There was a bustling atmosphere of trade shows of old at the Atlantic Bakery Exposition, held March 21-23 in Atlantic City, N.J. and presented by the New Jersey Bakers Board of Trade (NJBBT) and the New York State Association of Manufacturing Retail Bakers (NYSAMRB).
According to Joe Gifoli, owner of Gourmet Bake Shop, New Hyde Park, N.Y., and president of the NYSAMRB, more than 4,000 attendees were on hand to visit the roughly 200 booths, far more attendees than planners anticipated.
“I feel that people are still looking for answers on how to improve their business during rough times. That's why so many bakers were here, even with the expense of travelling,” said Paul Sapienza, owner of Sapienza Pastry Inc. and vice president of operations at the Retail Bakers of America (RBA). “They are looking for answers from the suppliers or for new techniques from their peers. They want to see the new trends, learn rolled fondant techniques or improve cost analysis for the bakery.”
The number of smaller food manufacturers that hadn't exhibited often previously was a highlight of the trade show floor. Food Scene Inc., a food broker representing smaller companies, took up about 35 booths in a themed aisle devoted to smaller bakery or food supply companies.
“Also, the educational sessions, put together by the RBA, were very well-attended,” Gifoli said. “The questionnaires reflected good comments and positive feedback.”
Sapienza detects an uptick in optimism in the baking industry. Thanks to food and cake shows on television, consumers are more specific and knowledgeable about what they want in bakery products. Bakery operators feel the pressure to keep up.
“And when you're open-minded and optimistic, it's easier to see what's going on around you,” Sapienza said. “When you're pessimistic, you're looking down, stuck on what you're already doing. But this show was lively. People wanted to learn how to make changes to help their business. They were optimistic and willing.”
10 steps to 10 percent sales
Richard Reinwald, RBA president, used the show as a platform to unveil the RBA's new “10 in '10” program, which is designed to help increase bakeries' profits by 10 percent in 2010. Appropriately, there are 10 steps to the plan:
- Bakery assessment
- SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
- Customer and employee survey
- Defining your brand
- Marketing (with and without technology)
- Sales training
- Community and cause marketing
- Building your plan
Reinwald emphasized that each step was a project of its own, and the program requires commitment, but when done properly, increased sales translate into increased profit.