From left, Dave Van Laar, Kathy Kinter Phelps, Vanessa Vial and Todd Wallin. Kathy and Vanessa received the “biscuit boy” plaque from the association for their service.
From left, Dave Van Laar, Kathy Kinter Phelps, Vanessa Vial and Todd Wallin. Kathy and Vanessa received the “biscuit boy” plaque from the association for their service.

BOCA RATON, FLA. — An enthusiastic Dave Van Laar, president and chief executive officer of the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association (B.&C.M.A.), described the merger with the American Bakers Association (A.B.A.) as a “near perfect fit,” noting the two organizations complement each other’s missions and have little, if any, overlap in baker membership.

“For the industry, it’s monumental,” Mr. Van Laar said in an interview with Baking & Snack during the B.&C.M.A. annual convention, held in late March in Boca Raton.

“When we look at synergy, the potential within the industry, it’s almost exponential,” he added. “The two organizations are so closely aligned yet so different in focus that when we bring these two alignments together, it’s almost laser-focused on the industry.”

Specifically, he noted how the B.&C.M.A’s focus on education and cookie and cracker training dovetails nicely into A.B.A.’s emphasis on government relations. The big challenge — and a positive one at that — will be educating members about the full extent of benefits that the combined organizations offer once the merger is completed in July.

About two years ago, the B.&C.M.A. recruited Mr. Van Laar, a former chairman of the organization, to explore the future of the organization and a potential partnership with another group. The goal, he added, was to discover how the B.&.C.M.A. could best leverage its “legacy of education," including its annual technical conference and e-learning programs, that had become its hallmark over the past two decades. The A.B.A. was one of six organizations contacted by Mr. Van Laar over several months.

“They — A.B.A. — got it from day one,” Mr. Van Laar said.

Despite the long process, the initial excitement continued with the boards and membership of the two associations voting unanimously to combine forces.

“When we looked at A.B.A., we saw it as very different from B.&C.M.A., and their focus was very different from our focus,” said Todd Wallin, B.&C.M.A. chairman and president of Ellison Bakery, Fort Wayne, Ind., to members during the annual meeting. “One of the things they were looking at was a better education platform, and B.&.C.M.A. has, over the years, really worked to build our education platform.”

With the merger, the B.&C.M.A. becomes the education arm of the A.B.A., said Mr. Van Laar, who will assume the title of senior adviser to Robb MacKie, president and c.e.o. of the A.B.A.

Kathy Kinter Phelps, member and education manager at the B.&C.M.A., and Vanessa Vial, communications and eLearning manager, will join the A.B.A. staff. Bill Quigg, president of Richmond Baking, becomes a member of the A.B.A. executive committee while Mr. Wallin joins A.B.A.’s board of directors. Both Mr. Quigg and Mr. Wallin served on the B.&C.M.A’s transition team. Vince Tamborello of Pro Mach/Benchmark Automation, will serve as an allied member on A.B.A.’s board.

The B.&C.M.A. will hold its annual technical conference Oct. 22-25 in San Antonio.