The baking industry and allied trades are just finishing up with the late winter/early spring flurry of conferences, shows and seminars, as the pages of this issue reflect.
These events serve a lot of purposes, and the industry professionals attending them tend to wear a lot of hats. Conventions and shows are always social events (though maybe not quite as raucous as they were a few decades ago, according to the BakingTech veterans I spoke to in Chicago). Conferences give people a chance to introduce themselves or attach a face to a name, something that's becoming unfortunately rare with the omnipresent convenience of e-mail and the Internet. They always afford ample opportunities for business. And perhaps most importantly for bakers, they are vehicles for cross-pollination of new ideas with depth and precision that online search pages can't match.
The Independent Bakers Association (IBA) and North American Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) got the ball rolling in February, and the American Society of Baking, Healthy Baking Seminar (HBS)/Natural Products Expo West and American Bakers Association (ABA) each convened, expositioned and seminared their way through March. Looking across the industry, retail bakers held their own Atlantic Bakery Expo (ABE), and supermarket in-store bakers are gearing up for the Dairy-Deli-Bake (IDDBA) Expo in June.
As the early show season winds down and the massive IBIE looms in the distance, hopefully the conferences served as a springboard to get you through the summer looking onward and upward. Attendees I spoke with left rejuvenated, flush with ideas and sensing positive momentum. From ABA passing the torch to a new chairman in Boca Raton to the Healthy Baking Seminar's forward-looking glance into the next healthful trends, the conference season has bakers energized.
And as attendees or exhibitors say their good-byes at the end of any one of the alphabet soup of bakery show acronyms, you can bank on that ubiquitous question, “Will I see you at the next show?” With so much overlap in the industry, it's such a likelihood that it's only polite to ask. The ABA show in Boca Raton emphasized the need to work together to address common challenges. IBIE, mirroring the full spectrum of baking in the United States, is just more evidence we're all in the same boat.
Looking into the crystal ball to glimpse the retail industry in a decade, as Mark Hamstra and Elliot Zwiebach do in their Food Retail Trends article, there's a strong suggestion of increased fragmentation in retail. Specialization will be the name of the game. This is all the more reason to make sure we take the time to get together a few times each year and return to the center to find solidarity in common causes and strength in numbers. The momentum doesn't hurt, either.