Uncovered During The Pandemic



Kerwin Brown

Kerwin Brown, BEMA President/CEO

Filling Industry Voids

We are amid a time of comparison and contrast, historical significance versus modern-day relevance, work-life balance versus stay-at-home orders, the comfort of an old-fashioned handshake versus the convenience of a video conference call.  While we navigate this period of transition, few of us have the luxury of a compass for guidance, particularly as we navigate something generally deemed “unprecedented.” In the place of a guided path, we’re exploring a re-imagined journey influenced by intuition and a fair amount of trust, counting on change as the only constant.

Uncovering and Discovering

While there are undeniable voids and upheavals created by the pandemic, we are also seeing new things (good things) uncovered and unearthed as a result. Ideas that once might have been dismissed for being too different or too outside the norm now have new validity. For example, can you imagine if at the dawn of the new year someone suggested the idea of school and work both entirely from home or the elimination of travel?


At that time, I don’t think these notions would have found many supporters. Yet, due to our forced acceptance of the pandemic environment, and the resulting voids created, we are making the choice to look at things with new eyes and a new mindset focused on creating meaningful solutions.

Examples are readily available, from teachers who are conducting education virtually, to frontline workers stepping forward to provide an element of normalcy for others. We are also witnessing examples of situational innovation within the baking industry. These are the culmination of intentional daily and hourly actions of suppliers and bakers who are bravely stepping into the unknown to keep production lines running, employees safe and food shelves stocked.

Looking out for Others

With in-person meetings currently off the table, we’ve been forced to reconsider our methods of communication. This includes replacing in-person visits with phone calls, text messages, more frequent emails and virtual events planned with the purpose to provide the feeling of connectedness and to share resources and strategies with business colleagues.

For BEMA, the difficult decision to cancel our annual convention gave rise to our Town Hall supplier and baker webinars. We broke ground by hosting our first Virtual Convention, opening BEMA’s reach to vastly new audiences. We were presented with the challenge to fulfill our mission in unique and impactful ways. Connecting and providing resources for our members and the industries they serve needed a new resolution. Thus, the catalyst of the #WeKneadYou initiative aimed at boosting sales for hard-hit QSRs, while subsequently helping to fill food pantries throughout the nation.

With assistance from many member companies, we raised $16,500 for Feeding America and brought smiles and appreciation to hundreds of essential workers. Recently, BEMA and our members came together for a unique, fun and insightful Virtual Telethon raising awareness and more than $40,000 for The Women’s Bakery. Giving is reciprocal, and the baking industry shines as an example.

Turning Losses to Gains

Each of these new plans and initiatives was born from the need to fill immediate voids. The result being the opportunity for individuals, businesses and the industry to move forward now and even more boldly in the future. The acts of sharing and collaboration demonstrate how the industry is dedicated to finding ways to look out for our own through the application of collective knowledge, compassionate efforts and teamwork, to elevate the industry during an incredible time in history.

Born out of necessity, such outcomes offer continued confidence in the diligence and foresight of the baking industry to chart a new path. Rich in tradition, we also wield a wealth of innovation. If such a prediction feels overwhelming in the moment, hold tight. With perspective and the gift of hindsight, this moment in time will remind us all how the industry began building something new together. Something bigger and bolder for the world of baking.

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