IBIE Committee members discuss how this year’s show set will set new records as well as a higher level of expectations for the future.

Records don’t happen by accident. For the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) Committee, creating this year’s show has required dozens of meetings, countless conference calls, hundreds of hours of brainstorming and an indefatigable pursuit of a strategic goal to transform the triennial trade show into an “experience.” Yes, that’s the term the committee uses to describe this year’s upcoming event, which is expected to break the mould for what anybody in the baking industry has experienced — there’s that word again — in the past.

Moreover, IBIE 2016 will hopefully — IBIE Chairman Michael Cornelis declares “definitely” — set new records as well as a higher level of expectations for the future. These records include total exhibition floor space; number of new exhibitors; amount of education sessions; total exhibitors and, potentially, international visitors, overall attendance, and more.

There are also new interactive and networking programs that will require a lot of planning to take in the whole experience within the four days. New this year — just to name a few — are Fresh Take Talks and the Expert Bar in the IBIE Idea LAB, where attendees can hear and talk with industry experts. Additionally, the All-American Tailgate Party is a must-attend networking event on Oct. 8, the first day of the show. For more detailed information on the IBIE experience and everything the show has to offer, check out Sosland Publishing’s IBIE Special Edition & Show Preview, which will be mailed in August — as well as www.IBIE2016.com and the IBIE Mobile App.

Baking & Snack recently sat down with the full IBIE Committee to have a live conversation with its members on the extensive planning and preparation for show. They talked about industry trends, global observations and their hard work, high hopes and eager expectations for IBIE 2016. In addition to IBIE chairman Mr. Cornelis of American Pan, a Bundy Baking Solution, the committee includes Joe Turano, IBIE vice-chairman, Turano Baking Co.; Dennis Gunnell, IBIE secretary-treasurer, Formost Fuji Corp.; Howard R. (Robin) Alton, III, Pan-O-Gold Baking Co.; Robert Benton, Flowers Foods; Andrea Henderson, Rondo; Richard Hoskins III, Colborne Foodbotics LLC; Fred Springer, Burford Corp.; David Watson, Campbell Soup Co.; and Jorge Zárate, Grupo Bimbo S.A. de C.V.

Baking & Snack: What are you seeing as the big issue this year compared to three years ago?

Robert Benton: Clean label is one. So is GMO labeling. They’re in front of everyone. The big concerns are labeling laws and guidelines that may vary from state to state. Without a consistent, federal law it’s going to get very confusing for food companies that distribute products across state lines. Food safety is another big issue this year, with the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Our industry also is facing a serious workforce skills gap, especially in maintenance. We need to ensure that we have experienced maintenance personnel in our bakeries. This involves not only finding skilled personnel but retaining them as well.

How is clean-label affecting the industry from a processing and packaging perspective?

Dave Watson: It hits us primarily from a packaging standpoint. For example, if you’re going to sell some product in Vermont, which passed GMO label laws and in the process of implementing them, you will be required to come up with a different set of package labels on that same product going to another state.  A uniform labeling standard would be a move in the right direction. From a processing standpoint, the focus on a clean label has reignited development work on changes in preservatives and other additives used to extend shelf life.

Mr. Benton: You can get the cleaner ingredients. From a processing perspective, we worked through that part of the issue three years ago, but right now it is a huge packaging issue. It really is.

Joe Turano: I think Robert and Dave said it best that we have already been converting our recipes and products to all-natural or near-natural formulations. The challenges we face going forward are more related to increasing government regulations — call them GMO-labeling challenges — and whatever else may be on the path ahead. So basically, we’re facing two sets of challenges: You have government regulations and consumer activism coming together. The industry has no alternative but to satisfy consumer needs with labeling regulations that are looming, with the GMO topic probably the main one that we’re dealing with. It’s not only in Vermont. It’s going to become a national standard of some sort eventually. At IBIE, we’re looking to further educate our industry by hosting very specific educational sessions — preparing bakers and the allieds on how to transform our current recipes into products that will be able to satisfy consumer needs and expectations going forward.

Mr. Benton: Labeling requirements need to be consistent. You can’t have every state doing its own thing. Labeling has got to be consistent across the nation. That’s what we all need to push for.

Mr. Turano: The key is, how can IBIE best present ideas and opportunities that educate attendees to prepare their businesses on how to address these issues?

Dennis Gunnell: But from a different perspective, how do these issues translate to our international visitors? A lot of people who are going to read this roundtable might not be as worried about what our laws and concerns are in America, but rather about how various issues affect them internationally.

Jorge Zárate: What is happening in the US is spreading all over the world and all markets — including the bread market and the entire grain-based industry. We have been talking about sustainability and green labeling for a long period of time, but now it’s getting to a point where these issues mix with food safety, with allergens, with GMOs and everything else. I think the global perspective is closer to the US now. It definitely changes the way we used to do things, and it’s adding complexity to our formulas, processes and even the equipment of our facilities. In addition to networking, IBIE presents a lot of opportunities for everyone to learn about what is going on in different countries, not just in the US.

