The baking industry’s heart and the people that make it tick are fueled by the common goal of feeding people. One organization, the Cookie and Snack Bakers Association (CASBA), has personified that spirit for half a century.
CASBA will host its annual convention Oct. 6-9 at the historic Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C. The event will be in the format that has made it a must-attend event. Morning sessions will cover a range of industry topics from guest speakers, including Mario Somoza, president and chief executive officer, Pan Pepin, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Joanie Spencer, editor, Baking & Snack.
Each day also includes an afternoon of golf and networking with attendees and their families. Current association president, Rob Quigg, vice-president of accounting, Richmond Baking, Richmond, Ind., said this year’s event will be a celebration of what’s made the association so popular over the past 50 years.
“CASBA has a rich history, and we look forward to taking time at the convention to celebrate it,” he said.
One of the key differentiators for CASBA is its familial environment that has made bakers feel comfortable since the association’s humble beginnings.
“Our convention is a very collegial environment,” Mr. Quigg said. “That connectedness is one of the things that makes our organization special. Our golf outings are always very special, and having the convention at historic Pinehurst is a perfect way to celebrate our 50th anniversary.”
The association was formerly the Southern Cookie Manufacturing Association, a group of about 28 small cookie manufacturers that gathered beginning in the 1940s. By 1969, the association was disintegrating. Bud Cason, founder of Bud’s Best Cookies, Birmingham, Ala., was watching this fragmentation in real time.
“We knew we weren’t going to have an association anymore,” he admitted.
That’s when Mr. Cason, along with John Murray Jr. of Murray Biscuit Co., Gene Veazey and Craig Parrish of Bishop Baking Co. decided to do something about it. The four men gathered in Atlanta in 1970 and renamed the organization the Cookie and Snack Bakers Association. Mr. Cason was elected the first president and is the sole founding member living today.
“The goal was to make it a family association,” he said. “It’s like how families get together every once in a while. We decided to do the same. We were all competitors, yet we were all like one big family when we got together.”
Eventually the group formed a corporation, and Mr. Parrish was named executive director. Tom Lugar, former president of Thomas L. Green & Co., a manufacturer of biscuit and cracker equipment that eventually became part of Reading Bakery Systems, was named treasurer. Murray Biscuit Co. was eventually sold several times and is now owned by The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich. Bishop Baking Co. was eventually sold to Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga.
When Mr. Quigg became president of CASBA in 2018, he was looking forward to learning a lot from some of the founders of the association. However, the past two years have seen the loss of several key members and founders.
Mr. Lugar, Mr. Parrish and Mr. Veazey have all died since August 2018. Ten years ago, Mr. Murray was the first founder to pass. But the loss of these industry heavyweights is not slowing down CASBA, said William Bennett, president of PlusPoint Group and former president of CASBA. From continuing the annual convention to funding the Kit Murphy Memorial Scholarship Fund, the association has a bright future to look forward to.
“CASBA’s major two roles are to raise money for the Kit Murphy Memorial Scholarship fund for member company employee families and to create an environment conducive to socializing on a personal level with some of the major influencers in the history of the American baking and snack industries,” Mr. Bennett said.
Mike Kriegermeier, CASBA secretary and senior vice-president of American Engraving Corp., said the association is the right combination of relaxed and professional.
“Over the years, we have had quite a few lifelong members and even some multi-generational members, and that makes it feel more like a close-knit community instead of a rigid work conference,” he said. “Everyone is warm and inviting to one another, especially new members.”
Those friendships, old and new, are the defining factor of what CASBA is today and what it will be into the future.
For more information about CASBA and its annual convention, click here.