Decorated cakes drew many attendees and shared the spotlight with small business discussions as prominent show features.
by Matt Reynolds, assistant editor
If a time ever existed when all a successful retail baker had to do was to prodce quality products, that time has passed. Competition is stiffer than ever, and traditional bakeries need to grab advantages wherever they can in order to keep the pace.
American Bakery Expo (ABE), held Oct. 20-23 in Atlantic City, N.J., was devoted not only to baked products, but also to finding and sharing efficiencies to strengthen and streamline bakery businesses.
“As a group, bakers are behind on the business end,” says Rick Boone of Rick’s Bakery in Fayetteville, Ark. “Most bakers started from the bench–myself included–focusing on the production end and not running the business.”
With that in mind, organizers made certain that ABE was as heavy in baking business seminars, talks and peer-to-peer discussions as it was in production demonstrations. “It was a two-pronged approach,” says Paul Sapienza of Sapienza Pastry Inc. in Elmont, N.Y.
Seminars ranged in topics from food allergies and intolerances to staff management and retention. Marketing presentations were a high priority, and basic book keeping nearly filled the seminar room to capacity. Less formal industry chats were held on the show floor, and allowed for dialog between presenters and attendees. Theft avoidance, dealing with changing demographics and determining the value of your business were among the topics of round-table discussions.
“We see that people are looking for information, and they are looking for help,” Sapienza says. “It used to be that looking at marketing and the business side was just a plus. Now it’s essential.”
The Retail Bakers of America, New York State Association of Manufacturing Retail Bakers Inc. and New Jersey Bakers Board of Trade Inc. sponsored the event, which drew about 6,000 people. The number is by no means a record, but organizers say that attendance isn’t the only measure of a show’s success.
“Everybody looks at numbers, but if you have too many people, vendors don’t have time to give you any special attention,” says Boone. “The vendors I’ve talked to really liked it and tell me quality–or the number of people purchasing products– was actually up.”
Gelato shows potential
A saunter around the show floor never failed to reward with a sample or two of gelato, a product that ABE organizers believe shows promise for the retail baking industry. The Frozen Foods Pavilion was awash with gelato-related products, and Luciano Ferrari, of Carpigiani USA, demonstrated gelato preparation.
Ferrari helped attendees clarify the difference between traditional American ice cream and gelato. Ice cream uses more heavy cream, which makes it creamier, but dilutes the flavor. Also, ice cream has an overrun, or added air, of up to 100 percent compared to gelato’s 30 to 40 percent overrun. Gelato has a higher flavor impact.
“And it’s not difficult to make, all you need is a decent batch freezer,” Ferrari said.
“It can be a viable option for retail bakers who are going to make changes where you aren’t just counting on the bakery to bring in volume,” said Paul Sapienza of Sapienza Pastry Inc. “It can be good when volume is low in the pastry business.”
Atwood said a great feature of gelato is that it is so different that it doesn’t poach bakery sales. “Some product sales cannibalize other products’ sales. Customers come in to spend a certain amount on baked products. What they spend on cookies will cut in to what is spent on cakes,” Atwood said. “That’s not true of gelato, the extra cost of gelato doesn’t eat into bakery sales.”
Atwood implemented gelato more than two years ago and has good success with the addition. He said that it isn’t for every bakery, though, and that making gelato takes a real commitment of time, marketing, active sampling and resources.
“The successful bakeries are the ones that are constantly adding new products,” he said. “It really boils down to the attitude of the baker.”
RBA’s 6th Annual Creative Decorating Competition Winners
Sunny Guready, Arrowhead Miracle Mart, Minot, N.D., won this year’s RBA Creative Decorating Competition, sponsored by General Mills Bakeries & Foodservice. The two-day competition featured 14 professional cake decorators from around the nation. They competed in flowers and sprays, wedding cake, rolled fondant, custom design and sculpted cakes categories. The winners of each are listed below.
Pillsbury Grand Champion
Custom Designed Cakes
The Great Dane Bakery,
A Taste of Elegance,
Beaver Creek, Ohio
Spokane Community College,
Flowers & Sprays
Central Continental Bakery,
Mt. Prospect, Ill.
Working with chocolate
Carefully placed mirrrors allowed spectators to watch Volkommer’s demonstration.
Chocolate garnishes are a great way to add color, height and aesthetic appeal to your products according to Frank Vollkommer, Cargill pastry chef. He offered tips for tempering chocolate for easy-to-produce decorations during his session, “Great Chocolate Garnishes.”
The tempering process is the same for all types of chocolate; dark, milk or white. You have to make sure that there is no moisture present, and your workspace is clean and dry, Vollkommer said. Your heat source should not be overly harsh, but instead provide a slow heat with an even temperature. He suggested using a heating cabinet or double boiler.
Once you have tempered your chocolate, you can create a variety of garnishes. For plaquettes, first spread colored cocoa butter on an acetate sheet. Vollkommer suggested using subtle colors because too much color takes away from the overall presentation. Use a spatula to texturize the cocoa butter, then top with thin, even layers of chocolate. Allow it to almost completely solidify, then cut with a knife. The secret to perfect plaquettes is not so much the application of the cocoa butter or the color combination, but cutting the chocolate at the right time for a clean edge, he added.
White and milk chocolate is easier to work with than dark chocolate because they are more pliable and take longer to solidify, which gives beginners more time to master the techniques required for the different garnishes. Vollkommer also suggests working in small batches, so the chocolate doesn’t solidify before you’re ready to shape it. He prefers working on marble or granite, but a wooden cutting board also will work as long as you keep it cool.
“It always is a nice touch to be able to say you make all your own garnishes,” he said.