BEMA was formed in 1918 to benefit the baking industry. Today, the
organization’s motivations remain the same as it helps bring bakers
and equipment suppliers together to find solutions that work.
It's somewhat surprising that an organization founded in response to World War I, when bakers were being called on to feed the world, is as relevant today as it was then. Yet, the Bakery Equipment Manufacturers' and Allieds Association (BEMA), Overland Park, Kan., is vital to the baking industry.
At the end of the Great War, the United States was looked at as the nation that could feed a starving world, and bakers needed equipment manufacturers' support to help fulfill their obligation toward this end. Though the baking industry still sees itself connected to something as basic as feeding bread to the world, it's less about food shortages and more about emphasizing the importance of grains in a healthful diet. In fact, BEMA was instrumental in the formation of the Grain Foods Foundation in 2004, an organization dedicated to advancing the importance of grain-based foods in the diet.
“The importance of BEMA is really captured in our vision statement,” says Kerwin Brown, president and C.E.O. BEMA's vision is to be the premier resource in providing interactions, innovation and information for its members and the baking industry. “There's a whole network component there,” Brown adds. “There also is an education and scholarship component, a giving back to the industry piece and certainly the innovation side with the equipment.”
Solutions for bakers
In describing BEMA's long standing relevance to the baking industry, Brown points out a quote in an article written by George Dean, BEMA's first president, where he said, “The baker's problem is the manufacturer's problem, and the problem will be solved with machinery and equipment.” Suppliers and bakers are inextricably linked. Today, bakers face problems with labor, including issues involving training, how to get multilingual employees to use sophisticated equipment and how bakers can cut labor when commodity prices double. “The more we stick together and interact with one another, the more we're going to help bakers solve those problems,” Brown says.
Aside from designing equipment to meet the challenges bakers' face with labor issues, equipment suppliers are working toward finding solutions for other concerns bakers have. For instance, consumers' demand for more varieties of bread forces bakers to have more frequent changeovers, necessitating the need for more flexible equipment. “Labor and costs are such big issues right now that the equipment is built toward those ends,” Brown adds.
One of the ways BEMA helps its members respond to the needs of bakers is through meetings and venues, which were created for people to connect. At these meetings, bakers are given opportunities to talk about industry trends and the challenges they face.
“The International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE) is our premier event,” Brown says. BEMA held its first Bakery Expo in 1920 in Atlantic City, N.J., an event that attracted 150 exhibitors. The expo grew in size and stature throughout the years, eventually drawing international industry experts and exhibitors. In 1981, Bakery Expo moved to Las Vegas and became known as IBIE. The show attracted 440 exhibitors. By 2007, the number of exhibitors had risen to 650.
The next time bakers and suppliers come together for IBIE will be in 2010. “That will be a huge priority for us,” Brown says. “We're going to make IBIE grow and evolve. More than ever before, BEMA and the committee for IBIE have to focus on how to make the 2010 show more relevant. We're asking questions of both bakers and suppliers. Never before has the industry worked together as well. I see a real positive energy going forward because of the way everyone is working together right now.”
One of BEMA's more recent creations was the formation of the Baking Industry Forum (BIF) in 2005, as a means of generating a stronger alliance between bakers and suppliers. Robb Mackie, president and C.E.O., American Bakers Association (ABA), and Brown are both members of BIF, which also includes five equipment suppliers and five bakery executives. The forum has worked on a number of tools that bakers and equipment suppliers can use to improve their communication.
One of the perhaps lesser-known facts about BEMA is the emphasis the organization places on what it calls “Industry Givebacks.” Givebacks are a major part of BEMA's budget. “When the Atkins craze was at its strongest, it really affected all of us,” Brown says. “Bakers were losing business, which affected their ability to buy equipment. BEMA stepped up as an organization and pledged $1 million to the Grain Foods Foundation, which helped offset some of the negative effects from Atkins. The leadership at the time felt this was something important that had to be done.”
