The American Bakers Association revealed a new strategic plan at the 2018 ABA Convention.

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — To combat government over-reach into business operations and other critical issues, the American Bakers Association unveiled the first phase of the organization’s new strategic plan during the All Membership Meeting at the 2018 A.B.A. Convention, held April 15-18 in Scottsdale.

“This plan is a product of the A.B.A. membership,” noted Fred Penny, A.B.A.’s immediate past chair. “We could not have done this without the candid feedback and guidance of our member leaders.”

The plan is intended to ensure that the A.B.A. is aligned with the baking industry to support its continued growth and success, said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A.

“We were challenged by our members to come up with something incredibly bold,” he said. “In three years, we’re looking for the baking industry to be recognized as essential to healthy families and a healthy economy.”

Specifically, the foundation of the A.B.A.’s plan calls for two over-riding strategic initiatives: collaborative advocacy along with promoting and growing the baking industry.

“The core to what we want to do is make sure that the A.B.A. is tightly aligned with the industry,” Mr. MacKie said.

During the developmental stages, the plan relied upon nine months of in-depth surveys and interviews in 2017 with bakers, allieds and even some key customers to support the effort. The A.B.A. reported that the research resulted in a list of clearly defined outcomes that the industry wanted the A.B.A. to address.

The survey revealed that 81% of respondents believed government overreach into business operations is a top priority for the A.B.A. to address. Additionally, 76% mentioned publicly promoting a positive image for the baking industry; 65% named grain-based product relevance with consumers; 61% mentioned learning about innovations and new solutions for the industry, and 54% thought improving the baking industry’s image and visibility with retailers is a future endeavor.

More than half (53%) suggested another major concern involved improving the image of the industry in local communities and bakers’ ability to attract and retain skilled workers.

“This (issue) jumped out,” Mr. MacKie noted. “This is the No. 1 challenge for the industry.”

During the membership meeting, four task force members outlined details of the plan. Joe Turano, president, Turano Baking Co., Berwyn, Ill., pointed out that the A.B.A. plans to extend its core strength in federal advocacy into key states to protect baking companies from government overreach. Currently, emerging issues in key states pulls A.B.A. resources away from top federal priorities. Mr. Turano said the goal of this new activity would be to maintain federal priorities while strategically engaging in activities in key states.

Another initiative involves aligning the industry’s supply chain and delivering a stronger unified message to prevent government overreach. Erin Sharp, group vice-president of manufacturing with Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. and incoming chair of the A.B.A., explained this effort involves expanding the number of member companies — and their employees — engaged in advocating regulatory and legislative change.

Plans of action also include hosting A.B.A. briefings at members’ facilities to better understand their up-at-night issues and mobilizing members to increase engagement in legislative calls and visits to congressional offices. A “Call to Action Toolkit” will provide how-to steps for plant visitation, letters to congressional members, committee participation and employee training.

To promote and grow the baking industry, Brad Alexander, president, Fresh Packaged Bread Business Unit, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., noted that the task force proposes the creation of a baking industry council. He clearly stated that the council would consist of industry associations’ volunteers and staff working together to create a borderless environment to strengthen the industry’s reputation among customers and consumers.

Larry Marcucci, c.e.o. of Chicago-based Alpha Baking Co., discussed the magnitude of the manufacturer worker shortage in the United States and reiterated how workforce retention and attraction of skilled professionals has become the top operational challenge facing the industry. Mr. Marcucci then outlined a broad, comprehensive communications program to promote the value of lifelong careers in the baking industry.

In an assessment of needs to execute the plan, Mr. MacKie suggested the A.B.A. would like to add three full-time staffers to implement several of the new activities. Additionally, the A.B.A. is seeking to outsource marketing and communications resources to enhance its current internal team and will hire a research firm to produce two new industry reports while also leveraging existing research.

Moreover, the association will explore outsourcing state advocacy resources as necessary to ensure that the A.B.A. is aligned with the baking industry to support its continued growth and success.

During the presentation, Mr. MacKie outlined financing for the initiative. He stressed that the A.B.A. is in a strong financial position to pursue the strategic plan. In June, the A.B.A.’s board will consider the fiscal year budget start-up funding for the strategic plan.

In October, the A.B.A. Task Force and staff will present detailed implementation of the plan. Each year, he added, the staff will submit a report that measures and validates the progress made in achieving the strategic plan’s goals by October 2021.

“Thanks to the strong plan the members have created, A.B.A. will be better aligned with the business success of the baking industry,” Mr. MacKie said. “A.B.A. is the voice for the industry and that voice will now be even more effective.”