A heightened focus on the appealing products that drive the success of the baking industry was among a number of enhancements at the 2019 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), said the industry association executives who oversee the triennial show.

In interviews Sept. 8, both Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association, and Kerwin Brown, president and c.e.o. of the Baking Equipment Manufacturers Association, each lauded the greater focus on finished baked foods at this year’s expo.

Mr. MacKie said this year’s show stands “head and shoulders” above where the industry was three years ago. He credited Joe Turano, president of Turano Baking Co. and IBIE chairman, for leading an effort to “look at everything again” to upgrade the look and feel of the show.

“Everyone here is in the baking industry,” Mr. MacKie said. “Let’s bring the product in and highlight it. I think we put the product front and center again. More and more exhibitors have product on display. They may be selling a mixer or dough conditioner, but they are closing the story by showing the product and how it ends up being done. We’re fortunate to have product that sells itself.”

Mr. Brown said he has been dazzled by the investment the equipment manufacturers have made in 2019.

“Walking the floor, the amount of equipment and the money our exhibitors spent on their booths, the design, the signage, the active elements, all of that is certainly at an all-time high,” he said. “The colors are bright. There is a ton of equipment.”

An incremental change in the fee structure for the show may have made all the difference in encouraging the investment in larger equipment displays. Drayage, what exhibitors pay to transport crates between trucks and exhibitor booths, was included in the booth cost for the first time in 2019. Previously the drayage fees were charged after the show, creating uncertainty about exhibitors’ final bills.

“We’ve talked about including the drayage for some time,” Mr. Brown said. “We finally got that done for the 2019 show. You never know how people will take advantage of that. They took big advantage of that.”

The increased tonnage of equipment created challenges Mr. MacKie concluded were well worth the inconvenience.

“We were a little delayed on move-in because we had 25% more trucks than we anticipated,” he said. “I know the team was a little up in arms, but I said, ‘This is a nice problem to have.’ It means the decisions we made three years ago were the right decisions.”

Major successes have been scored beyond the show floor, beginning with an expanded educational program, Mr. MacKie said.

“That was a huge strategic imperative,” he said. “The IBIEducate program is second to none. It’s the best baking educational program in the world.”

The A.B.A. is taking advantage of IBIE to address the group’s top priority for the past 1.5 years – the tight labor market. Mr. MacKie said the situation has escalated from  “red hot” to “near crisis.”

As part of its efforts, the A.B.A. and the Baking Industry Alliance is working with United Service Organizations (USO) to showcase baking as an attractive career.

“Tuesday will be USO Day at IBIE,” Mr. MacKie said. “We are hosting USO Pathfinder (which helps armed service members transition to civilian life). The game plan is that we are going to partner with them around the country at different military bases to introduce the baking industry to veterans and their spouses, who will be transitioning out.”

On Sept. 10, senior leadership from USO will be at IBIE accompanied by representatives from Nevada and Washington Pathfinder sites.

“We’ll be hosting informational events with them including a tour of the show floor,” Mr. MacKie said. “They will be meeting with the top leaders of the Baking Industry Alliance members (A.B.A., BEMA, A.S.B., AIB, A.T.B.I., G.F.F., and NAMA).

“On the show floor, equipment makers will give them a sense of what the baking industry does. If you talk to the average person, baking is what you do next to grandma. When they see the equipment, it will blow their mind."