Recognizing the men and women who impacted the baking industry this year.
Steve Avera | Flowers Foods
Margaret Hamburg | Food and Drug Administration
Gary Gensler | Commodity Futures, Trading Commission
Michelle Obama | First Lady
Ilene Gordon | Corn Products International
Audrae Erickson | Corn Refiners Association
George Dunbar | Dunbar Systems
Nick Pyle | Independent Bakers Association
Robb MacKie | American Bakers Association
Bill McGowan | Caravan Ingredients
Cynthia Harriman | Oldways (Whole Grains Council)
Kirk O’Donnell| AIB International
Joel Crowder | Kroger
Kerwin Brown | BEMA
Judi Adams | Grain Foods Foundation, Wheat Foods Council
Daniel Servitje | Grupo Bimbo
Ken Newsome| AMF Bakery Systems
Howard (Robin) Alton III| Pan-O-Gold Baking Co.
Ric Jurgens | Hy-Vee
Rich Hoskins | Colborne Foodbotics
Back by popular demand, Baking Management’s Influential 20 issue examines some of the people who made a material impact on the baking industry in 2010. Some faces are familiar, others are new to the list, but each is deserving of recognition for helping shape the industry.
These individuals have various capacities, functions and affiliations, with list members representing baking companies, allied trades, organizations and government. Some people are mentioned because of their everyday work in the trenches of Washington, D.C., trying to enact policy changes that create a more robust business environment. Others are listed for the effects of their policies or ideas on baking, like Michelle Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity. Some are recognized for their work in developing and bringing to market new and interesting baked products that keep the industry vibrant and fresh. And still others are listed because they partner with bakers in production by providing equipment, ingredients or other services to improve the industry.
The diversity reflected in this list helps illustrate that no single criterion was valued over any other in the selection process. Influence is an amorphous thing that isn’t easily quantifiable. But the members of this list wield undoubted influence over the business of baking, and use it in ways they believe are beneficial to the industry and the country.
The only common denominator among all the people listed is leadership–each is a leader in what they do, helping guide the industry forward.
Congratulations to all those acknowledged in this special feature on their well-deserved recognition.
ABA PAC Chairman and Flowers Foods, Executive Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel
With his work at Thomasville, Ga.- based Flowers Foods as executive vice president, secretary and general counsel, most people would expect Steve Avera to have his plate full. But Avera somehow finds the time to further serve the baking community in his role as chairman of the American Bakers Association (ABA) political action committee (PAC). Under Avera’s leadership, PAC backed the successful political campaigns of baking industry supporters Marco Rubio, Mark Kirk, Tim Walberg and Dennis Ross in the recent midterm elections. These candidates and others will ensure the interests of the baking industry have a voice at both the state and national level.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Chairman
When Gary Gensler was appointed head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 2009, industry watchers predicted the former Goldman Sachsman would be a chairman with little bark and even less bite. But to their surprise, Gensler is turning into one of the most ferocious financial reformers in the nation, implementing tough regulations that aim to clean up the futures markets. His bold actions have gained him many fans, especially in the baking world. In one of his biggest moves, Gensler established position limits for firms investing in wheat futures, curbing much of the excessive speculation that had led to volatile wheat prices and contributed to 2008’s infamous food shortages and riots.
With her stellar professional and educational background, it was obvious Michelle Obama wouldn’t be a First Lady who sat on the sidelines. And as predicted, she’s embraced a cause and poured her formidable energy into it, resulting in the creation of the Let’s Move! Campaign, a measure aimed at reducing childhood obesity within a generation.
“In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me,” she explained. “This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.” The First Lady also secured the help of her husband, who formed the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to jumpstart the initiative.
Two years ago, Margaret Hamburg wasn’t a household name. But being appointed FDA Commissioner in May 2009 changed that, and her aggressive approach has put her name on the lips of many, at least in the baking community.
Hamburg is leading the FDA’s efforts to control sodium in foods, calling salt content a serious concern. “We absolutely see reducing salt in the diets of Americans as a very important health priority,” she told the Associated Press back in April. Hamburg also has food labels in her sights, declaring, “the limitations of the Nutrition Facts label have become clear.”
What Hamburg will eventually accomplish is unknown, but she’s made her intentions clear and it’s safe to assume the baking world won’t be left unchanged.
Corn Products International, C.E.O. and President
Corn Products International C.E.O. and President Ilene Gordon has only been with the company for 18 months, but her come-out-swinging approach has left none in doubt that she’s hit the ground running. Although Corn Products suffered an 85 percent drop in net income in 2009 compared to 2008 levels, Gordon’s hard work began to pay off in 2010. Q3 reports showed a nearly 20 percent increase in earnings per common share over the same period last year; this followed a 121 percent increase in Q2 and 159 percent increase in Q1. In August, the FTC gave the go-ahead for Corn Products’ acquisition of National Starch in a $1.3 billion transaction, paving the way for a combined company of 10,000 employees operating 37 manufacturing plants in 15 countries and sales offices in 29 countries.
