LAS VEGAS — Many bakers at this year's IBIE are seeking solutions to widespread labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, inflation and more.

Marjorie Hellmer, president of Cypress Research, will dive into these challenges and how bakeries are overcoming them in her panel “Turning on a Dime: Post-pandemic Impact & Opportunity in Retail & Industrial Baking” on Monday, Sept. 19, at 8:30 a.m. (W309-310).

The panel includes Mike Porter, president and chief operating officer of New Horizons Baking Co.; Charles Negaro Jr., chief executive officer of Chabaso Bakery; and Michelle Curran, cake and sugar artist of Mitchie’s Munchies, who will be discussing insights from original industry research commissioned by Sosland Publishing Co. and conducted by Cypress Research. The studies surveyed hundreds of industry leaders across the retail and industrial baking industries.

A key topic of discussion will be the widespread labor shortage that both industries are facing. Eight in 10 industrial bakeries and six in 10 retail bakeries report unfilled hourly job positions at their companies for which they’ve struggled to find qualified candidates, requiring shifts in business practices.  

“The top two responses in industrial baking to the pandemic acceleration in labor challenges has been through higher wages and increased automation,” Ms. Hellmer said. “To directly combat the labor shortage, retail bakeries have also responded by offering more money to potential and existing employees.”

Supply chain challenges remain significant as well, with eight in 10 industrial and retail bakeries reporting production disruptions due to delays in receiving key inputs, workforce gaps and transportation/logistic challenges.

“When asked when they expect supply chain challenges to subside, about half of professionals in both industry sectors anticipate disruptions to improve in the first half of 2023 or later,” Ms. Hellmer noted. “What this tells us is no one has the answer to this question because too many unknowable factors weigh on its outcome.”

Despite these obstacles, industrial and retail bakeries remain cautiously optimistic as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Eighty to 90% of baking professionals in these two industry studies hold a somewhat to very positive company outlook wrapping up 2022, and this level of optimism holds steady when looking ahead to 2023,” Ms. Hellmer said.