Expo’s success as catalyst for baking’s future

by Morton Sosland
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Granted the success of this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition, as reflected in nearly universal praise, the 2010 Baking Expo provides one of those rare occasions for appreciating what baking has been doing and for setting a clear future course. If any common theme may be derived from a show that drew 20,000 to Las Vegas, it has to be that baking is emerging from the global downturn in stronger and sounder condition than almost any other part of the food industry, if not industry in general. To note that this great event came from a base that had plenty of apprehension confirms not just that baking did relatively well in the recent past, but that the industry’s executives know what is required of them to assure continued growth and, yes, prosperity.

It is impossible to come away from a show like the one in Las Vegas with firm numbers quantifying the exact amount of business done. Suffice it to note that equipment manufacturers, large and small, found the response to the huge array of offerings on display in that vast space to be more than just satisfactory. Many noted that first-day business exceeded the totals realized over the entire course of previous shows. Sure, much of the buying focused on cost-saving approaches driven by the latest in electronic technology. But even this need for achieving efficiencies in baking production was matched by concerns about product improvement and innovation as well as ways to embrace the expanding emphasis of retailers and even consumers on concepts like sustainability. Yes, ways of reducing consumption of fuel, water and other resources loomed large for many bakers, but the advances in these areas that baking has made in the past were not overlooked.

While it’s equipment makers who most often view the I.B.I.E. as an opportunity to make sales to such an ideal audience, this year’s Expo was far from being just another show for ingredient companies. Perhaps it was the recent wild volatility of markets that prompted bakers to display eagerness to learn about new ingredient approaches. Obviously, within the basic flour category attention centered on whole grain and similar ingredients that respond to consumer demands. Hardly any issue was more on the minds of bakers than finding ways to provide quality in taste and texture while heeding mounting concerns about obesity.

Like the way that quality of a product depends on quality of ingredients, the success of this year’s Expo importantly originated with the makeup of the registrants. Estimates indicate that nearly a third were from outside the United States, with large numbers from beyond North America. A great deal of effort went into promoting the show among foreign bakers, and the obvious way in which this worked stimulated considerable enthusiasm. Not only did the thousands of non-U.S. participants broaden opportunities for exhibitors, but their presence along with their intense interest stirred the excitement characterizing the show.

Positive energy from foreign registrants benefited from the large number of retail bakers drawn to Las Vegas by their association joining with the American Bakers Association and BEMA in sponsoring this show and in planning for future collaborations. Three competitions for retailers on the Expo floor added novelty, helping to create a much livelier environment. New to this show were special educational programs aimed at helping bakers learn in that very special atmosphere about what was happening in baking and how profitable participation is possible.

Last, but not least, great thanks are due the 2010 I.B.I.E. Committee that worked long and hard to make Baking Expo 2010 an unqualified success. And, yes, the return to Las Vegas figured prominently in this result. But after all is said and done, the show itself stands as the catalyst for renewed growth in all parts of baking, giving everyone who attended and many others who stand to benefit a marvelous new foundation for building baking’s business.

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