Two things really scare the dickens out of anybody in the baking and snack industries. On the operations side, it’s the inability to predict and protect your company against future unexpected events such as catastrophic equipment failure at a normally reliable plant. Likewise, the marketing side often involves untold risks in developing and launching new products. Don’t you wish you could find a way to solve these problems?

To explore the future of bakery equipment, Baking & Snack magazine and BEMA joined forces to develop the Dreamspace project. With Cypress Research Associates, we first held a focus group with members of the Baking Industry Forum (BIF) to identify 25 current challenges and futuristic solutions for the research report. We then conducted an online industry survey to determine which solutions are most valuable. Finally, the BIF panel interpreted the results at BEMA’s Winter Summit.

The bottom line? Today’s bakers are more concerned about food and employee safety and eliminating downtime than ever before, and they want the next generation of technology to address these issues.

“Very few of our ideas that we came up with involved running production faster and with fewer people on the line,” Jeffrey Teasdale, a veteran baker and BIF member, told BEMA members. “We’ve all found a way to get the low-hanging fruit out of our systems. The direct labor on commercial lines is almost down to as far as it can get. Our costs are getting more important to control off the line with maintenance and sanitation. They have become almost more important than driving up speed on lines and saving labor.” Read more here.

On the marketing side, Kronos Foods continues to redefine the bread category with 22 different types of flatbreads, and its versatile operation in Glendale Heights, IL, can produce many more varieties. Specifically, the company offers everything from Italian panini pitas to Middle Eastern pocket breads. It’s even a huge producer of par-baked pizza crusts for the food service industry. Michael Austin, Kronos’ CEO, explains why Mediterranean foods have the potential to become as popular in the near future as Mexican cuisine is today. Read the story here.

Elsewhere in the snack food industry, Snak King, City of Industry, CA, found a creative way to leverage its existing production capabilities and, consequently, minimize the risks in developing unique products that demand a premium price.

Under its Whole Earth brand, the company rolled out organic kettle corn, organic tortilla chips, and a cashew, almond and cranberry nut cluster — the latter of which provides a snacking alternative along with a good source of protein and fiber. These niche products demonstrate how a snack producer can use a little technological savvy plus selected capital investment to find new ways to leverage its conventional nut, popcorn and tortilla lines. Read more about what Snak King is doing in Snack World magazine’s upcoming state-of-the-industry report, which we produce with the Snack Food Association.

In the end, think beyond the low-hanging fruit. That’s the future for the industry. Challenging the status quo is not as scary as the alternative.