NASHVILLE, TENN. – At the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association (B&CMA)’s 2014 annual technical conference in Nashville, Tenn., keynote speaker Dave Van Laar (then the association’s chairman) reminisced on his early experience with the conference.

“Thirty-some years ago, I watched people go to the technical conference,” he said during his keynote address. “It was a sacred thing.”

Today, Mr. Van Laar is B&CMA president and committed to continuing the high standards of excellence attendees have come to expect from this hallowed event.

“The B&CMA has two major goals for the cookie and cracker industry — education and networking,” Mr. Van Laar explained. “The technical conference fulfills both these goals at the same time and in one event.”

Conference attendees — be they just starting out in baking or seasoned industry pros — can attend breakout sessions to learn more about formulation calculations, get tips on increasing productivity for deposit and wire-cut cookies, pick up the latest information in packaging, and more.

The annual state-of-the-industry address will be given by Chris Wilkins, vice-president and general manager, ConAgra Foods, and a second keynote will feature Technomic, a food service market study company, to bring a fresh perspective to the business of cookie and cracker production.

“We regularly focus on the branded retail side of our business,” Mr. Van Laar said, “but the food service segment is a big part of it, too.”

Attendees will gain insight into those developing trends that reveal the changing eating habits of today’s consumers.

“We’re looking forward to correlating the retail trends with those in food service,” he added.

One of the most popular sessions at the technical conference is the Ask the Experts panel taking place on May 5.

“This special session provides a forum for open discussion on all phases of manufacturing, troubleshooting and technical knowledge that all attendees will find useful to their specific jobs,” said Kathy Kinter Phelps, manager of membership and education services.

The B&CMA technical conference also provides networking opportunities not only between bakers and suppliers but also among the bakers themselves. The May 4 networking luncheon will bring attendees together for a meal and to listen to keynote speaker Charlie Weatherbie, former head football coach at Utah State University and the Naval Academy and director of Love Orlando Initiative and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

That evening, bakers and suppliers can celebrate camaraderie and competition during the social event taking place at Tampa’s Splitsville Luxury Lanes that will include bowling, photo booths and a retro bowling shirt contest.

“This event will give attendees a chance to share in some fun, all for the purpose of getting to know one another and sharing information in a relaxed setting,” Ms. Kinter Phelps said.

The conference will cap off with a bakery tour of Toufayan Bakery in Plant City, Fla., hosted by Greg Toufayan, president, and Roy Peters, vice-president of sales. The plant tour is the embodiment of the B&CMA motto that competitors can also be friends.

“This conference brings bakers together to share information without divulging proprietary information,” Mr. Van Laar said. “This is an environment where bakers can help one another solve common fundamental problems. This is not only good for individual attendees, but it also advances the entire industry.”

For more information on how to register and the new B&CMA mobile app, visit