BEMA gives money throughout the industry, particularly to help support education and scholarships at Kansas State and AIB International-organizations that not only help educate students, but encourage young people to become involved in the baking industry.
Industry givebacks also are given to support the ABA, the Independent Bakers Association, the American Pie Council and the Wheat Foods Council, among others. But, these givebacks often reach beyond financial support to include lobbying efforts. “We supported ABA, which was instrumental in addressing some of the commodity increases,” says Andrea Henderson, BEMA's current past chairman. “BEMA joined with ABA at the Band of Bakers March on Washington this year.”
The organization also has been instrumental in lobbying for or against government legislation. For instance, BEMA helped establish OSHA and the Workman's Compensation Act. In fact, BEMA adopted sanitation and safety codes before OSHA existed. Sanitation codes were developed about 1948 to protect the baking industry and provide assistance with self-regulation.
As BEMA begins its 91st year, it will continue its policy of givebacks and unselfish dedication to the baking industry. “Since 1918, the members of BEMA have realized the need to provide consumers with the highest quality products and services,” Brown says. “Through the exchange of information, active involvement on committees and participation in educational seminars, BEMA members are continually able to increase the efficiency and sophistication of their equipment while keeping design in adherence with Baking Industry Standards Committee (BISSC) codes.”
The association has remained relevant throughout the years because of its ability to create value for its members-a point made by Ken Newsome, chairman of BEMA and president, AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, Va. One of the organization's primary goals is to create venues to give equipment suppliers and bakers the opportunity to interact and acquire tools that will help them run their businesses better. BEMA will undoubtedly remain a fundamental part of the baking industry as it continues its path toward the century mark.
BEMA founded to address food shortage created by World War I.
BEMA holds first Bakery Expo in Atlantic City, N.J. with 150 exhibitors.
Third Bakery Expo held with ABA's convention. Largest American expo ever held by baking industry up to this time.
BEMA becomes incorporated; headquartered in Wilmington, Del.
Federal price control regulation affects baking industry. BEMA lobbies for bakery equipment manufacturers' exemption.
Technical committee establishes sanitation codes for BEMA members.
BEMA establishes BISSC to promote sanitation standards. BEMA & ABA co-sponsor Bakery Expo, which draws 271 exhibitors, 10,200 attendees.
National Defense Preparedness Committee formed to advise government on baking industry's metal requirements in the event of national control plan.
Bakery Expo in Atlantic City draws 335 exhibitors, 13,000 attendees.
Bakery Expo includes international experts. Show draws 15,000 attendees.
BEMA actively promotes enriched bread.
BEMA supports Occupational Safety and Health Act and Workman's Compensation Act.
Bakery Expo draws 376 exhibitors (55 international), 16,000 attendees. Energy crisis drives innovation in new energy option machines.
BEMA allocates $50,000 to Wheat Industry Council and begins annual donation to AIB. BEMA and ABA establish $400,000 fund for 1981 Expo for AIB.
Bakery Expo moved to Las Vegas and renamed International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE). Show draws 440 exhibitors, 19,000 attendees.
BEMA establishes scholarship program for baking industry employees. IBIE draws 469 exhibitors, 25,000 attendees.
BEMA members support Kasten Bill to establish uniform federal standards for product liability.
BEMA announces newly developed safety label program. BEMA helps support ASBE's first tabletop exhibit at its annual March meeting.
BEMA takes active role to support Coalition of American Steel Using Manufacturers, an organization seeking removal of quotas that restrict imports.
BEMA membership tops 100. Announces availability of product liability insurance program. Long range planning committee formed.
BEMA opened up membership to all suppliers and changed its logo to reflect that decision.
BEMA's membership exceeds 200 members. BEMA dissolved BEMATech in favor of holding IBIE every three years.
BEMA's offices moved from Wilmette, Ill. to Overland Park, Kan.
BEMA honors those who helped build the organization with Lifetime Achievement Awards at its Winter Summit.