Michael Cornelis: I’m still very concerned about consumption of bread and other grain-based foods, and I’m hoping IBIE can provide bakers with idea generation for healthy breads and healthy alternatives for buns. At our company, we track how many pans are cycled, so we know production is down across America. We also track number of plants in North America — they’re decreasing. For every new plant that opens, three close. As a result, we know that consumption is not where it should be, and it’s still a big concern for our baker customers from a sales perspective.

But how much is bread and bun consumption decreasing and how much is shifting to foodservice, in-store bakery and other channels?

Robin Alton: It’s both. Commercial bread aisles are shrinking in most grocery stores that we see, and we have shifted our production more to foodservice and fully prepared meals. But to Mike’s point, a component of every weight-loss diet these days seems to be fewer carbs, and it’s our difficulty in trying to educate that consumer that there are good carbs and bad carbs. You can step away from bad carbs, and there are still the good carbs in breads — and they’re healthy and filling and won’t cause weight gain. If you can change your business model today to the changing business environment, you can continue to drive sales. But if you don’t change, you’re going to wake up in the future and find you have a lot less business out there.

Over the past few years, how has the IBIE committee advanced the show to make it much more relevant?

Rich Hoskins: We have become a show that is much more diverse, and yet we have been very inclusive. We’re focusing on the needs of all of us in our businesses, and the show floor reflects a much broader spectrum of the baking industry. In 2013, there were a heck of a lot more ingredient people attending and exhibiting at IBIE, and it looks like that trend is continuing. This year, the IBIE Idea LAB is also a great example of what we’re doing to make this show a very big success for a long, long time.

How has the IBIE Committee made this show more interactive?

Mr. Turano: It’s been a matter of continuous improvement over the years. We’ve been focused on how we can make each show even more engaging and each subsequent show more exciting. We’ve bounced ideas off one another on the committee and with our partners at ABA and BEMA. This year, the TED Talks-style gatherings called “Fresh Take Talks” will open a whole new dynamic to engage attendees. Along with the IBIE Idea LAB, it will be our first time doing these two programs, so I’m sure we’ll learn from this experience as well and then further adapt them for the next show cycle.

How and why is the IBIE experience evolving?

Mr. Cornelis: As the attendee base continues to diversify, it’s growing to also include more age groups — particularly within the millennials. We find they need a networking experience. They need to interact on the show floor, and the Fresh Take Talks and the IBIE Idea LAB create areas where they can do that. The show has to continue evolving because our attendee base is evolving.

Fred Springer: It’s not just an equipment show. It’s not just about having attendees walk through the aisles to see what everyone has in their booths. That’s still the most important, but we’re trying to engage attendees in all different areas of what might interest them in their field — if it’s retail, if it’s wholesale, if it’s pizza or if it’s pies. IBIE has something for everyone, whether it’s the Great American Pie Festival or the Pizza Competition. We’re also upping our game by integrating more technology into the show like the Mobile App and IBIEConnect.

Mr. Turano: There’s a really good reason for it, too. Nowadays anyone —attendee, baker or customer — can go on the Web and look up what suppliers have to offer, so we have to make the show that much more experiential and ensure attendees get most out of the show. Because they can look at products on the Web these days, we need to find a way to make the products showcase themselves even more at IBIE.

Andrea Henderson: In addition to the IBIE Idea LAB, we have education sessions that address dozens of topics. We’re trying to provide multiple forms of education where people can learn and get new information. If they’re interested in what they heard at a session, they can go to the Idea LAB and have a conversation with the person who gave that presentation. It allows people to attend a session, travel throughout the show at various times of the day and catch up with people at another networking opportunity.

How is the comprehensive education program different at IBIE 2016?

Ms. Henderson: We have more than 90 speakers and sessions. We had a tremendous turnout when we sent out the requests for speaker submissions. Because of the wide range of attendees from retail bakers to industrial/wholesale customers, we’re trying to reach all different levels of interest. For retail bakers, we have a session on how to start your business. How do you price out your product type? What are important aspects for new business owners? For industrial attendees, we’re trying to address major issues that touch every aspect of their operations. We’re talking about workforce issues. How do we bring new skilled people into the industry? We have a lot of panel discussions so attendees can get different points of views on certain subjects. For example, we might have four speakers at some sessions. In the end, we’ve increased the number of topics, and we’ve spread them across the board.

Mr. Turano: The committee not only did a wonderful job over the years of making the sessions very relevant to each evolving show cycle, but we also received feedback from the previous show about the appropriate time for each class session to make sure they don’t overlap. We paid very close attention to the start and end times of each class so attendees can go from session to session and not miss any portions of each.

