CHICAGO — Declaring “it’s a learning process all the time,” Ramon Rivera, senior vice-president, operations, Bimbo Bakeries USA, took the gavel of the American Society of Baking (A.S.B.) as its 2015-16 chairman.

Mr. Rivera, with 34 years at B.B.U. and its parent company Grupo Bimbo S.A. de C.V., has more than a quarter-century of membership in the A.S.B. Assuming leadership of the society and speaking to the closing session of its 2015 BakingTech conference, he recounted how A.S.B. participation assisted his path from chemical engineer to baker to operations head.

“This has been a very good value-added experience for me and my company,” he said. “And it is a privilege to serve the industry as chairman of A.S.B.”

He cited the “year of growth” for the group described by 2014-15 A.S.B. chairman Anthony Turano of Turano Baking Co. earlier during the conference.

“I believe as an industry we have many challenges — consumers, customers, competitors, regulations and manpower — but the biggest is to have growth,” he added. “We have to take risks.”

The baking industry faces rising problems now and in times to come, Mr. Rivera observed.

“We have to think about innovation, and there is a thin line between innovation and added complexity,” he said.

Mr. Rivera set the theme for next year’s meeting to be “Growth Through Innovation.”

During the closing session, Mr. Turano introduced the group’s 2015-16 officers. New to the ranks is Teresa Ruder of Burford Corp., as secretary/treasurer. Mario Somoza of Pan Pepin, Inc. becomes the group’s first vice-chair. Wendi Ebbing of Bundy Baking Solutions moves into the second vice-chair slot, with Bill Zimmerman Jr. of Pacific Northwest Baking Co. as third vice-chair.

Guiding next year’s BakingTech program will be a “committee of chairmen,” Mr. Rivera said. Led for the second time by Mark Hotze of Tromp Group Americas, the program committee consists of individuals who previously served as A.S.B. chairmen and program chairmen. They are: former chairmen Rowdy Brixey of B.B.U. (2011), Theresa Cogswell of BakerCogs (2007) and John Khoury of Custom Foods (2010), along with former program chairmen Terry Bartsch of Shaffer Manufacturing, a Bundy Baking Solution (2010), Paul Lattan of Sosland Publishing (2011), Kurt Miller of J&K Ingredients (2006) and Mr. Zimmerman (2007). Mr. Hotze served for his first time as program chairman in 2009.

This year’s BakingTech offered two new activities: a new product development competition, chaired by Marvin Goertz of Bunge Milling, and the A.S.B. Innovation Awards, put together by the MarketPlace committee headed by Walden Hodges, CSM Bakery Products NA, and evaluated by a panel of bakers.

New concepts for baked foods provided the focus to the product competition. In the student division, a team from Kansas State University (Alex Maxwell and Amy Guo) won first place for Multigrain Masala Mathri, with the University of California-Davis team (Tin Lin, Andrew Pham, Mallory Mau and Victoria Lee) taking the runner up position for its Hearty Pie. A second team from Kansas State University (Emily Elliot, Emily Jackson and Marie Feldpausch) also competed with Whole Wheat Garlic Parmesan Bread.

In the professional division, the Puratos team (Braden Cadenelli and Paul Morabito) won for its Muesli Cookie, and Emily Guilfoyle of Corbion received runner-up honors for her Loaf Divided. Michelle Kim of Little Door also competed with her Buckwheat Pita.

The A.S.B. sponsored an innovations competition among the Marketplace exhibitors. The systems and their suppliers that received recognition in the category of operational excellence were SmartBake S6E by Banner-Day, SQF - Sentinal by Focus Works, Distrib Software Performance Manager Module by Pcdata and Rapidojet by Bakery Concepts International. T&T Consulting & Engineering received two awards, one for Apparatus for Applying Particulate Matter to Substrate and the other for Column Drive for Spiral Conveyors.

In the category of health, wellness and nutrition, Lallemand Baking Solutions was honored for its VitaD Yeast.

As at previous gatherings of BakingTech, Russ Bundy of Bundy Baking Solutions provided artifacts from the Bundy Baking Museum, Urbana, Ohio.

BakingTech 2016 is scheduled for Feb. 28 through March 2 at the Hilton Chicago.