New Retail Bakers of America (RBA) President Richard Reinwald talks about his ideas for the future of the RBA and the baking industry.
You were recently named president of RBA. What are your goals for your term?
I feel privileged to serve as president of the RBA. As a third-generation bakery owner and having married a baker's daughter, I have long ties to RBA. My father-in-law served on its executive committee in the mid-1970s and always stressed the advantages of being associated with RBA. It is powerful to be part of a network of likeminded individuals, all looking for ways to grow their business, supporting families, reaching personal goals and satisfying the needs of the community. The industry is continuously changing, and RBA staff is quick to recognize it. It is my primary goal to stay ahead of the changing times and help guide our members into new, more profitable directions.
What issues are you going to make a priority?
First and foremost is to lasso technology and use it to benefit RBA and its members. The Internet has provided a wonderful channel that levels the playing field between big and small. I believe we can utilize technology to stay connected with our members in a way never before available. With so many technological advances, we have the option to make RBA's website consumer friendly, attracting more business to our industry and creating awareness of the industry as a whole.
Going forward, what role do you see RBA playing for retail bakers?
My home association is the New York State Association of Manufacturing Retail Bakers (NYSAMRB) — a long, complicated name but it aptly describes what we do. The retail baker must wear many hats to succeed. The average baker must rely on his/her own abilities to accomplish many tasks. It is rare for a bakery to have a board of directors. The greatest value I have received from RBA is the network of skilled bakers and business people, and the openness of members when discussing various problems and opportunities. There are for-profit companies that provide similar services, but typically at a hefty fee. As it advances, RBA will expand on the services it provides its members and be increasingly pro-active in communicating with them. RBA exists to support the goals and efforts of the retail baker. Members can look to their association to bring them business, provide training materials, formulas and marketing ideas, and represent them in governmental issues. We are the voice of the industry, and we intend to be heard.
The American Retail Bakery Expo (ARBE) will be teaming up with IBIE in 2010. What are the reasons and advantages to this partnership?
Committee members from RBA and IBIE worked long and hard to collaborate on what we call “one show for one industry.” This recently came to fruition. In this era of consolidation, it just made sense to develop the synergies that exist between the two groups. We are one industry sharing the same concerns. While there is much overlap, both groups recognize that there are differences in focus that maintain the need for two separate organizations.
What are your expectations for the show?
We are very excited to be part of the 2010 show, but are also enthusiastic about our own show — the 2009 ARBE this October in Charlotte, N.C. It will be a great celebration of everything retail. RBA is known to provide excellent educational programming.
Additionally, the contacts made and networking opportunities provided far exceed that of any other opportunity. In this day of online networking, it is important for industry professionals to have the chance to meet face-to-face. After all, that is what our business is all about — personal connections. Personally, I have seen a renewed sense of interest in RBA's shows. Bakers are so hungry for solutions, and they rely on RBA for answers.
What are the primary challenges facing the average retail bakery? What future challenges do you see on the horizon?
My parents were children of the Depression. Much has been written on how that event shaped the whole generation. Recent events have a similar effect. Business has been permanently altered. Bakeries cannot be operated the same as they were ten years ago; in fact, not the same as last year. The biggest change I see is that bakeries have moved from a basic “staff of life” commodity to a discretionary purchase. Most people could live their lives without ever stepping into a bakery. Bakers must learn to thrive in this new environment. Through RBA, we hope to scan the environment, identify new opportunities and develop new sales strategies.
Describe your experience in front of Congress. How were you received, going to bat for the retail baker?
This is a great example of how RBA and the American Bakers Association (ABA) are interconnected. It was a great experience to be able to voice the concerns of not just the retail bakers, but the bakery industry as a whole. My quote of, “Why are we putting food in our gas tanks instead of our stomachs?” was widely distributed. A friend of mine in England actually e-mailed me on this. Today, there is more emphasis on cellulosic ethanol to meet future mandates, so I feel that in some small way we opened some eyes. It was interesting to see first hand the senators and congressmen in action. I was struck by how it seemed all the senators agreed on the various causes of the crisis, but then appeared to back track to protect their constituents. As a result of this testimony, RBA has realized it needs to keep abreast of legislative actions or suffer the consequences. RBA has recently been involved with trans fat legislation, the Texas Cottage Bill and proposed OSHA material handling procedures.
Who came up with the idea for the Heritage Road Tour (see news, p. 9)?
One of my sons, Gregory, who lives in Los Angeles, is headed to University of Michigan for his MBA. Looking for a hand on his cross-country trip, he asked my other son and his younger brother, Thomas, for help with the move. The problem was, Thomas is interning with RBA and really couldn't take the time off work — unless he turned the trip into work. Thomas figured he could do some of his regular duties from a laptop on the road, and turn the trip into a project documenting and gathering information about what different bakeries are doing in different parts of the country. That was the seed.
They will Twitter as they go, but also recap every stop in longhand and update with a full report everyday online. When it's all said and done, they should have quite a compilation of information.
How can bakers use social networking sites that they may not completely understand?
I think the best way to explain it is to preceed it with the thought that, 12 years ago, we didn't accept credit cards. We then started taking credit cards, and they accounted for four or five sales per week. Now, credit card transactions account for more than 50 percent of our sales. Right now, Internet marketing and sales might seem very small, but the power of Internet marketing is growing. We started doing this less than a year ago, and now we take 10 to 20 orders per week online.
One of the questions I made sure my boys were asking bakers along the Heritage Tour was, “How do you market your bakery?” Hopefully this trip also will bring some awareness and serve as a call to action, telling folks that you can't let your business wallow in the past; you have to look at new things to promote your business. One of the other stock questions was, “What opportunities have you taken advanatage of, and how have they helped?” These are the things we're trying to impress upon bakers through this trip.
As you can see from my responses, RBA has been quite active on many fronts. I implore all members to make use of their benefits, and all bakeries who are not members should show support and seriously consider the advantages of being part of a group that has their best interest in mind.
What's new at Reinwald's Bakery? How are you adapting in a changing market?
We're looking at creating a sensible lifestyle line of desserts. We want to let customers know that if you are going to have dessert, make it good. Don't go for artifical sugar, artifical flavors or articifical fat; we want you to eat the real thing, just be sensible about it. We have a line of cookies with 10 percent less sugar and whole grain cookies, which are trans fat-free items. They are made with just butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla and whole wheat flour. Eat good food, enjoy it, but do so sensibly and responsibly. If you eat six donuts a day, what do expect is going to happen?
When people come in and make a choice, we see the younger families picking the whole grain cookies almost two to one. I make the regular chocolate chip still, but because my brother isn't ready to make the change.
We're also trying to see what we can do about our weaknesses. We did a version of a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis, and found our marketing to be lacking. We have a short term goal to do improve our marketing. One promotion is buy four cookies and you get a half gallon of milk, and now we're selling three times as many large cookies as we were because the milk is an attraction.
Any bakery that has been in business for more than five years should do a review, almost as if you are opening up a new business. If you just let it go day to day, you are going to let your business stagnate.