Mr. Zárate: The education sessions are also going to explore global trends — not just domestic. It’s very inspiring that many of the lectures are engaging people from different countries. In many ways, we’re also building learning communities through the Q&A sessions. It’s pretty neat.

Mr. Gunnell: We’re making the whole show more engaging. Joe touched on it with millennials and how too many times they go on the Web and say, “Well, I got all the information I need.” But when you ask them the questions: “Did you talk to anybody? Did you ask them how the equipment works? What interaction did you have with people at the company?” — they don’t have the answer. When you get your team to IBIE, they can ask those questions and get the answers that they can’t get in a chat session online.

Mr. Benton: Touch-and-feel is important, but there have been other changes to IBIE over the years. The last show was a lot more focused on process — on how you make the product and get it through the system. Now, the focus is on what does the consumer really want and how we make those new products. Those meetings where you sit around with exhibitors and ask, “What if?” are going to be important.

Mr. Gunnell: To highlight what’s new on the show floor, we expanded the Innovation Showcase. Innovation is the key to why we all go to the show, and we’re really pushing the idea of innovation in every program that we’re featuring at IBIE.

Ms. Henderson: That’s the No. 1 question I always get asked: "What’s new? What are you going to feature at your exhibit? Why should I go to the show?

Let’s talk about first-time exhibitors and attendees, what should they expect from IBIE 2016?

Mr. Springer: As an exhibitor, they’re going to have a lot to learn. Since it’s your first time at this show, be prepared for all you’re going to see. I think it will be a learning experience, something good for them, and it’s an opportunity to really see the buyers. That’s what’s great about being at a show like IBIE.

Mr. Cornelis: We’re actually up to 210 new exhibitors, and it’s pretty incredible when you consider we set a record in 2013 with 107. What’s exciting about so many new companies is that it puts a lot of “fun pressure” on the attendees because they’re going to have to work harder to get the most out of IBIE. You’re going to have to show up every day. You’re going to have to have a plan on how to see everything through the show halls because there will be so many new ideas. With every new exhibitor, there’s probably a new idea. They might offer something that’s bigger, or smaller or more efficient, but it’s still different from the past. Taking the same-old attendee approach of “Well, I always walk through this hall on Monday, and I only go here on Tuesday” won’t work. You’ll have to change that approach as the show floor expands.

Mr. Watson: I agree. New attendees need to spend more time planning upfront — planning ahead for their visit. There is so much going on between the show floor, the educational sessions and all the other events that, if you don’t plan ahead, your day could fly by, and you wouldn’t catch half of what you’d like to see.

Ms. Henderson: And that’s an important message we have to get out there to the attendees because we have such a large number of exhibitors and education programs. They need to take serious time to plan to get the most benefit out of IBIE.

Mr. Cornelis: The IBIE App in 2013 that helped you plan your day was an incredible, useful tool, and this year’s app has been upgraded and improved. I would encourage every attendee — exhibitors, bakers, suppliers or whoever — to download the app and use it.

How is international attendance trending?

Mr. Zárate: International attendance is up to 30% now. We are expecting to have participants from all over the world — at least 100 countries — and we’re going offer them so much more than in the past. Today, we’re working with 60 international associations and industry groups. We have participated in other international shows, and it’s bringing us not only more attendees but also greater awareness of this show. We’re seeing increasing interest from countries like Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Chile and throughout South America. There are also participants from Africa, especially from South Africa, and Australia.

Mr. Cornelis: I’m actually hoping 2016 will turn the corner on increasing our European attendance. Our European numbers have been okay, but they could be much better. With the October dates, I’m hopeful that we might get more Europeans who will come to our show. Jorge’s points are really well-taken. In past shows, we had international delegations that bring 30 to 40 members — these are actual, interested buyers and very targeted attendees — and those delegations really help contribute to our show by bringing in quality and quantity from across the globe. The International Buyer Program in cooperation with the US Department of Commerce is a huge win for our show. There are very few shows that actually qualify to get that certification.

What else will be seen on the show floor that may have not been at previous IBIEs?

Mr. Turano: The trend toward packaging flexibility and customization is becoming increasingly important for the baking industry. It was a small gap that we analyzed in the planning sessions, and we made an effort to really try to attract further exhibitor coverage with packaging equipment. Our after-show surveys from IBIE 2013 also indicated the need for further networking. Our attendees said we don’t have enough networking opportunities aside from the show floor. So we felt that an opening party, the All-American Tailgate networking event, would allow that.

Mr. Cornelis: And we’re very pleased that Sosland is going to be one of the sponsors of that.

Finally, Mr. Cornelis, as IBIE chairman, what is the most important aspect of IBIE 2016 in your personal opinion?

Mr. Cornelis: Boy, just that everyone has fun. A lot of fun.