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Corn Refiners Association, President
Consumers spent 2010 creating a ruckus about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and as president of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), Audrae Erickson found herself front and center in the sweetener debate.
The CRA launched a major effort to educate consumers about the true nature of HFCS and petitioned the FDA to change the sweetener’s name to the more accurate corn sugar. Erickson argues that bakeries should push back against consumer pressure. “Baking brands that have switched from HFCS to sugar have faced significant cost increases in ingredients and other manufacturing process areas,” she points out, “yet sales data show that these reformulations have failed to influence consumer purchasing decisions.” The CRA’s efforts may be paying off: the government has made no move to review the sweetener’s role, indicating it does not buy into the consumer vilification of HFCS.
American Bakers Association, President and C.E.O.
Robb MacKie, president and C.E.O., American Bakers Association (ABA), is a known leader in Washington, D.C., where he advocates for the baking industry and its interests. In light of impending changes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid, MacKie and the ABA most recently helped to create unified grain chain nutrition policy recommendations, based on sound science, to protect whole grains and enriched grains as the base of a healthy lifestyle. “Two years ago, ABA defined success as keeping onerous government regulation at bay. By and large, ABA has succeeded in those efforts,” he says.
Dunbar Systems, Founder and C.E.O.
With almost half a century spent supplying equipment to bakeries, George Dunbar is a man who truly understands the needs of the baking community. And although he admits 2011 will see him passing more responsibility to his sons, he’s still keeping an eye on the future of the industry.
“The challenges of the future are improving product quality for both baked products and equipment,” he explains. “We also must continue to supply more energy-efficient equipment while reducing labor. As always, our mission is to assist our customers in achieving their vision by providing premier system solutions for their production needs.”
Caravan Ingredients, C.E.O.
When Bill McGowan joined Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, Kan., in July as its new C.E.O., he brought with him the requisite decades of food processing experience, management expertise and industry insight. But although his gleaming resume sounds like the work of just another company man, it’s his most recent position that makes McGowan one of the most informed C.E.O.s in the baking industry. His time as C.O.O. of Feeding America, the nation’s biggest non-profit hunger relief organization, gives him rare insight, enabling him to see beyond accounting spreadsheets and productivity reports. “I saw firsthand the challenges many face just to get basic nutrition,” he explains. “This country is fortunate that baking industry plays a significant role in the U.S. diet, and Caravan Ingredients is no exception. Our vision is to improve the quality and sustainability of life.”
Independent Bakers Association, President
Nick Pyle serves as president of the Independent Bakers Association (IBA), a Washington, D.C. -based national trade association of more than 400 mostly family-owned wholesale bakeries and allied industry trades. Pyle has a finger on the pulse of the baking industry’s interests in Washington, and acts as an industry organizer to effect change. “This past summer and fall we actively pursued a below-cost selling/predatory pricing action against two major national bakers,” Pyle says. “Before we could take action with the FTC, the practice of heavy retail discounting stopped and prices stabilized in several markets. Clearly, the fact we were collecting data in the marketplace speaking about an unfair trade practices action caused these two bad actors to stop selling bread and rolls below cost.”
Oldways (Whole Grains Council), Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies
Cynthia Harriman has likely affected millions of consumers’ food purchasing habits— yet they have no idea. Under Harriman’s leadership, the Whole Grains Council introduced its Whole Grain Stamp program more than five years ago, and the graphic is now present on more than 4,500 products in 21 countries. Harriman works to benefit both consumers and bakeries, ensuring the former are sufficiently educated on the importance of whole grains that a robust market exists for the latter. Her hard work will likely be validated early next year with the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which many expect to contain the most aggressive promotion of whole grains yet seen in the governmental report.
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Kroger, Senior Director of Corporate Brand Sales and Sourcing
Kroger’s senior director of corporate brand sales and sourcing, Joel Crowder, has worked for the Cincinnati-based retailer for 34 years–more than quadruple the length of the average American marriage. Obviously, the relationship is a fulfilling one. But it’s not the only fulfilling work in Crowder’s life. He also serves as co-chair of the Grain Foods Foundation’s board of trustees, and uses insight from each position to enrich the other. “As co-chair, I’ve been charged with ensuring our marketing efforts effectively reach our target consumers,” he says. “One of the most effective ways in which we’ve done this is through our efforts at the retail level where consumers make their shopping decisions–in the bread aisles of their favorite supermarkets.”
BEMA, President and C.E.O.
