Thought Leadership: Changes, big and small, are transforming the baking industry

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Transformation is at the heart of the baking business. In fact, it’s what we do. Every facet of this industry is geared toward taking something (raw ingredients) and transforming it into something else (baked goods). Regardless of the specific nature of your involvement, you’re in the transformation business.

At times, it’s easy to get caught up in the transformation of our products and not realize that the world around us is transforming as well.  The baking industry is constantly changing. Managing our workforce, interpreting data and implementing technology advancements are moving the industry forward and transforming the way we do business.

The start of a new year seemed like a good time to take a deeper look at ways that transformation is happening all around us. I had the pleasure of speaking with three industry leaders that shared their insights.


Workforce reimagined

The most obvious transformation that has taken place recently is the creation of a more flexible work environment. The COVID-19 pandemic proved that a lot of work previously done in person can be done virtually, opening the door for some workers to have more options regarding when and where they work.

Eric Riggle, president of Rademaker USA, says this new way of working has transformed how his team plans their work.

“For us, what is very transformational is the flexibility around work – not having to be in the office or held to a certain time schedule. Our business continues to grow, and some of that comes down to the fact that people are working more effectively and with more satisfaction. They are working on their own terms.”

“We are getting away from the mentality of doing things the same way we have in the past.  We know we have to transform as a company. We need a more collaborative approach to issues and work, and that collaboration is making a huge difference. We are also looking outside of our industry, looking to other industries, to see how they are tackling problems – being outside-focused instead of inward-focused.”

As office-based employees take advantage of flexible working options, production workers are not finding those same options available, but Glen Long, senior vice president of PMMI, says the manufacturing industry is looking at ways to improve the work-life balance of this segment of the workforce as well.

“I think it’s difficult for our manufacturers because they have a portion of their workforce that can work from home and others who cannot.  The production staff has to be in the facility to make product.”

“What’s developed is what I call ‘the other side of the wall’ problem. Production workers don’t understand why their co-workers, on the other side of wall, are home working in a very casual and comfortable environment.”

“Manufacturing as an industry needs a solution to compensate or incentivize production workers, recognizing that they have to be in-person every day and the office staff does not. When we figure it out, it will be transformative.”

BEMA-Colors-Separator-Line-1-1536x10Data-driven decisions

Another area where transformation is taking place is in how data is being used to make better informed decisions. We live in an information age, and while at times it seems we have more data than we can use, data is a hot commodity.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the demand for data analysts will grow by nearly 25% in the next decade. Audrey St. Onge, BEMA board member and president of Lallemand, is already seeing a rising need for data analysis skills.

“The major focus has been really on transforming into a data-driven culture,” she says. “A shift in creating a data driven culture, that are factually based by having teams work together in a ‘hub and spoke’ model.  Meaning the data being the hub and the spokes being the different departments.  The collective approach drives quicker decisions around quality, productivity and cost that are all inter-related.”

As the industry begins to place more value on data, the need for new skill set is emerging.  “We will always have multi-generational workforces and for the most part, the incoming workforce enter with a higher level data engagement skill.  They are comfortable with computers and are curious of diving deeper in the data.”, St. Onge says.

No matter how companies choose to deal with the transformation caused by an infusion of data, St. Onge has no doubt that a data-driven culture is here to stay. People new to the industry will need to bring foundational knowledge of how to work with data to the hiring table.

“I would say confidently that data is the future. I think anyone coming into a business in this new frontier will have to have business intelligence as part of their experiential resume, at least a course or two. I’m not asking for data science experts, but I think higher level data skills are becoming a prerequisite for employment.”

BEMA-Colors-Separator-Line-1-1536x10The evolution of the tradeshow

It’s not just the workplace and the skills needed to succeed in the baking industry that are transforming, how the industry meets and does business is also undergoing a noteworthy change. Trade shows were once geared mostly toward putting buyers and sellers in the same space to make a transaction. Looking to 2023 and beyond, they are evolving into something much more.

Glen Long (PMMI) has seen the change first-hand.

“I think tradeshows have become more of an event, a gathering place. When I first started in the business as an exhibitor, attendees came to the trade show because they wanted to buy something. They walked the show floor to fulfill a project requirement or gather information. Now tradeshows are about several things – education, networking, and the commercial element. It’s a destination.”

One reason for this transformation is the ever-shrinking corporate travel budget. Tradeshows must provide value in multiple to justify the travel expense. The halt in travel during the pandemic changed many companies’ outlook.

Glen echoed the situation many are facing, “When travel stopped, that money dropped to the bottom line and those responsible for analyzing budgets started asking questions. ‘Are 8-10 show a year necessary?’ The ROI for each trip must be obvious.”

In September, it was clear at IBIE that attendees were looking for an experience beyond the exhibits.  They were looking not only for new products and innovative solutions, but also for opportunities to connect and participate in education and professional development.

BEMA-Colors-Separator-Line-1-1536x10Transformation is the future

One thing is certain in life, the world is always changing. As the baking industry transforms, we all have to make sure we’re keeping up with the transformation. Whether it’s how our teams work, how we use data to drive decisions, or how we connect with and do business with others in our industry, change is the constant; transformative vision is the future.

Change and transformation aside, the other constant in the baking industry is the power of relationships. While the methods we use to create and maintain those relationships may be the next big transformation, those connections will remain the heartbeat of the baking industry.

1 Comment
  • Rich Wall
    Posted at 11:57h, 27 January Reply

    Kerwin, thanks for your comments on Thought Leadership. We all must remember that the only thing that is constant is “change”. On the Evolution of the Tradeshow, I think BEMA was ahead of the
    educational format already with “BEMATech ’95” where BEMA established educational tracks for RBA, IDDBA, ABA, TIA , AIB, etc. in the mornings before the show opened at 12:00 noon. Our committee didn’t
    want to focus only on the Tradeshow Floor but offer all of our Allieds a platform to educate.

    Over the last (14) Baking Expo’s I’ve participated in, there have been many changes to the industry. All the mergers and acquisitions aside, BEMATech was focused on “new technology and education” rather than having every exhibitor bring thousands of square feet of machinery to overwhelm the attendees.

    I guess the saying, “less is more” was proven there in ’95 and ’99. To this day, 30 years later (from the establishment of BEMATech, I believe it was once of BEMA’s crowning achievements. Our association knows what to
    do and how to do it!

    I wish the BEMA Board and IBIE Committee all the best for continuing to Educate the entire Baking Industry today, tomorrow and in the future! Best regards always.

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