Baking is an art and science, and both concepts can be applied when it comes to turning challenges into opportunities. This was the mindset for the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) 2019 planning committee as it developed programming and new features for this year’s Expo, to be held Sept. 7-11 in Las Vegas.
Baking & Snack sat down with several committee members to discuss the latest consumer trends, how they’re challenging the baking industry and what IBIE can do to help bakers and suppliers take their companies to new levels. Joe Turano, president, Turano Baking Co., Berwyn, Ill., and IBIE committee chair, shares his perspective along with committee members Jorge Zarate, global operations senior vice-president, Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City; Michael Cornelis, vice-president, international sales, American Pan, a Bundy Baking Solution; Dennis Gunnell, president, Formost Fuji Corp.; Tim Ramsey, vice-president, procurement, Hearthside Food Solutions L.L.C., Downers Grove, Ill.; and Lynn Schurman, owner, Cold Spring Bakery, St. Cloud, Minn., and director of education, Retail Bakers of America.
Baking & Snack: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see as we head into IBIE?
Joe Turano: Training the workforce is one of the big challenges we have as an industry, on the baker and supplier sides. There’s a lack of skilled labor due to the economy’s strength in the U.S. and globally, so how we can better train our people is a major need going into IBIE 2019. We have formed education programming around some of the specific needs of training. We put a lot of time and resources into planning the IBIEducate sessions, specifically engineering, sanitation and operations. We have customized courses that should allow management personnel who attend IBIE to gain ideas around future training within their own companies.
Jorge Zarate: There are a lot of other challenges that we’re facing as an industry. It is growing internationally, and that demands more innovation and creativity because consumers are getting more demanding. It’s a challenge to keep pace as consumers are expecting more from us in different parts of the world, especially in the U.S.
Tim Ramsey: We’ve seen the move toward gluten-free, organic, non-G.M.O. That’s putting pressures on us on the manufacturing side, with constantly smaller runs and changeovers. How do you maintain that economy of scale on s.k.u. proliferation? It’s more consumers, more products, more needs.
Michael Cornelis: One of the bigger opportunities for us coming into the show will be in the artisan sector. We have a big emphasis on that in education and in how we’re promoting the show. Our industry is ripe for change. Look at artisan in craft beer, what it’s done to the large, wholesale beer producing companies. That’s a big opportunity, but it’s also a challenge for the bigger baking companies with direct-to-consumer e-commerce that the artisan producers are in. Perhaps a craft or artisan baker is much more nimble to go to direct-to-consumer, and I think our show will maybe open the minds of a lot of bakers to those opportunities.
How has consolidation impacted the industry since 2016? How long do you predict it to continue?
Mr. Turano: I believe from the supplier perspective and IBIE exhibitors, it provides new opportunities of how the exhibit space is utilized and how products and equipment are showcased. There will be some new exhibitor spaces this year because of the consolidated efforts of certain companies; they’re able to lay out their different brands creatively and efficiently.
On the other side for the baker attendee, I predict more attendance from independent companies because windows of opportunity are opening for smaller, independently owned bakers. I expect quite a bit more attendance from the independent operators sending people from different categories of management, and they can really dive into the education portion for training. We’re excited to see how it comes into fruition in the 2019 show.
Mr. Cornelis: There has been a historical perspective of so many plants shutting down in the past 20 years, but nobody’s thinking about 20 years ago, how many mega plants were there. I believe that number was zero. If you look at those statistics, there’s a lot more story behind it. We have so many more mega plants now than we’ve ever had, but nobody really talks about that as a percentage of consolidation.
Mr. Zarate: This IBIE gives the opportunity for a lot of learnings. Consolidation is bringing new challenges to the industry because more techniques, more systems and better processes are being required. This consolidation is also bringing other players, not just grain-related but also other industries that are overlapping with ours. It’s a good moment for the whole food industry.
Mr. Turano: Jorge has a great point. Because of consolidation, we can bring other segments of the industry for our attendees. For example, we’re looking at what other ways can we market our Expo toward segments such as pizza, cold storage and pet food. We really had not approached these segments aggressively in the past with our Expo. But the consolidated efforts of our suppliers and attendees opens new windows of opportunity.
Dennis Gunnell: There are a lot of opportunities for exhibitors, whether companies are consolidating or not. IBIE still brings the whole industry together, gets us all in one spot and opens opportunities for everybody.
From a global perspective, how has consolidation impacted international attendance for IBIE?
Mr. Zarate: I think attendance is growing. Since the last show, we noticed an increase of our international attendees, and even though the consolidation is gathering a lot of countries, all the representatives from those countries are attending our show because they want to learn and they want to bring new opportunities from the Americas to Europe or from Europe to North America and Latin America. It has had a positive impact, and I think it will continue growing. We expect to see this increase international attendance.
Mr. Turano: I think consolidation overseas is even a bit more rampant than in the U.S. itself, but it opens up opportunities for growth for the independents. I think we’ll start seeing more participation from independent companies from overseas.
