Nearly 90,000 visitors attended Europain 2008, held in Paris, March 29 to April 2. About 35 percent were from outside of France, ensuring the show was a truly international event.
European packaging and merchandising ideas were among the highlights of the exhibit hall.
“We have always loved their product packaging, but find it too expensive to be practical here,” says Dennis Stanton, Swedish Bakery, Chicago. “We are also looking at bake-in forms and increasing our use of them whenever possible. We took a ton of pictures of the single-serve desserts, petit fours and truffles. We will look and see if we can simplify them and make them more compatible for local tastes and budgets.”
Many exhibitors showcased single-serve and small portion packaging in particular. Such packaging appeals to customers who may be concerned about portion control, while also addresssing the growing demand for grab-and-go convenience. It also presents new opportunities for merchandising.
“The artisan lines were predominant over there,” says Michael Eggebrecht, master baker for Kemper Bakery Systems, the U.S. subsidiary of WP Bakery Group. “It seems that every major equipment manufacturer was thinking of implementing aggressive steps to further address high-hydration, soft dough.”
Attendee focus, though, was divided between the large, complete system machines and individual, modular equipment. Eggebrecht says the attention on smaller pieces of equipment, such as a single hydrolic divider or a single moulder, reflects a French attitude favoring the hands-on craft of baking. Larger systems, he says, have closed the gap in terms of quality. Large equipment manufacturers operated bakeries on-site, exhibiting the advancements that high levels of automation have made in producing quality, high-hydration wheat doughs.
“Eastern Europe had a head start on automating because they had been doing whole grains and rye, so there's no bulk fermentation,” Eggebrecht says. “They've been able to be automated for some time, but for the wheat-based countries, the equipment wasn't up to snuff to handle that type of fermented dough until recently.”
Worries about commodities prices, labor prices and the grain shortage are not unique to the United States. “Although specific labor, cost and government issues are very different in Europe than they are in the United States, we do face broadly common issues. Labor costs and shortages, material costs, and shifting consumer tastes and habits are among the common threads both continents face,” Stanton says. “Europe has been dealing with some of these for a longer time than we have. It would be silly not to at least examine how they have been handling these issues to be sure we do not overlook a solution.”