A recent comment here highlighted the 17.3% gain in the Grain-Based Foods Share Index in 2012 as an auspicious sign for the baking industry in the new year. While it’s true that the stock market is a leading indicator and last year’s surge is an encouraging sign for baking, it’s also true that many influences are at play when food stocks rise, not just the industry’s growth prospects. To whatever extent that may be the case, a more definitively bullish indicator for baking has come to light in preliminary data regarding the 2013 International Baking Industry Exposition to be held Oct. 6-9 in Las Vegas.

While Expo organizers always look for ways to cast data about I.B.I.E. in the best possible light, no acrobatics are needed this year. Versus a “strong” performance in 2010, booth reservations are tracking 26% ahead in exhibitor count and 20% in square footage, on pace for a sell-out at an unusually early date.

Robb MacKie, president of the American Bakers Association, said the strong sales are not simply a case of exhibitors “getting their act together” and signing up earlier.

“We’re not only seeing our core suppliers come back this year, but also new exhibitors and suppliers outside of our core market,” he said.

The heavy signups represent a response to pledges of major capital investment in baking and optimism that more new spending will be unveiled in the period ahead. For suppliers yet to sign up for I.B.I.E., the figures offer a warning against further dithering. For a consolidated baking industry, the powerful commitment by the allied trades signals a need to begin planning immediately for each company to reciprocate with a highly visible, expanded presence at this most important event. Given the tumult in baking over the last several years and still in play at the moment, the positive signs for I.B.I.E. offer the industry a welcome dose of hopeful cheer for 2013 and beyond.