Kerwin Brown, president and C.E.O. of BEMA, believes his influence in the baking industry lies in his relationships. “My position with BEMA and recently with the ASB have provided valuable opportunities for me to meet and interact with both key bakers and suppliers in the industry,” he says. Most recently, Brown worked with the RBA, ABA and the IBIE committee in planning for IBIE’s educational classes and sessions. “It was rewarding to see the classes filled to capacity,” he says. “With close to 180 member companies exhibiting at IBIE, it was rewarding to see that by bringing the entire industry together from industrial to craft bakers, BEMA– along with the other industry partners– brought true value to help BEMA members in their business.”
Grain Foods Foundation, Wheat Foods Council, President
Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Foundation, recently became president of the Wheat Foods Council as well. She believes her joint role will be effective in putting more industry dollars into promotion and less into administration. “It will be a great way to coordinate messages and programs with the limited resources our industry has and more effectively reach consumers and opinion leaders,” she says. Adams uses her position to educate the public about the value of grain foods in a diet, which in turn helps Grain Foods Foundation and Wheat Foods Council members’ bottom lines. Her primary focus of late has been on correcting the misinformed public perception that a gluten-free diet is healthy for non-celiacs.
AIB International, Vice President of Education
Most of us can expect to see the results of our work almost immediately, either in the form of raw product or translated into sales figures. Kirk O’Donnell, vice president of education for AIB International, expects to wait a long time before seeing the fruits of his labor, however. But then, O’Donnell doesn’t produce dough or data– he produces bakers. “I believe that each person will not know the actual influence of his or her life until the next life,” he explains. With his work to develop bakers’ technical skills, O’Donnell is shaping the future of baking industry, and although he may not see results for many years, bakers are already benefiting from his efforts.
Grupo Bimbo, C.E.O.
Daniel Servitje built Grupo Bimbo’s United States subsidiary, Bimbo Bakeries USA, into the largest U.S. baking company with a series of acquisitions, culminating with the recent purchase of the fresh-baked goods division of Sara Lee. Prior to this acquisition, the company purchased Mrs. Baird’s Bakeries in 1998, the West Division of George Weston Bakeries in 2002 and the East Division of George Weston bakeries in 2009. The company plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years in its U.S. baking operations once the Sara Lee transaction receives regulatory approval. Servitje has led the company as it has grown to serve 17 countries throughout the Americas. Under his leadership, the company has entered the Asian market and dramatically grown its business in the U.S.
AMF Bakery Systems, President
Under Newsome’s leadership, AMF has evolved from a unit equipment supplier to a complete solutions provider, enabling bakers to effectively meet consumer demand for bread and rolls around the world. Newsome’s ability to cultivate long-term partnerships with baking customers has led to many innovative technologies that increase efficiency and drive down cost. The company’s core values of honesty, integrity and superior customer service have helped AMF become a worldwide leader. “Bakers face challenges that require suppliers to be able to respond to the changing environment,” he says. “After 95 years of continuous service, bakers can be confident that we will be around 20 years from now to supply and support their equipment.” Newsome is an active participant in ABA, IBA, ASB, and BEMA to promote continuous improvement in our industry.
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Pan-O-Gold Baking Co., President and C.E.O.
Howard (Robin) Alton III, president and C.E.O. of Pan-O-Gold Baking Co., also serves as first vice-chairman of the ABA.
“Robin Alton is a young, dynamic leader of one of the major independent baking companies. Without fanfare, he and the Pan-O-Gold team continue to push process and product innovation to grow their business and meet their customers’ needs,” says Robb MacKie, ABA president. “As a result, they are consistently rated one of the top suppliers to their customers. Robin also brings a keen sense of priority and urgency to the ABA Executive Committee. While relatively new to the Executive Committee, he already is pushing ABA to be more results- and bottom line-focused.”
Ric Jurgens, C.E.O. of Hy-Vee and current chairman of the Food Marketing Institute, is a founding member and vice chairman of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, whose goal is to reduce obesity in America. Jurgens has been instrumental in organizing the efforts of this C.E.O.-led coalition of retailers, manufacturers and others to design initiatives that help people develop healthier eating and exercise habits. Under his leadership, Hy-Vee has become a touchstone for health and wellness information, both in its stores and in the communities it serves. In-store dietitians and the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System, which help shoppers determine food’s nutritional merit, are two of the health-related services available in the chain’s 231 stores.
Colborne Foodbotics, President
As the team leader at Colborne Foodbotics, Hoskins believes in fostering a “success breeds success” attitude. The approach sometimes pushes the envelope, but creates innovation and competitive advantages for customers. “As team leader of IBIE, I pretty much do the same thing. Both these organizations have developed outstanding, dedicated people who diligently know how to pursue successful outcomes and produce great results,” he says. “The initial IBIE surveys, and our company’s lead follow-up activities, have definitely indicated that there is an increasing demand for catching up with the updating of plant operations industry wide. There is a renewed sense of optimism among industry suppliers and a genuine increase in projects appearing throughout the country.”