I thought it was the best RBA for bakers in a long time,” said Michael Kalupa, owner of Kalupa's Bakery and Deli in Tampa, Fla., and convention chairman. “It was a real ‘bakers' show.” While RBA-Retail Bakers of America's Marketplace 2004 may have seemed smaller in terms of exhibit hall space than previous shows, attendees took full advantage of the many educational sessions offered, with many sessions filled to standing-room-only capacity.
This year's format brought back morning sessions, including baking tips and formulas for best-selling breads from Puerto Rico, presented by the Puerto Rican Baking Team. Fran Gage also demonstrated some of her favorite almond product formulas to help boost sales.
Our association [the Southeastern Retail Bakers Association] worked hard on content. Bakers come to the show first for education and second for walking the floor. I think we hit it right on the head,” Kalupa said.
Once the show floor opened, all events were staged within the exhibit area. Besides exhibitors' booths, attendees joined roundtable discussions to find solutions to common bakery challenges from other bakers, or watched hands-on demonstrations, such as making buttercream icing appear as smooth as rolled fondant.
The low-carbohydrate baking trend dominated the show floor. Low-carb mixes, frozen doughs and fully-finished products offered bakers labor-saving ways to appeal to customers watching their carbohydrate intake. Bakers and exhibitors also showed continued interest in Hispanic bakery products at this year's show.
Attendees took full advantage of all their time on the show floor, according to Kalupa. “When we were closing up the show, bakers were in the aisles still doing business,” he said. “One exhibitor even said that, and he used finger quotes, ‘at this little RBA show,' he sold more machines than ever before at any other show.”
One event that has continued to grow in popularity is the Creative Cake Decorating Competition. “The decorating competition has just bloomed, and really become the focal point of the show,” Kalupa said. Fourteen contestants, selected by their local bakery association, competed in the two-day competition for a chance to win more than $14,000 in prize money.
“I heard nothing but positive things,” Kalupa said. “Everybody I talked said ‘wow' this was a great show. The show itself was a bit smaller, but it was the best one in years.”
To back that claim up, Kalupa reported a first for RBA. Some exhibitors walked out of Marketplace 2004 already signed up for space in Marketplace 2005 in Chicago. “That hasn't happened at any other show,” Kalupa added.
Three bakers to compete in Paris
After three days of intense baking during competition finals at RBA's Marketplace, three winners were chosen-to represent the United States during the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking) to be held in Paris, France, April 18-20, 2005.
Members of the Bread Bakers Guild Team USA 2005 are: Jory Downer, Bennisons Bakery, Evanston, Ill., viennoiserie category; William Leaman, The Essential Baking Co., Seattle, Wash., artistic design category; and Jeffrey Yankellow, San Francisco Baking Institute, San Francisco, baguette and specialty breads category.
The newly formed team will spend hundreds of hours together and independently studying, planning and training for the international competition considered the Olympics of baking. Led by Team Manager Tim Foley of Bit of Swiss Pastry Shoppe, Stevensville, Mich. and Team Coach Didier Rosada of the San Francisco Baking Institute, Team USA 2005 will compete against 11 other countries in Paris next year.
Keep wedding cakes profitable
Offering creative wedding cakes that are also profitable can be a challenge for many bakeries. Marketplace's session, The Wedding Cake BusinessñProfit vs. Creativity, addressed ways to improve this segment of your business.
To help grow your wedding cake business, Chris Ketchum, Mason's Bakery & Deli, Ft. Myers, Fla., suggested focusing on networking. By developing relationships with florists, photographers and other wedding-related businesses, you can save money in advertising and grow business through recommendations, he said.
“Don't be concerned about price, charge for it,” said David McArthur, McArthur's Party Cake Bakery, St. Louis. McArthur's has a set price per tier, and charges extra depending on the decorations chosen.
Saundra Polletta, Edgewood Bakery, Jacksonville, Fla., also suggested giving the bride a final price without breaking it down. If it is more than she wants to pay, ask what the target price is and work the design down to match the price.
To help brides understand why some cakes, especially those from magazines, are so expensive, Bobbie Merritt, Merritt's Bakery, Tulsa, Okla., points out that the dresses in the magazines are expensive, therefore, so are the cakes.
RBA's 4th Annual Creative Decorating Competition
Pillsbury Grand Champion Winners
Flowers and Sprays with Borders