For decades, the baking industry has gathered every winter in Chicago to celebrate the Best Week in Baking, a combination of BEMA’s annual Summit and the American Society of Baking (A.S.B.)’s BakingTECH conference.

“This has been where much of the industry gathers annually,” said Kerwin Brown, president and chief executive officer of BEMA. “It’s one of the largest annual conferences in our industry, and we’ve always partnered with A.S.B. for it.”

For more than 40 years, the Best Week in Baking began with the BEMA Summit, which consisted of committee meetings, keynote speakers and townhall-style presentations, and transitioned into BakingTECH. In 2020, to mitigate the time commitment, and in line with its strategic plan, BEMA will remove the Summit from its programming and incorporate the event’s best elements into BakingTECH.   

“Our desire was to create more value for our members and A.S.B. members,” Mr. Brown said. “We’re trying to give people back some time, consolidate and fulfill the best of both conferences into fewer days.”

During the past year, BEMA and A.S.B.  have discussed the possibility of this major change and assembled a task force for its execution. Representatives for BEMA included Mr. Brown; Mark Hotze, vice-president, Corbion, and BEMA 2019-20 chairman; Paul Lattan, publisher, Baking & Snack, and BEMA immediate past chairman; Tim Cook, president, Shick Esteve, and incoming chairman; and Clay Miller, vice-president of sales, Burford Corp., and member of the BEMA Board of Directors. 

Representing the A.S.B. on the task force was Kent Van Amburg, A.S.B. executive director; John Mulloy Jr., vice-president, operations, 151 Foods, and 2018-19 A.S.B. chairman; Paul Rainey director of manufacturing support and integration, Flowers Foods, and A.S.B. immediate past chairman; Jorge Zarate global operations senior vice-president, Grupo Bimbo, and A.S.B.’s first vice-chairman; and Rod Radalia, vice-president, technical services and quality assurance, Aunt Millie’s Bakeries, and A.S.B.’s third vice-chairman.

Also on the task force was Jay Hardy, national sales director, J&K Ingredients, BakingTECH program chair and member of the BEMA board of directors. Mr. Miller is also a former BakingTECH program chair.

“This group consists of people who have vested interest in both organizations,” Mr. Brown observed. “They’re passionate about the industry and these associations. We all want to do what’s best for our members and drive value for them.”

Without the Summit, BEMA’s BakingTECH participation will include sponsorship of the networking reception as well as BEMA-U educational tracks. Committee meetings will take place prior to the MarketPlace tabletop exhibits that officially open the conference. Other changes are still being finalized with the A.S.B.

Both associations will hold separate board meetings, followed by a joint meeting of both boards.

The A.S.B. welcomed the opportunity to change the lineup of this traditional event.

“This is a great opportunity to flip from our regular lineup,” Mr. Mulloy said. “BakingTECH has been the same sessions in the same format every year. This partnership gives us opportunities to be more creative and be more flexible than we’ve been in the past.”

This is part of a larger industry trend of association collaboration.

“We’ve been hearing from our members — and I know BEMA hears the same thing — that they want to see more collaboration between industry associations,” Mr. Van Amburg said. These changes meet that goal.”

BakingTECH 2020 is scheduled for March 1-3 at the Hilton Chicago.