I recently celebrated 10 years here at Sosland Publishing Company. Hold your applause … it’s a milestone, but in a 98-year-old company and compared with the likes of Mike Gude or Paul Lattan, I’m a mere toddler.
This anniversary did get me reminiscing about some points on my 10-year timeline, specifically making the leap to Baking & Snack from bake magazine, which covers the industry’s independent retail bakeries. I must confess that while covering the retail side of baking — the craft bakers and “mom and pop shops”— I erroneously subscribed to the idea of “big food.” So, when I made the move, I assumed covering commercial baking would be a daunting task. I imagined this huge world where I’d be lost in a sea of conglomerates.
I learned fast how wrong I was. It turned out that talking to an engineer from Bimbo wasn’t much different from an artisan baker making bread on a small hearth. Bakers of all types live to feed people, and they also thrive on collaboration and education. They study in places like Kansas State University’s grain science programs, or they learn the craft by following their family through the back of a bakery or with a toolbelt up and down the production line.
And bakers love to educate.
They feed people knowledge and wisdom as much as bread, cookies or rolls ... all you have to do is ask. That’s what I tell new employees who join our editorial staff. There truly are no stupid questions in the baking industry. Bakers — and allieds — love educating those of us who are either new to the industry or just plain curious.
I don’t mind saying, “Slow down, I just got here,” every now and then. In fact, that’s been my foundation for many industry relationships. Commercial baking may seem big to an outsider, but it truly can be a place “where everybody knows your name.” In fact, I recently traveled to Munich for iba — arguably the largest global bakery trade show — and even amid 12 massive halls, I couldn’t get too far without bumping into someone I knew.
While at the show, I also had the privilege of sitting down with Robb MacKie, president and c.e.o. of the American Bakers Association, and Johann Sanders, vice-president of R.&D. for Dawn Foods and president of FEDIMA, the European baking industry’s trade union. It was fascinating to discuss the similarities and differences across the pond on issues such as consumer trends, regulatory affairs and, of course, consumer assumptions about commercial baking. Our camaraderie spans the globe!
These days, when I hear people talk about “big food,” I just have to laugh … in that bless-your-heart kind of way. Sometimes I take time to correct them, but some people are happier living inside their own assumptions. Those who don’t know better often don’t want to.
For me, as long as I stay hungry — for knowledge and baked goods — I know I’m in the right place.