The American Bakers Association held its annual convention this week in Orlando, Florida drawing in around 500 industry members to talk trends, regulatory issues and network.
Kerwin Brown, president and CEO of BEMA, said the annual convention provided invaluable face-to-face business time.
“It’s a great place for industry to meet and get information on what’s going on… It’s really all the industry leaders in one place,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“Overall there’s a lot of energy and excitement – bakers are looking for solutions, whatever that might be, and so my message to equipment suppliers is engage.
“…You want to be talking to those people face to face and be engaged with them and hear what their issues are. There’s nothing like sitting down at a dinner or reception and talking to find out what’s going on. People have to invest; they have to engage or they’re on the outside looking in,” he said.
In particular, Brown said it was clear bakers had shifted up a gear in product development terms, wanting new shapes, sizes and concepts with every product launch or extension. “That is out of the box and it’s not going back into the box.”
Engagement with bakers, therefore, was increasingly important for equipment suppliers because of how competitive the market had become, he said.
“Overall, competition is getting stronger so without that face to face, you can be replaced. The relationship and engagement part is so important because we are in a global economy where bakers are looking for solutions and options and if you’re not in front of them all the time, they can find another option.”
He said bakers continued to demand machines that were flexible and efficient because they were still being squeezed by retailers. “That is not going away. They’re getting pressed for all kinds of things. The big retailers aren’t saying ‘I’m paying more’, they’re saying ‘I’m paying less’.”
Equipment suppliers therefore had to offer options that saved time, money and energy for bakers, he said. “There’s always a better way to do something.”