Behind every computer server are wires that weave among one another connecting port to port, transferring incredible amounts of information. In many ways, these networks are vital to life as we know it in today’s computerized world.
Similarly, associations in the baking and snack industries create a complex grid of paths for information to pass through. The American Bakers Association (A.B.A.), the Biscuit and Cracker Manufacturers’ Association (B.&C.M.A.), BEMA, the American Society of Bakers (A.S.B.), SNAC International, the Tortilla Industry Association (T.I.A.), the Institute of Food Technologists (I.F.T.) and other groups like AIB International all work in their own channels but, together, are vital to supporting and strengthening the industry.
The landscape changed considerably this year with the merger of the A.B.A. and the B.&C.M.A. in June. The A.B.A. now combines its resources and strength in government relations and advocacy with the B.&C.M.A.’s longstanding focus on providing education for the cookie and cracker industries. The two associations are now drafting a strategic plan that leverages their individual strengths to create a more powerful organization.
Now, more than ever, bakers need to untangle the wires and connect to what they need in the industry. Allen Wright, 2016-17 BEMA chairman and vice-president, sales and marketing, Hansaloy, said bakeries and equipment and ingredient suppliers are buying into the importance of being part of an association.
“As a member company, I think that’s crucially important to Hansaloy’s business to know what’s going on in the industry around us,” Mr. Wright said. “Not only on the allied side but also on the baker side to try to meet the needs, ultimately, of the consumer.”
Kerwin Brown, president and chief executive officer of BEMA, said baker involvement in allied associations wasn’t as common as it is today. Where one or two baking companies might go to a BEMA event a decade ago, 25 to 30 now attend. Bakers interact not only with suppliers but also with one another, solving common challenges and sharing best practices across categories. These opportunities are one of the main reasons associations are becoming more relevant than ever.
“When bakers come to us saying, ‘Can we come back? This has been so valuable,’ we think that speaks to the value their wanting to be engaged and a part of it,” Mr. Brown said.