KANSAS CITY — Among the more striking findings in BEMA Intel data issued over the past two years has been the irrepressibly upbeat business outlook expressed in a pulse survey of BEMA members, quarter after quarter. In the three months ended March 31, 86% of BEMA members were positive about the business outlook for the next six months. Even as the group grappled with surging cost inflation, supply chain disruptions and weak demand trends in grain-based foods, its sunny outlook held.
At BEMA’s annual meeting last month, the group put this sanguine attitude toward its future into action with a decision to launch Nexus, a new baking industry event it will host in the off years between International Baking Industry Expositions. The first Nexus will take place in September 2023 in Dallas.
BEMA’s leadership for a few years had been mulling the addition of another industry event during non-IBIE years. Progress accelerated this year when BEMA chair Tim Cook established a task force and named the organization’s first vice chair (and now incoming chair) Jim Warren to head the group charged with developing recommendations. Emily Bowers, BEMA’s vice president of education and operations, served as the staff liaison for the task force.
Tapping the group’s creativity while also gleaning lessons from what worked and what did not from past and current BEMA programs, Nexus took form over the course of a few short months. Notwithstanding this short timeline, its many facets demonstrate the careful consideration that went into the creation of Nexus.
For example, Spark Sessions, one of three pillars of BEMA Nexus, seek to take to a new level the successful BEMA Connect program. BEMA Connect pairs bakers and suppliers for one-on-one “speed dates” in a ballroom over three hours at the annual meeting each year. Spark Sessions augment this model by pre-matching teams of bakers and suppliers for extended sessions in private rooms over a two-day period. More encompassing than BEMA Connect, Spark will create a forum bringing larger groups together and allows for in-depth discussions about equipment, ingredient and engineering technology and prospective or existing projects. Spark is expected to feature representation of the c-suite, project management, procurement, operations and research and development from baking companies.
Because it is anticipated bakers and suppliers will not continuously be in Spark Sessions, education programming dubbed “Ignite Education” by BEMA will be a second pillar of Nexus. While keynote presentations and white papers are expected to be a part of the programming, BEMA chief executive officer Kerwin Brown said more interactive presentations are anticipated too, offering as an example a panel at the annual meeting on BEMA Intel data with breakout discussions in small groups afterward.
BEMA Collaboration is the third pillar of Nexus and one with ambitious goals. Described by Ms. Bowers as “where the business of BEMA will get done,” board, general membership, committee and Baking Industry Forum meetings will be conducted. Because attendance will include both bakers and allied suppliers, though, BEMA hopes other industry groups will partner to host board and other meetings during Nexus, giving deeper meaning to the Collaboration moniker. Additionally, BEMA is committed during Nexus to creating many opportunities for industry professionals to interact, including receptions and meals.
To be less costly than the group’s annual meeting, the pricing recognizes the degree to which the expense associated with attending industry events has become a barrier to participation. BEMA expects Nexus to be a popular “first meeting” for younger bakers and allied suppliers, targeting the industry’s future leaders. Noting that he and many of his industry peers established longstanding business relationships at events early in his career, Mr. Brown characterized Nexus as “an investment in the future.” Undoubtedly, the program will evolve, but the bold decision to launch a new industry event is a welcome demonstration of leadership and confidence in the future of grain-based foods.