Dennis Gunnell is the president of Formost Fuji and the chairman of the International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE) 2022. He has worked in the baking industry for 36 years, and IBIE 2022 will be his 12th Baking Expo.
What are you looking forward to most about IBIE 2022?
At IBIE 2022 I’m most excited about reuniting and reconnecting with everyone in the industry in person. It’s been too long. A close second is seeing all of the new and exciting innovations. And since IBIE is a triennial show, I always look forward to seeing the revolutionary products/equipment debuting at the expo.
How will this IBIE be different from 2019?
We’ve had to embrace new and different ways to communicate, and that’s accelerated the adoption of communication technology for training, troubleshooting and other applications. Though these technologies have been available for some time, their utilization has become engrained in our daily lives. For example, if you’re troubleshooting a problem with equipment on the production floor, the supplier can provide support virtually or assess the issue in-depth before sending on-site support in person. Using these technologies isn’t just convenient. It allows for real-time responsiveness, fosters collaboration and it’s cost-efficient for businesses. I believe we’ll see the impacts of this evolution playing out at the Baking Expo from more refined ways of providing training or customer service and even expanding on alternative applications.
Another aspect that has evolved since the last IBIE is a greater appreciation for each other and the baking ecosystem. Our interconnectedness and the symbiotic relationship between bakers and suppliers are more apparent than ever. In addition to those essential B2B relationships, there’s more awareness around how vital each individual is, too.
Above all else, I expect a tangible sense of pride for how resilient and agile our industry has been throughout this time. IBIE 2022 will be a moment for us all to celebrate the lessons learned and the challenges we’ve overcome in recent years.
What do you hope people take away from the show?
Solutions. Bakers come to IBIE for two reasons: to see what’s new and to solve their current challenges, whether that’s finding the right solutions on the show floor or through insights from our world-class education program. Our goal is to provide access to technology and ideas that allow their business to flourish.
What’s your favorite part about IBIE?
My favorite part of IBIE is looking around and seeing people experiencing the show. For me, it’s observing all of the aha moments that take place when people have found something that will help them. These occurrences happen left and right at the show — from a baker inspired by an education session to an exhibitor’s chance meeting with someone in the expo hall aisle. There’s nothing more gratifying than witnessing that light bulb moment when the whole trip turns into a success.
What can attendees expect at IBIE 2022?
We’re bringing back nearly every aspect from 2019 and adding new features, too. The Las Vegas Convention Center renovations will provide a wow factor from the moment attendees arrive. Returning features include the very popular RBA Bakers Center, the Artisan Marketplace, BEST in Baking industry awards, the Creative Cake Decorating Competition, Great American Pie Festival, Innovation Showcase, the Pizza Information Center, and of course, the largest baking industry event education program in the world, IBIEducate. Inagural show features for 2022 include two new pavilions: Cannabis Central, a pavilion and education destination focused on the business of cannabis baked goods, and the Sanitation Pavilion. We are also excited to add the 2022 World Bread Awards USA to our action-packed lineup of on-site events.
This is the first major bakery trade show since the pandemic. How do you hope this year’s IBIE fills the gap left by virtual meetings and lack of in-person interactions?
Aside from the in-person experience and reuniting as a community, IBIE will be a welcomed opportunity for professional development, hands-on training and certifications. And most tangibly, we expect a record-setting level of activity in the expo halls. With reduced labor, automation and productivity being key initiatives for almost all bakers, there’s substantial pent-up demand for new products, equipment and technology.
When a baker wants to invest in a state-of-the-art piece of equipment, it’s invaluable to see it in action, ask engineers in the booth technical questions and evaluate supplier relationship dynamics. When deciding on a significant commitment, online research or virtual events are a decent place to start, but the depth offered through evaluating in-person is unmatched.
How do you anticipate the current industry challenges will impact people’s goals for IBIE?
First, buyers will be focused and eager to shop. Due to the pandemic impacts and consumer behaviors directly affecting the baking industry, capital expenditures are on the rise. Second, planning even further ahead has become a necessity. With supply chain issues and labor shortages, the lead time on equipment and installations is noticeably longer than usual. Not to mention that the labor shortage has been an ongoing topic of concern for most and signals the need for more long-term solutions.
How is the labor crunch impacting the investment in automation?
This challenge accentuates that automation is more critical now than ever before. It’s imperative to find new efficiencies with the team you have and cover the gaps in the workforce that you don’t. Companies now opt for machines and robotics to perform low-skill tasks and to develop or upskill existing employees. Automating simple tasks allows companies to insulate against future labor fluctuations and helps with employee retention, too.
How are supply chain challenges impacting packaging?
With limited supplies, the packaging industry is forced to make choices that impact costs and productivity. Evaluating the alternatives may take a considerable effort and often has sub-optimal ramifications. A prime example of this is switching the gauge of packaging material and ultimately changing the roll’s overall yield. When buyers have required specifications and their standard material is unavailable, there’s usually only one direction to go. Most often, that is to exceed the standards and upgrade to a more expensive material.
What new technology do you find the most exciting and holds the most promise for the baking industry?
I’m excited about a lot of technologies, and we’re going to showcase them all at the show in a big way. But the innovative spirit during these times is what I find most energizing. Recent challenges have spurred rigorous problem-solving, collaboration and great opportunities to innovate.
What’s the top reason people come to IBIE?
The beauty of IBIE is that you can address every aspect of your operation from start to finish. Attendees consistently report their primary motivation is to see the latest products, equipment and technology. This is followed by meeting with suppliers face-to-face to discuss specific questions. Whether you want to compare vendors for a targeted solution or reimagine your entire system — it’s all baked in.