Given the rash of recent events negatively affecting baking
businesses, bakers were craving ideas and solutions.
The thirst for ideas was evident at the American Bakery Expo (ABE), held last month in Atlantic City, N.J. An estimated 4,600 attendees took part in educational sessions, watched demonstrations and searched the expo floor for inspiration.
“In a lot of respects, the baking industry has been slapped in the face this past year,” says Richard Reinwald, owner of Reinwald's Bakery, Huntington N.Y. “I think that people were there looking for efficiencies on all fronts-ingredients, equipment, labor and new ideas going forward.”
The Retail Bakers of America (RBA) provided an educational program that included tracks in business solutions, wedding cake business ideas and current baking trends. The following sessions addressed timely issues.
Addressing Mexican clientele
RBA collaborated with the National Chamber of the Bread Industry of Mexico (CANAINPA) to create a special instructional session in both Spanish and English. Maestro Victor Gomar Aguilera, the teaching and training instructor for CANAINPA, demonstrated ways for bakers to reach the Mexican clientele in their communities with sessions on Mexican breads and rolls, Mexican sweet rolls (pan dulce) and Mexican cookies (galletas).
Eventuality of trans fat-free
Reinwald; Noble Masi, Culinary Institute of America; and Scott Ericson, Cargill, spoke at a panel discussion on the current state and progress of no-trans fat (NTF) shortenings. Reinwald drew a comparison between trans fats and cigarettes; nobody is saying they are good for you. Bakers must work with local legislators and maintain a positive dialogue to bridge the gap between the realization that trans fats are bad and the creation of an ideal replacement oil.
Nothing to sneeze at
Deb Scherrer, vice president of educational programs for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, joined Brian Hinton, Lakeview Bakery, and Dan Dunford, ADM Research, to discuss the recent hot-button issues of food allergies and sensitivities. Scherrer distinguished food allergies, immune responses to ingested proteins that can result in a serious reaction called anaphylaxis, from food intolerances, metabolic disorders that cause digestive problems and discomfort. Retailer responsibilities to address this falls under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), requiring all packaged foods to contain labels identifying major food allergens a product contains. According to FALCPA, the major food allergens are milk, eggs, fish (e.g. bass, flounder, cod), crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (e.g. almonds, pecans, walnuts), wheat, peanuts and soybeans. A food ingredient that contains proteins derived from the preceding also is considered a major food allergen unless it is a highly refined oil derived from a food specified earlier or any ingredient derived from such highly refined oil.
Next year's ABE will be held Oct. 18-20 in Charlotte, N.C. The RBA is researching ways to modify future shows to ease costs associated with attending for suppliers and create an atmosphere that will better incubate personal relationships between bakers and suppliers.
Get ahead of changing consumer trends
“Consumer trends always change and evolve. A hundred years ago, they drank oil to be healthy,” said Phil Lempert during ABE's general session. Lempert is an author, syndicated columnist, radio talk show host and food editor for NBC's Today Show.
Lempert compared trends to elephants-big, lumbering and slow moving. In the food industry, it is important to not chase after trends, but to position yourself to be ahead them. For example, when low carb hit, successful retailers were already thinking low glycemic index, he said. Three current trends include country of origin labeling; “green,” as in sustainability and carbon footprint; and value for money spent, which doesn't necessarily mean cheap, but rather a perception of price equaling quality along with a relationship with the retailer.
In the climate of rising fuel and food prices, some new retail rules have emerged, Lempert added. Modern consumers have zero tolerance for error and it is all about them, the consumer. They also demand quality and excellent service. Excellent service is not simply answering the phone, but answering the phone on the first ring, he said.
Know your demographic
Retailers also have to understand food consumers, and they are not all alike. The United States is a diverse country, and you can no longer market yourself to a strictly Anglo-Saxon demographic. Generational differences also influence buying decisions. The Baby Boom generation is 76-million strong, and by 2010, the first of the Boomers will turn 65. This should influence how you do business, Lempert said. For example, the neighborhood-type grocery stores are doing well because Boomers don't want to shop in large supermarkets anymore. He suggested keeping in mind easy-open packaging, portion sizes and even the design of your stores with plentiful lighting and an easy-to-navigate layout.
“In retail, you must stand for something,” he said. “It's about branding; you must brand yourself.” Take Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, which offer two different retail approaches. At Starbucks, you pay $4 for coffee and they never want you to leave the store; they even introduce themselves, he added. On the other side is Dunkin' Donuts, where you pay $1.25 for coffee and they don't want you to linger. “Both work well because they both stand for something,” Lempert said.
Another example is that despite the suffering of traditional supermarkets, higher end supermarkets are doing well because they have associated themselves with organic or positioned themselves as specialty stores. Supermarkets lost 7 percent of food dollars between 2005 and 2008. The growth is coming from organic and specialty food stores.
Make sampling a party
Celebrating also is key. Celebrate when you sample by having an employee physically present the samples to the customers. Celebrate the sale by providing an excellent check out experience for the customer. That is your last connection with the customer, and it is the last thing the customer will remember about his experience, so make sure it is a good memory, he said.
To be successful, all retailers should ask themselves three questions: What is the next big trend? What are the three things you'd like to know about your customers that you don't know? What retail innovation during the last year blew you away (not food related)?
As for the future, Lempert said it will be focused on catering to health and wellness, offering convenient shopping experiences and celebrating food.
Colorful cupcake designs
Liv Hanson, The Whimsical Bakehouse, presented “Small Wonders-Cupcake Art” at ABE's Cake Décor Demo Theatre. The four ways to ice a cupcake are to spread or flat ice the cupcake, pipe the icing on, dip the cupcake or se a glaze. One simple icing technique is to use a star or round tip placed near the outer edge and go around the cupcake until reaching the center.
For a more elaborate cupcake, Hanson suggested using variegated buttercream. Fit a bag with petal tip No. 104, and align a stripe of white icing with the narrow end of the tip. Fill the remainder of the bag with another color. Then, with the wide end of the tip facing the center of the cupcake, hold the bag flat and pipe large petals around the cupcake. For the next row of petals, hold the bag at 25° angle as you pipe with the narrow end of the tip up. For each successive row of petals, angle the bag more. Then, pipe a small bud in the center.
To create a sunflower, use leaf tip No. 352. Begin piping 1/4 in. to 1/2 in. in from the outer edge of the cupcake. Hold the bag at a 35° angle, and pipe a row of yellow v-shaped petals by squeezing the bag and pulling out, lessening the pressure as you go. For the second row of petals, increase the angle of the bag and pipe another layer. Fill the center with chocolate or use tip No. 132 to pipe chocolate dots for the seeds of the sunflower.