In its search for better tortilla technology, the Tortilla Industry Association (TIA) took a different approach to attract speakers for this fall’s technical seminar. The organization used $1,000 cash prizes to motivate individuals to share their strategies for “Increasing Yields and Improving Quality” — the theme of this year’s conference. Its program is jam-packed with presentations that will assist both corn and flour tortilla manufacturers to accomplish these goals.

In a tradition that started three years ago, or the last time the International Bakery Exposition (IBIE) was held, TIA once again switched its meeting schedule to co-locate its annual technical seminar, traditionally held in the spring, with IBIE. TIA’s technical seminar will take place Oct. 5-6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and anyone who registers for this event will receive free admission to IBIE, which runs Oct. 6-9 at the same location.

Tortilla producers, academics, and ingredient and equipment suppliers will address a variety of subjects during the event. “At the TIA tech seminar, we focus on providing attendees very valuable knowledge that they can take back home and put to use right away to help increase their business’ success,” said Jim Kabbani, the association’s CEO.

“With the tortilla market being the fastest-growing segment in the baking industry, there will be a lot of interest among IBIE attendees who are not currently manufacturing tortillas in exploring possible expansion into this dynamic and profitable sector,” he said. “Spending some time with us at the TIA tech seminar is the perfect way to accomplish this efficiently and conveniently.”

Following an overview of the program by Richard Irvin, chairman of the 2013 Education Committee and complex manager at Tyson Mexican Original, Springdale, AR, Mr. Kabbani will present “The State of the Tortilla Market” to help kick off the conference. During this, he will provide statistics to help bakers ­understand and benefit from this segment of the baking industry.

Next, attendees will hear speakers address ingredient costs for the future. Chris Morely, owner, Global Risk Management, Oakdale, MN, will discuss price projections and hedging practices for wheat, corn and oils for the coming year. Then, Charlie Kraut, PhD, owner of Mesa Foods, Louisville, KY, will host a select group of minor ingredient experts to talk about gums, salt, sugar, ­fumaric acid and more.

At the “Ask the Experts” working luncheon, attendees can ask leading tortilla producers and suppliers questions on a range of topics including food safety certification programs, organic and natural market opportunities, labeling issues and best practices.

Increasing yields will be the focus of all four afternoon sessions Oct. 5, beginning with Morrie Bryant, business manager, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Des Moines, IA, who will talk about the best corn hybrids for tortilla applications. Next, Nick Weigel, vice-president, technical services, ADM Milling, Overland Park, KS, will discuss wheat types as well as milling methods.

Dr. Kraut will moderate another panel discussion, this one about “Best Masa Flour Practices for Improved Yield and Improved Quality.” The final session of the day will focus on efficient management of shortening and oils, presented by Michael Erickson, technical service manager, Cargill, Wayzata, MN.

Following the first day of sessions, a tabletop exhibit combined with a cocktail reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m.

Three sessions will be held the morning of Oct. 6, all of which will focus on improving yields and decreasing waste. The first will feature equipment manufacturers for the tortilla industry discussing maintenance modifications for accomplishing these goals, moderated by Mr. Irvin.

Then, Tim Sieloff, baking instructor, AIB International, Manhattan, KS, will cover the human element in the production equation by focusing on training methods. The seminar’s final session will again be moderated by Dr. Kraut and will examine micro ingredients that can be added to increase yield and decrease waste.

The technical seminar concludes at noon on IBIE’s first day so attendees will have ample time to walk and shop the trade show.