Mr. Cornelis: I’ve heard a lot of this too, particularly with the focus on education that IBIE has done over the past three show cycles. It’s almost as if the ‘E’ in IBIE is about education now. Our international customers often say they almost can’t choose (education sessions) because there are so many classes going on at the same time. International attendees come to the show knowing we’re pretty much the only one internationally with an educational program like this. There might be a class or two, but IBIE has well over 100 classes to choose from. That’s leading the increase for our international attendance.
Mr. Gunnell: It’s not just the number; it’s the comprehensive nature of what we’re offering. It covers every aspect from H.R. to production to sustainability.
Mr. Turano: That is exactly why we decided to open up the Saturday IBIEducate day because of the robustness and diversity of the content. But attendees didn’t want to miss the show floor for those particular hours. Having the Saturday IBIEducate day allows attendees to attend the training ahead of the show and then maximize their time on the show floor the other days.
How will this extra IBIEducate day enhance the attendee experience?
Lynn Schurman: Some of the most popular sessions will be on Saturday and throughout the week so if people can’t catch it throughout the week, they can plan on coming in early and attend on Saturday. There are also some four-hour sessions that they may not be able to work into their schedule if they need to be on the floor. For example, the French Pastry School will be there doing a bread session and a sweet session, and if attendees want to send some of their technical people to attend one, they wouldn’t want to pull them off of the show floor for four hours. Now, they can come in early and learn in a consolidated block on Saturday.
The craft movement is affecting commercial baking. How can artisan bakers scale up and large manufacturers tap into the trend efficiently?
Mr. Cornelis: What I’m seeing is that the younger generation will stand in line for great quality baked goods. There are a lot of misconceptions out there that no one is eating bread and that people are taking bread out of their diets, but I’ve seen just the opposite. You get a great little bake shop in a cool neighborhood, and there’s a line down the street. As a consumer, that gets my attention right away. What is making that shop do so well? It’s high-quality product, or they’ve established a certain item that has a unique appeal. There’s room out there in the market for everyone to participate. I don’t think bread is dead. Some might say it’s dying, but I don’t think it’s dead. It’s ready for a comeback.
Mr. Zarate: Artisan bread is not harming the bread made by wholesale bakeries. Actually, it’s helping it grow it again. Consumers who went away from the bread industry, and now, because they discover tastier, different kinds of products that might even be healthier, they are coming back to the segment. This is good for the industry. It gives opportunities to everyone. Now, we have to learn how to focus on the artisan segment and find a way to produce at the right scale and with the right distribution, with the right model. At IBIE, bakers will be able to see different techniques of manufacturing: lamination, ingredients, enzyme technology, flavors, yeast leavening, starters and different techniques. That will help retail bakers learn how to scale up and wholesalers how to focus on this segment of the market.
Ms. Schurman: A lot of the artisan bakers are very good at using social media and different branding techniques to promote their products and have a lot of followers. We have a number of education sessions that are going to focus on how to maintain your brand, and some of the larger companies can look at what some of the smaller artisan bakers are doing to build that following to see how they can use that same technique. Some of the small companies have extensive social marketing databases or followers, and if the large companies can learn from them, they may be able to add that to how they market their artisan breads.
Mr. Ramsey: I think the marketing part is fine, but from a producer’s standpoint, it’s about scale. How do you take all those great ideas with very small volume and make it work in a big plant? That’s where the collaboration between equipment suppliers and food companies comes in. They’ve got to change the game a little bit. Those fast, rapid changeovers — that’s the future. Smaller runs — that’s the future. It’s got to make sense for manufacturers to get into new s.k.u.s.
Mr. Turano: IBIE will certainly spur quite a bit of creativity from our new Artisan Marketplace that we’ll have in each hall. With the layout of the marketplaces, as well as the product displays that we’ll offer, a lot of idea generation will occur.
How is the proliferation of new companies, brands and products affecting sectors such as co-manufacturing, food service and retail?
Mr. Ramsey: It’s about emphasizing the need for best practices and standardization. The ideas are great, but then how do you take those to market and take that new idea and make it work efficiently?
Mr. Zarate: Those small companies, small groups of students or scientists or food technologists can find in our show a lot of information, techniques and knowledge so they can develop new products. It’s like using the show as external R.&D.
Mr. Gunnell: It’s not just the small companies. Large companies are now getting innovative when it comes to making products for very specific applications. Some of the large snack food segments are making specific packaging. Consumers can design it themselves, request the product and have it sent to their home … and that’s coming out of the large companies. Maybe it starts with some of the smaller bakers, but it’s being driven through some of the larger ones as well, and everybody in the chain has to realize that a segment of our market is going to that.
How are better-for-you trends affecting the baking industry, and what aspects of IBIE can help bakers and snack producers in that space?
