CHICAGO — When Hans van der Maarel joined the baking industry 1960, he was freshly out of trade school in The Netherlands. After serving a mandatory stint in the Dutch Air Force, the young mechanic in 1970 became a field manager for Benier BV, a Dutch baking equipment company, now part of the Kaak Group. By 1977, he became president of the Canadian division and eventually president of the U.S. business as well.

Today, reflecting on his 54 years in the industry, the recipient of this year’s BEMA Lifetime Achievement award given out at the BEMA Winter Summit held Feb. 28 and March 1 at the Hilton Chicago, said he believes that he has lived the American dream.

“To come to Canada and the U.S. and have the opportunity to build a successful business from one person to more than 50 employees is incredible,” he said. “But supporting the industry and having the support of the industry are what counts.”

During his career, Mr. van der Maarel has been active not only in BEMA for more than 30 years but also on the International Baking Industry Exposition (I.B.I.E.) Committee for nearly 25 years. Along the way, he worked with members of both groups to make the organizations more professional and more profitable. Because of such efforts, he stressed, both BEMA and I.B.I.E. today have the fiscal strength to support and strengthen the baking industry in a number of ways.

“We wanted to make I.B.I.E a world class event,” he said. “I.B.I.E. needed to be more than just a trade show to make it prosper and make it grow. It’s changed dramatically over the years.”

Offering words of wisdom, he advised always to search for new processes and products and not to live in the past.

“Always look forward and stay alert to the changes in the world, and keep an eye on the opportunities and even those threats to the industry,” he said.

At 69, Mr. van der Maarel remains active in the baking industry as head of International Bakery Consulting, a firm he founded a few years ago. As for his career, “no regrets whatsoever,” he noted.

“If I were a young boy again, I wouldn’t make a single change,” he said. “I had a chance to do what I wanted. It can’t be better than that.”