Strong registration figures for the 2015 Purchasing Seminar sponsored by this publication may not be greeted by the industry with great surprise. After all, the seminar has enjoyed very steady growth over the course of its history dating back to the mid-1970s. During this period, a modest annual gathering of ingredient buyers from wholesale baking companies and salesmen from flour milling companies has blossomed into a singular touchstone event for executives within and beyond the grain-based foods industry.

Still, the heavy pace of early registration this year (a preliminary indicator, but one well ahead of the record in 2013) could be viewed as something of a surprise. Prices of flour, shortening, sugar and many other ingredients, while still above historical averages, are off sharply from peak levels of recent years. Early spring conditions for the U.S. wheat crop are the most benign in recent memory.

The growing disconnect between registration to the seminar and “heat” in agricultural commodity markets reflects numerous factors, including the unrelenting pressure across the food industry to approach ingredient purchasing thoughtfully and prudently. Additionally, in a consumer environment increasingly focused on issues such as food safety and clean labels, the annual coming together of buyers and sellers of ingredients reflects the many important ways in which this crucial industry function continues to change.