Nothing matches innovation to power growth. That’s the keynote message that William Toler, president and CEO of Hostess Brands LLC, Kansas City, MO, will deliver to BakingTech 2016, the annual technical conference sponsored by the American Society of Baking (ASB) Feb. 28-March 1 at Chicago. Faced with daunting market problems, Hostess broke through by changing — and innovating — in production and distribution.

Another “name brand” keynoter, Kat Cole, former president of Cinnabon, Inc., and current president of Cinnabon’s parent company, FOCUS Brands, Atlanta, takes the podium to deepen the discussion of innovation. In addition, Charles (Chaz) Campbell, brigadier general US Air Force (retired) and president of Afterburner, Inc., Atlanta, will describe how to make leadership the secret to business success.

“The theme of the conference is ‘Growth Through Innovation,’ ” explained ASB’s chairman, Ramon Rivera of Bimbo Bakeries USA (BBU), Horsham, PA. “Program Chair Mark Hotze and his committee have developed a conference that will challenge attendees to question what innovations they can incorporate into their business to create growth in production, growth in sales and, most importantly, growth in profitability.

“No other industry meeting has as many baker and allied attendees, as many opportunities to network with your partners or as many technical sessions that provide industry best practices you can put to work as soon as you get home,” Mr. Rivera said.

He summarized the technical sessions covering formulating, noting, “[they] will focus on innovations in ingredients that are being driven by legislation and the move to clean label and away from PHOs. Following up last year’s panel on GMOs will be a discussion of the current state of traditional and GMO wheat breeding programs.” Water chemistry’s effect on fermentation will be considered as well.

Processing gets coverage, too, starting with ASB’s popular “Engineers Only” session on the morning of Feb. 29 before the opening general session. During the conference, methods to unlock trapped equipment capacity and mitigate dust migration are due for examination. And AIB International will present its new kill step validation model to help bakeries comply with new food safety regulations.

This won’t be just a sit-and-listen event. ASB plans a virtual reality session. “Attendees will have the opportunity to experience virtual welding, spray painting and carpentry,” Mr. Rivera said. This technique “opens the door to a new way of training but also new ways of saving time and increasing effectiveness,” he added.

In an always-stirring event, new Baking Hall of Fame honorees will be inducted during the opening session on Feb. 29.

The BakingTech 2016 program chairman, Mark Hotze of Corbion Caravan, Lenexa, KS, tapped past program chairmen to serve on his committee. They are Terry Bartsch, Shaffer Manufacturing Corp., A Bundy Baking Solution, Urbana, OH; Rowdy Brixey, BBU; Theresa Cogswell, BakerCogs, Inc., Olathe, KS; Paul Lattan, Sosland Publishing Co., Kansas City, MO; Kurt Miller, J&K Ingredients, Paterson, NJ; and Bill Zimmerman Jr., Pacific Northwest Baking, Sumner, WA.

ASB announced changes to its MarketPlace sessions. A new 40,000-sq-ft space will house all exhibitors in one room. According to Kent Van Amburg, ASB executive director, this location feels more like a ballroom instead of an exhibit hall.

MarketPlace hours on Feb. 28, run 4 to 6 p.m. as before, but for the next two days, hours are extended: 4 to 6:30 p.m., giving attendees an extra hour of networking. Additionally, bar service and a networking reception will be held in the MarketPlace starting at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 29 and March 1. ASB arranged separate conversation areas located on the exhibit floor for non-booth personnel to network.

Scott Fischer of Stellar, Jacksonville, FL, and chair of the MarketPlace committee, reported to ASB members, “We focused our attention on using a common exhibit hall, table top placement, traffic patterns, networking opportunities and future growth.”

ASB’s Product Development contest returns for a second year, with slightly revised rules. It has a new theme: Breakfast Bakery Products. Entries must use a minimum of 51% (formula weight basis) grains or grain-based flours and show room-temperature stability for three days. Professionals and students are invited to participate.

A young professionals educational session is set for Feb. 28. The opening reception will be held later that day. Attendees can also take part in the annual Early Bird Breakfast sponsored by the Allied Trades of the Baking Industry on March 1. Meeting just ahead of BakingTech 2016, BEMA holds its Winter Summit Feb. 27-28.

All events take place at the Hilton Chicago hotel on Michigan Ave. Program offerings noted here are current as of mid-October.

Registration and housing are open now, with early bird rates good through Jan. 15. Details are at