WASHINGTON — Key trends in the baking industry will be the focus of a panel of experts at the April 22 morning business session during the annual American Bakers Association Convention in Aventura, Fla. Representatives from market research firms The Nielsen Co. and Mintel International will be joined by an executive from the Natural Marketing Institute and a registered dietitian to present a “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats” analysis on the baking category from their various perspectives.

Todd Hale, senior vice-president of Consumer & Shopper Insights at Nielsen, will share his insight on consumer shopping, buying and media consumption behaviors and attitudes to provide manufacturers and retailers with strategic visions to facilitate brand, category and retail sales growth. Mr. Hale has more than 33 years of experience in the consumer research industry, including 27 years with The Nielsen Co.

Steve French, managing partner at the Natural Marketing Institute, has spent the past 14 year at the N.M.I. working with many global Fortune 500 corporations, government agencies, start-up companies, associations and various organizations across a range of industries. He has pioneered a range of N.M.I. consumer research databases. These proprietary N.M.I. tools analyze consumer attitudes, behavior, product usage patterns, psychographics and demographics within the health, wellness and environmental sustainability marketplace.

Lynn Dornblaser, director of consulting of Mintel Custom Solutions at Mintel International, is responsible for providing trend analysis and new product expert knowledge to clients.  She regularly leads product ideation meetings for a variety of consumer packaged goods companies.  She also was fundamental to the development and growth of Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), a database that internationally tracks new product introductions.

Frances Largeman-Roth is a registered dietitian, best-selling author and nationally recognized health expert. Ms. Largeman-Roth was the food and nutrition director at Health magazine for nearly eight years. Prior to that, she was part of the editorial team at the “Discovery Health Channel” and also held the post of managing editor at FoodFit.com. She is a frequent guest on national television, including the “Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “CBS This Morning,” “The Talk,”  “The Rachael Ray Show” and “The Dr. Oz Show.”

Following the panel, a retail customer panel discussion will take place, headlined by John Elstrott, chairman of Whole Foods, Inc.; Richard Junge, menu innovation, McDonald’s Corp.; and Mark Batenic, president and chief executive officer, Independent Grocers Association.

Dr. Elstrott is a professor of entrepreneurship and the executive director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship at Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business in New Orleans. He serves as the chairman of board and is past chair of the audit committee for Whole Foods Market, Inc.

For the past 10 years, Mr. Junge has led the innovation of new bakery products at McDonald’s, Oak Brook, Ill. His main focus throughout his career has been bakery product innovation in the key markets for grocery products and food service. He has spent the last 33 years directing applied research applications and leading industry product development groups. Past experiences include directing product development groups at Continental Baking, Pillsbury, Schwan’s and DuPont/Solae. 

Mr. Batenic joined the I.G.A. as president and chief executive officer in November 2006, and in that capacity he was responsible for the domestic operations of 1,200 I.G.A. USA stores. Prior to joining I.G.A., he was the executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Clemens Markets, Kulpsville, Pa. Currently, he is on the boards of the Food Marketing Institute, the National Grocers Association, Food for All, the St. Joseph’s University Food Marketing Academy, and he also serves on The Consumer Goods Forum.

More information on the conference is available at www.americanbakers.org.