Onsite learning, such as Train the Trainer, is available for BEMA member companies.
Return on investment

Why should a baker plug into an association when the world is shrinking because of instant electronic communication? For years, associations have worked to find new ways to answer that question and do so now more than ever. From quantifiable data to the immeasurable importance of networking, associations are going beyond justifying their existence.

Prospective members must consider not only the financial investment but also the substantial time commitment in belonging to such organizations. That means taking advantage of the annual meetings and conventions across the country. Annual events like the Best Week in Baking — which includes the A.S.B.’s BakingTech and the co-located BEMA Summit — A.B.A.’s Annual Convention, SNAXPO and I.F.T. bring the industry together to provide access and business opportunities that can’t be replicated through sales calls or emails. The time commitment requires sending valuable employees away for extended periods of time, theoretically taking away from company production. Leadership for these groups recognize this and are making sure companies get a measurable R.O.I.

“We have to justify our existence,” said Dave Van Laar, senior adviser to the president and c.e.o., B&CMA transition and development for the A.B.A. “There are no more simple responses to members like, ‘We’re good for the industry.’ We have to prove our value. We have to show a return on our members’ investment.”

The combined A.B.A. and B.&C.M.A. can provide quantifiable results both on the advocacy side and the educational side. The A.B.A. provides bakers with access to policy makers in Washington, as well as regulatory agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) and the Environmental Protection Agency. The voices of the A.B.A. are in direct contact with the F.D.A. during relevant recalls and work on behalf of members’ manufacturing facilities to protect them from false claims of contamination. The A.B.A.’s advocacy work with Congress, state legislatures and regulatory agencies help educate policy makers about how certain issues facing the baking industry can impact the industry and individual companies’ bottom lines.

Mr. Van Laar and Robb MacKie, president and c.e.o. of the A.B.A., recently traveled the country on the Stronger Together Tour, visiting manufacturing plants, corporate offices and everything in between. One goal of the tour was to show the baking industry’s economic impact in every state and demonstrate how A.B.A. and B.&C.M.A. collaboration will enhance that impact.

Nationally, there are almost 800,000 direct jobs created by the baking industry with wages reaching $44 billion annually, according to A.B.A. data. Sales of baked goods products in the United States totaled $423 billion in 2016, and bakers contribute about 2.3% to the U.S. GDP. A further 1.3 million jobs were indirectly supported by the baking industry through suppliers and the indirect impact of the industry’s expenditures. Recent A.B.A. returns to the industry include $1.25 billion in savings in annual baked goods exports after the association fought to repeal the country-of-origin labeling requirements that would have jeopardized baker exports to Mexico and Canada. The A.B.A. also worked to prevent expensive registration fees from being included in the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), which provides a savings of $94,500 annually, according to the A.B.A.

“Our combined resources have the potential to significantly increase our value proposition for the industry,” Mr. MacKie said. “Whether it is our advocacy work, our problem solving, training or business to business networking, the combined strength should deliver greater effectiveness.”

Mr. MacKie said those national figures demonstrate the responsibility that the A.B.A. has to work on behalf of an industry that affects so many Americans. The numbers also illustrate the urgency for Mr. MacKie and Mr. Van Laar to hit the road and hear from their members.

“That’s why we’re going through this strategic planning because our focal point can’t be us as association staff,” Mr. MacKie said. “It can’t be what we think the industry needs. We need to go to the industry and say, ‘Tell us what you need, and we’ll build it.’”

In education, the B.&C.M.A. continues to offer its various electronic courses and technical conference. Mr. Van Laar asserted that the merger will change nothing for B.&C.M.A. members … other than the association’s reach. In fact, the B.&C.M.A.’s reserve fund, about $1.2 million, will now be earmarked specifically for educational initiatives. And where the B.&C.M.A. traditionally only reached production workers and managers in biscuit and cracker manufacturing plants, the educational resources offered at the annual technical conference and on-line will now be available to higher-level executives as well.

“We have so many deliverables now as one association,” Mr. Van Laar said. “We address production, from the very beginning of the process on the plant floor to the board of directors. Neither one of us, A.B.A. or B.&C.M.A., could do that separately before, but today we can.”

For the A.S.B., whose membership consists of individuals rather than companies, delivering results is about building careers. The A.S.B. offers on-line education and an extensive research library for everyone from new college graduates to 50-year veterans. In addition to continuing education, the society provides career recognition like the Robert A. Fischer Award, which recognizes outstanding service and leadership by an individual to the A.S.B., and the A.S.B. Baking Hall of Fame, that members value and appreciate.

“Our real focus is to help individuals within the wholesale baking industry to build their baking career at every stage,” said Kent Van Amburg, A.S.B. executive director.

When putting together the A.S.B.’s annual technical program for BakingTech, the goal is to provide members something they can take directly back to their bakery and implement, said Bill Zimmerman Jr., A.S.B. chairman, and president of Pacific Northwest Baking Co., Sumner, Wash.

“There’s a dual benefit,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “You’ve got a career benefit; you’re doing what the company pays you to do. And there’s benefit for the company because you’re helping improve the organization overall.”

Representing the $13 billion tortilla industry, T.I.A. provides value to members by hosting its annual convention in addition to technical conferences, legislative fly-ins and a European conference. Jim Kabbani, the association’s c.e.o., said other services like T.I.A.’s Alert and Ask the Expert services offer member’s year-round support.

SNAC International returns value to its more than 400 member companies through advocacy, education and networking. Elizabeth Avery, president and c.e.o., said SNAC International works to represent its members at all levels of government and is advocating for freedom of choice when it comes to the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Recently, certain states have requested waivers from USDA to ban participants from purchasing certain foods, and the issue of SNAP choice continues to be debated in Congress.

“The snack industry needs an association that will quickly respond to these critical issues,” Ms. Avery said.

SNAC International also offers free education to its members, including monthly webinars on regulatory issues and industry trends, the Excellence in Sales and Marketing Seminar, the Legislative Summit and the Georgetown University Emerging Leaders Program.

Membership in each association often overlaps, and participating companies look to each group for different services. To meet all the needs of the baking and snack industries, there is no choice but to work together.