best of what’s made Baking & Snack the leading publication serving the industry, we also plan to roll out our share of new products in print and new media and take a fresher, more innovative approach as to how we serve our readers.

Yes, stay tuned. Fresh is a good thing, especially in this industry.

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