KANSAS CITY — There were more than a couple of significant findings in Baking & Snack’s 2021-22 Commercial Baking Industry Capital Spending Study, conducted by Cypress Research and sponsored by BEMA.

Not surprisingly, increasing capacity led the list for capital spending, with 71% of bakers focused on that. Next, 64% want to improve process capability and/or flexibility, and 62% want to increase production speed. It should be noted that this increased capacity is for existing products only. In one of the survey’s biggest surprises, boosting capacity for new products fell to the bottom of the list with only 53% of bakers reporting that as a driver for 2022 capital spending plans. This is a dramatic shift in the industry, which had historically seen a direct correlation between new product innovation and capital spending.

However, as Editor Charlotte Atchley noted in her February report, the coronavirus pandemic changed that as bakers slashed SKUs and pared down new product development to focus more on getting baked foods out of the warehouse door. Over the past two years, bakers have decreased SKUs and line capacity to accommodate rising consumer demand. Rather, the emphasis now is other priorities that can’t be ignored.

Bakers want to improve product quality, consistency and accuracy (61%); improve food safety/sanitation (60%); decrease labor costs (59%) and invest in accommodations for a lack of skilled labor (56%). However, the focus on today’s realities might come at the expense of tomorrow’s opportunities. When investing in the present, bakers need to keep a close eye on the future.