The changing composition of retail baking was evident at the American Retail Bakery Expo, held Sept. 9-11
in Las Vegas.
“I personally talked to 10 people at ARBE that were in the process of opening within six months, doing research to open within a year, or had opened within the past year and were looking to solve some problems they had encountered,” said Mike Kalupa, president, Retail Bakers of America (RBA) and owner of Kalupa’s Bakery, Tampa, Fla.
Bakers often complain that retail baking is fading away, but if the ARBE is any barometer, that isn’t the case. Of the more than 4,000 attendees, a significant portion were new bakery owners. The new retail bakeries are more specialized than previous generations.
“It kills me, everybody always says that retail is dying, but there is a new batch of retail bakers,” Kalupa says, “And the new batch is segmented instead of full-line. Everybody is taking an individual piece of the full-line bakery and concentrating their efforts on that one piece.” Bakers are specializing in every niche in retail baking. Cupcakes, brownies, tartes, pies and cookies are popular channels for this new breed of retail baker. Kalupa also noted that new bakers are combining their specialties with a more complete dining experience.
“Of the 10 people I talked to that were opening a bakery, six were also featuring some sort of food component,” he said. “Coffee and deli seem to be the most likely to go hand in hand with a new bakery.”
With such a high contingent of new bakers on hand, educational sessions and demonstrations were well attended and appreciated. Two demonstration areas showcasing the latest baking and decorating techniques were popular, as they featured some of the top decorators in the country. Rebeca Sutterby, Kerry Vincent, Carolyn Wanke and Bronwen Weber were among the artists conducting the demonstration sessions. World renowned pastry chef En-Ming Hsu demonstrated the finer points of pastry to an eager audience.
The educational sessions were divided among three tracks designed to offer information on business, marketing and wedding cakes. Each track offered learning opportunities for beginners through advanced bakers. The business of baking was stressed, with discussions on branding, protecting assets, and marketing ideas.
Daniela Soberman of the Allure Strategy Group discussed how consumer preferences and buying habits are changing the way the industry operates. Understanding the factors that motivate people to buy, particulalry convenience and quality differentiation, allows bakers to boost sales. Demographics and location play a major role in what motivates potential customers, so a comprehensive understanding of clientele allows bakers to find the triggers for more customer purchases.
She also lectured on the necessity for bakeries to embrace new and innovative product mixes that maximize revenue and profitability. Soberman provided a template for a monthly product line contribution margin analysis, designed to tweak a product mix and to increase profits.
This year’s event also featured a bakery tour–a behind-the-scenes look at some of the Las Vegas area’s top bakeries. Participants visited Carl’s Donuts, Great Buns Plant #2 and Supreme Bakery.
“Today’s professional bakers have a need for information and education on not only the latest trends and techniques for the baking industry, but also on how to successfully manage their business in today’s environment,” said Susan Nicolais, RBA executive vice president. “The American Retail Bakery Exposition provided the industry with these types of educational opportunities along with opportunities to network among their peers and the vendor community.”
RBA’s 7th Annual Creative Decorating Competition Winners
Theresa Torrealba, Huntington, Calif., was this year’s RBA Grand Champion at the Creative Decorating Competition, sponsored by General Mills Bakeries & Foodservice. The two-day competition featured professional cake decorators from around the nation. They competed in flowers and sprays, wedding cake, rolled fondant, custom design and sculpted cake categories. The winners of each are listed below.
2007 Pillsbury Grand Champion
Theresa Torrealba, The Great Dane Bakery, Santa Ana, Calif.
Custom Designed Cakes
Karen Thomson, A Taste of
Elegance, Beavercreek, Ohio
Charlotte Swango, Servatii Pastry Shop, Cincinnati
Flowers & Sprays
Creative Decorating Free Style
Patricia Mateyka, Kalupa’s Bakery, Tampa, Fla.