Speakers such as Todd Hale, retail insights thought leader and principal, Todd Hale LLC, who presented at IBIE 2016, offer association members and convention attendees valuable industry knowledge.
Collaborate to educate

The industry continues to evolve, and associations must evolve with it. And as these groups seek to provide value for members, they must also be aware of what others are doing. That’s why the leaders of the A.B.A., BEMA and the A.S.B. meet quarterly to discuss present and future projects. They also meet with AIB International, which works to create science and educational programs and services for the entire industry, to establish programs that can supplement each other.

This level of collaboration may be unique to the baking industry. Each organization offers something that sets it apart from the others, creating that server-like network where companies and individuals can all benefit.

The A.S.B. provides scholarships, professional development webinars and education. It is also reemphasizing part of the association’s original name, ASBE, the “E” representing engineers, by offering more education for engineers, machinists and maintenance mechanics.

The I.F.T. supplements these initiatives with a host of ingredient education from the fundamentals of sensory science to courses on allergens and ingredient nanoscience. Members are offered graduate and undergraduate scholarship opportunities, live and on-demand webcasts, in-person and on-line short courses, and several publications. I.F.T.’s 24 Divisions, a program for special interest groups focusing on specific areas of food science and technology, explore important topics and develop solutions.

“Members of these divisions can collaborate real-time in I.F.T.’s on-line member-only platform, I.F.T. Connect, to solve real problems, make connections and add to the existing community of knowledge on a topic, including how the science of food can drive innovation within the baking industry,” said Christie Tarantino Dean, c.e.o. of the I.F.T.

Meanwhile, the A.B.A. and BEMA also support efforts like the Grain Foods Foundation and Wheat Foods Council, which promote bakers, millers and allied suppliers in academia, public health, health care, and traditional and social media.

“We really have been intentional about seeing what the others’ initiatives are, making sure that we stay in our own lane and support one another because we all only have so many resources and we don’t want to double up on things,” Mr. Brown said.

Associations also collaborate on answers for industry-wide issues like the workforce gap. One solution so far has been BEMA-U and its transformational leadership courses. It offers the Insights Discovery format to pursue leadership purpose, vision and strategy. Any baking or allied company can participate in courses for any corporate team, whether it’s production floor employees or upper management, to improve leadership and productivity. The goal, Mr. Brown said, is for companies to invest in their people to limit the turnover occurring across the industry.

Federal regulations like FSMA are another area where associations help member companies. AIB International has been key in educating the industry and providing solutions through partnerships with BEMA, the A.B.A. and the A.S.B. The kill step validation process is an example of a collaboration with the A.B.A. and both Kansas State University and the University of Georgia to produce baking process kill step calculators. AIB has developed calculators for eight products, including flour tortillas and yeast-raised donuts, that allow bakeries to validate their food safety preventive controls and document Salmonella destruction during the baking process.

Together, associations provide an educational resource that would otherwise be close to impossible for individual companies to match. Mr. Brown explained that it would be tremendously expensive for large bakeries to fund their own leadership courses or industry studies, but when associations pool their resources, the benefits are more widespread.

The personal touch

While computers, servers, cell phones and emails may rule in today’s electronic world, nothing replaces meeting with someone in person. That’s how many employees and executives in the baking industry feel and why the number of attendees continues to grow year after year at events like BEMA’s Annual Summit, BakingTech and more.

“A face to face, a handshake, sitting down and meeting is a connection at a whole different level,” Mr. Brown said. “In our industry, those connections and relationships are as important now as they’ve ever been.”

Associations offer a variety of benefits when it comes to meetings from discounted registration fees to free networking events. These aspects of associations are often some of the most important, Mr. Brown said. If a baker is looking to purchase a new bread line, for example, it would take months of phone calls and equipment supplier visits to speak to everyone he or she could meet in four days at a convention.

However, consolidation continues to be a challenge. Conventional wisdom suggests that consolidation, in theory, limits the ability to connect with a greater number of companies. Mr. Van Amburg said the A.S.B. has experienced this decrease in the number of total companies their members are coming from over the past decade but, at the same time, have been able to grow BakingTech and overall membership.

“As we see more consolidation, it’s a unique opportunity to be able to go to A.S.B. and talk with folks that do work with other companies and learn from them because there are now fewer of those companies out there,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “We are having to dig deeper into the organization to ask them to send their frontline supervisors.”

As new generations enter the field, associations provide the opportunity for younger employees to network with more experienced professionals, gain mentors and develop important industry relationships.

“Coming together to learn from one another, analyze new trends, conduct business and, perhaps, make life-long friends fuels the commitment so many have for this organization,” Ms. Avery said of SNAC International. “Over the years, we have seen truly wonderful things happen when many of our members can meet face-to-face in one venue; there is no substitute for that kind of personal interaction.”

Through this network, together with the value of advocacy and education, associations empower the industry to better connect with one another.