The Allied Trades of the Baking Industry (ATBI) was founded in 1920 to promote collaboration among all facets of the grain-based foods industry. Today, that legacy and mission lives on as the group reached its 100th anniversary this year. 

“The great thing about the ATBI is it was the idea of baker Gordon Smith of Smith’s Baking in Mobile, Ala.,” said Tom McCurry, former ATBI president and chief executive officer of Cain Foods. “Mr. Smith’s foresight made it clear how important suppliers were to the industry. In the 100 years since, the ATBI has only had two slogans which describe exactly what we try every day to bring to the industry. The first was ‘Cooperation is Strength’ and the second is ‘Partners in Baking’. Both are still very applicable today.”

By adhering to these values, ATBI’s membership has expanded to include a broad mix of industry partners.

“The ATBI board has diversified over the years and now includes a wide variety of categories that represent our industry,” said Clay Miller, secretary/treasurer, ATBI, and president of Burford Corp. “In addition to the original milling companies, there are ingredient, equipment, packaging, material handling, insurance, publishing and transportation companies that add to the wealth of knowledge this group brings to its baker partners.”

DJ LeCrone, president, ATBI, and CEO at LeMatic Inc., noted that the group’s mission and wide-reaching expertise has served it well as the industry navigates the twists and turns of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Although change is inevitable, the ATBI’s mission has remained relevant through the years and even more so now in these challenging times,” he said. “COVID-19 has impacted our industry and our country. And although our ability to facilitate in-person networking and relationships has been temporarily paused, our membership continues to do what it does best, provide resources, support and solutions by all means available to them, whether it is in person or remotely.”

Dean Modglin, first vice-president, ATBI, and vice president of sales at Lesaffre Corp., emphasized how the organization is supporting bakers during this moment.

“All the allied trade’s technical teams are as busy as ever helping our customers with process and formula support during this very difficult time,” he said. “We all understand that bakers may not have all their regular resources available due to extenuating circumstances, so we are responding with immediate and effective support.  Additionally, during this challenge, we have collaborated with both suppliers and bakers to establish best practices regarding employee safety.”

While COVID-19 has not altered ATBI’s mission, the pandemic has forced the group to postpone its 100th anniversary celebration, which was scheduled to take place during the American Bakers Association’s 2020 convention in April.

“We had a great event planned — and that plan is still in place,” said Bill Gross, second vice president, ATBI, and vice president and general manager of PPC Flexible Packaging. “Once we can all gather again, we will celebrate safely.”

In the meantime, ATBI has released a commemorative video that was produced before the pandemic began. The video includes archival photos of the organization and commentary from current members.

Looking to the future, Mr. LeCrone said the group will stand by and be ready to support the baking industry as it evolves.

“As we look past COVID, it will be necessary to embrace and support the industry’s new normal,” he said. “The ATBI and its talented membership will strive to continue to be the resource and partner to embrace this new normal and the continued growth of our industry.”