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This past month, I was fortunate to be able to attend iba 2012 in Munich, Germany. To this point in my career, I had attended many trade shows across this country, but never made it abroad for this international showcase.

I started my string on consecutive Las Vegas IBIEs back in 1985 and thought I had been to “the big show,” but after wandering around iba in September, I now know what the big show looks like, and my feet know what it feels like. There were 12 individual pavilions located on the Messe München exhibition complex, and each one of them could hold three football fields lying side to side and still have room for the running track around the outside. I spent five full days on the show grounds and know for sure that I did not see everything.

The organizers stated that there were 1,200 baking industry suppliers showing there, and although I didn’t count them, I will trust their numbers. With all that said, what was the big deal?

The big deal was the variety of options for every kind of baking equipment, ingredient and service known to man. With so many vendors on the show floor, it was hard to find something that was truly unique to one company. Ingredient handling, dough processing and baking were covered by many different suppliers. Baking pans, conveying systems and packaging options were too many to count. Food was being prepared all over the halls, and the Master Bakers representing their homelands from all over the world were competing daily in the iba cup. The creations that came from this competition were quite astounding — not to mention edible.

As I wandered around this show, I did so with a new set of eyes as my past history in this industry was always concentrated on bread, buns and English muffins. Because my world today covers a wider range of foods, I found that my vision was opened up to many new technologies that cover foods in the frozen dough, cake muffin, artisan bread, flatbread and pizza categories.

This new wide-eyed approach not only provided new things to learn, it also added to my arsenal, new suppliers that I can reach out to for solutions different from what I had been used to seeing in the past.

The other part of a show like this that is valuable is that you get to network with people with eye to eye contact, both when meeting new people and when refreshing old industry relationships. Today we spend so much time emailing and texting that we lose the personal touch, and everyone knows that is where the real work gets done, one on one.

iba 2012 is now over, and IBIE 2013 is just 12 months away. If you didn’t find the solution you were looking for this year, stay tuned as we will be doing this all over again in Las Vegas, before you know it.