Growth. Expansion. Proliferation. Baking Management’s 2011 Wholesale Baking Industry Survey’s write-in section asking about opportunity in the coming year was filled with these optimistic, forward-looking responses.
Such answers are refreshing and, honestly, somewhat unexpected given the lumps the bakery industry has taken as of late, from the general economic malaise to the boomeranging commodities market. And truth be told, some of expectation for sales increases and growth comes via consolidation and acquisitions–a nice way to put it would be teamwork, but in reality, it’s a reduction in competition.
Still, the tone of the write-in responses always surprises me with how upbeat they trend and how proactive bakery operators are. In an industry that gets unfairly labeled as late adopting, there’s a lot of innovation happening.
When asked about changes made in facilities in the last year, respondents talked about increased automation on production lines, standard operating procedures adjustment (and more specifically sanitation SOP adjustment), and all sorts of capital investments in facilities and equipment. One operator reported a 50,000-sq.-ft. expansion–nothing to sneeze at.
All of these investments in time and money are have occurred in a tepid-at-best economy, when loans are hard to come by and commodities costs are again flailing upwards.
The respondents weren’t without their grumbles, mostly about over-regulation and other legislative matters (it might surprise you to know that Obamacare was specifically cited more than once), but the average bakery operator is marching his or her business optimistically forward.
The industry seems not only to recognize opportunity, but to be able to capitalize on it. Survey respondents identified opportunity in casual catering, par-baked bread and frozen dough (FTO), value lines and one-dollar products. And they are pouring the resources into innovating their bakeries to chase these new opportunities.
The Industry Survey issue falls at an ideal time because it reminds me of the constant push of progress in volume baking. Our next issue will highlight Baking Management’s annual Innovation Award winners in three categories: innovative bakery, innovative product, and innovative packaging. Judging from the Survey responses, we’ll have our work cut out for us in the selection process–there’s a lot of forward momentum out there.