Mr. Turano: When we say, ‘better for you,’ the mindset of the consumer is transparency: knowing what they are purchasing and going to eat. That’s more of the demand that many of us are producing for. In our Expo, the ingredient suppliers will have not only the knowledge base and resources at their exhibitor booths but also the products that cater to this need for transparent labeling.
Mr. Gunnell: The beauty of our exhibition is you’ve got nearly 1,000 exhibitors there, and it’s hands-on. You can talk to people, see the equipment, learn about the ingredients, and it’s all real-time. You don’t get that looking at the internet; you don’t get that through telephone conversations. This is something you can’t get any other way.
Mr. Zarate: The better-for-you products are a factor. They challenge the industry but in a good way. Challenges are leading the innovation and creativity. We are gathering all those solutions — in ingredients and processes. Some people have the knowledge to produce and to develop these kinds of products, so that is a great opportunity for the industry.
Mr. Turano: Another feature that Lynn and her team set up for the IBIEducate sessions is that we have several sessions specifically customized for adjusting formulas for transparent labels.
Ms. Schurman: We also have a session that’s focused specifically on what millennials are looking for when they’re shopping, so the different bakeries can use that to develop products.
How will interactive technology change operations and training — and the IBIE experience?
Mr. Turano: Because of what we experienced at iba (held in Munich last fall), many exhibitors will also be adding virtual reality features to their booths at IBIE. We have our own IBIE virtual reality tours in partnership with iba. We’re very excited about it. But in general, we’ll see more technology at our exhibits than ever. And on the attendee side, companies such as ours are excited to experience that. We’re bringing personnel who are immersed in training for our company to learn how augmented reality or virtual reality actually operates so we can further our own training within our facilities.
Mr. Zarate: At IBIE we will see all kinds of technology, not just virtual and augmented reality, which certainly is helping us in training and troubleshooting. When you can do that remotely, it saves time and makes it more efficient to focus on training or maintenance of our equipment. There’s a lot of technology we will be able to see at the show, like ‘internet of things’ and digitalization of processes that help us ensure quality and optimize processes for reducing waste and using optimum resources in terms of raw materials and energy.
Mr. Cornelis: As an exhibitor, we have followed the trend particularly for our younger consumers on personal, individualized learning. Our younger customers don’t want to be talked to; they don’t necessarily want to have a brochure or a pamphlet. We’ve designed all our touchscreens in our booth to be personalized learning, incorporating video and 3-D graphics into all our product demos. And that lends itself into the next phase of virtual reality. For those people who want to get inside of a mixer and see it mixing and see how the sanitation of that machine will be downstream, it gives you a huge advantage to have a company that can support that because all of those things cost money to develop, but it pushes your company to advance in that technology because that’s what your consumer wants. We are seeing companies incorporating ‘gamification’ into training, so with that, younger operators can compete against each other. They can take a piece of equipment apart, practice that and compete against other people in the plant doing the same thing.
Ms. Schurman: We have five or six sessions that are specifically focused on remote maintenance, augmented reality, visual analytics, development of machine trouble-shooting tools. All of those will be part of the education program, so if you can’t find it on the show floor, you can also find it in IBIEducate.
What advice do you have for IBIE first-timers?
Mr. Gunnell: Do your homework, get on the web site and get on the app. If you’re a first-timer and you’re not going to our app, it’s going to put you behind the curve. There’s just too much going on for a first-time person to walk in and say, ‘Okay, where am I going to go?’ We really emphasize looking at the education program ahead of time, researching the booths, setting a course of what you want to do. If you don’t do your homework, you’re not going to get everything out of it.
Mr. Turano: Making the most of the Expo is the advice I would provide. Not just spending time on the show floor and seeing the different variety of exhibitors but also experiencing all the features we’ve added over the years.
Mr. Turano, you’ve seen IBIE through different lenses: an attendee, a committee member and now chairman. How has your perspective changed after seeing it from every angle?
Mr. Turano: First, we are blessed with a wonderful team managing IBIE, our committee of bakers and suppliers, our leadership from A.B.A., BEMA and R.B.A. and our wonderful suppliers and vendors of services. It’s been a pleasure to plan the show and work with everyone for the past three or four show cycles. My first show that I attended was in 2001, which was obviously an unusual show because of the events that took place in the world. But the changes that we’ve experienced over those years at IBIE certainly are mostly around attendee engagement. What I’ve learned as a committee member and leading as chairman is that the team listens to feedback well. We’ve listened to both sides. The show features we’ve added — like the extra education day — that is from feedback from our attendees. The team has done a wonderful job adapting over the years to really provide more engagement. In addition to education, the different pavilions, the virtual and augmented reality, the size of the show, and the diversity of our exhibitors has grown tremendously. I look at our company 20 years ago and our current needs at the time, and I can say that IBIE has kept up with or consistently provided for our needs. I look at it from that perspective, and I’m very proud of our efforts. I’m proud of the fact we have bakers who attend the Expo every three years and gain value and look forward to it each time.