American Bakers Association’s 2024 Convention: Unveiling innovation, advocacy and community service in Scottsdale

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

ABA 2024: Unveiling innovation, advocacy and community service in Scottsdale

Related tags American bakers association

The ABA’s 2024 Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona, is set to kick off tomorrow, promising an array of activities, workshops and networking opportunities. We caught up with Eric Dell, president and CEO of ABA, to get the inside scoop on what attendees can expect.

Dell anticipates over 500 attendees, maintaining the record-breaking numbers from the previous convention. Notably, about 100 attendees will be newcomers, signifying the industry’s dynamism and growth.

“The industry is dynamic. It’s changing, it’s evolving, it’s alive and it’s new people entering the channel and the industry, which is cool,” he told this site.

While there isn’t a specific theme for this year’s convention, Dell said it will emphasize three pillars.

“We’re providing networking, thought leadership and research. We’ll be unveiling five research projects, that are timely, packed full of value and good information that will help folks build and growth their businesses.”

Thinking outside the box

The event has lined up a roster of dynamic speakers.

“Eric Qualman is our opening keynote speaker, talking about digital transformation,” said Dell.

“AI is really pushing the limits on business and making people think outside of the box, which is what we’re trying to do with this Convention as well.”

Think outside the box packaging LvNL
Pic: GettyImages/LvNL

In his entertaining fashion, the Equalman founder will cover three critical organizational outcomes:

  • How AI is revolutionizing the way we live and work and how your organization can harness AI to drive innovation, enhance customer experiences, and streamline operations.
  • Overcoming the challenges these new technologies present including successfully navigating ethical implications, job adjustments, algorithmic bias, privacy, security and more.
  • Striking the right balance between AI and Eye-to-Eye (Jetsons + Flintstones).

Dell said Qualman will “have his green glasses on – which is kind of his thing” and promises a surprising for everyone in the room.

Leading with purpose

Bakers in training Getty
Pic: GettyImages

The second day features Ben Nemtin, cofounder of the Buried Life Movement, who will focus on why and how effective leaders need to go deeper to help teams reach their true potential.

“Nemtin will talk about team resilience, how to build a strong team and putting together your bucket list of what you want to do with your team and what you want to do in life,” said Dell.

Highlights include a simple framework for connecting with your team around their personal and professional goals; building a culture of belonging where team members know it’s ok to ask for help; creating a renewed feeling of purpose and trust within your team; and how to get your team to reigniting commitment to the organization.

One of the business sessions will be hosted by Anne Marie Roerink of 210 analystics, to unravel the latest Bakery Playbook insights. From meal occasion and delivery methods to nutrition claims, the research examines the key ingredients that make bakery categories an integral part of the American lifestyle.

The gist breakfasts

Red tape Getty
Pic: GettyImages

Advocacy remains a cornerstone for ABA and will be evident at the Convention in the form of two breakfasts focused on state and federal policy.

The ABA Government Relations team – including VP Rasma Zvaners and state affairs manager Bill Dumais – will brief attendees on the key federal legislative and regulatory issues currently affecting the baking industry, insights into why they matter for your business, how ABA is tackling them and ways you can be involved.

“When I came in as CEO a little over a year ago, one of my missions was to double down to advocacy,” said Dell, who is putting his years of experience on Capitol Hill to work, to open the opportunities that working with congress has for the US bakery industry.

“We had a great advocacy program in place, but we set a target to extend it to the next level and in doing so, highlight that function in all of our events held all year round.

“One of the most important values for our members is the advocacy work we do and  educating our lawmakers; fighting on behalf of the industry to protect but also promote it; and bringing both parties together to hopefully come up with solutions.

“It’s important that we educate our attendees on what’s happening in Washington and other States around the country – as well as in Europe. It’s important that we keep a close eye on the global situation – not only in terms of sustainability issues but on the advocacy front too, because our members are doing a lot of work in the international space,” he told Bakery&Snacks.

A home run

Cool baker Getty
Pic: GettyImages

Beyond the business of the day, attendees can look forward to a range of activities like pickleball and golf tournaments, and even a chance to let down their hair with a Sunrise Hike, a ‘dutch’ dinner around town and even a salsa and margarita competition, among others.

“We’ve almost 80 people playing pickleball, along with a large number of bakers playing golf this year, so with those kinds of opportunities to step back and just get to know your industry colleagues in different ways combined with the thought leadership, it’s going to be a home run,” said Dell.

Giving back

Parent giving child bread Getty
Pic: GettyImages

And aligned to its ethos of giving back to the community, the Bakers Give Back Community Service Event and Luncheon will see delegates packing over 1,000 hygiene kits with shelf-stable packaged snacks for the Phoenix Rescue Mission to distribute to locals who are homeless or in need.

“The foundation of the Convention is based on our strategic plan in growing the category, around workforce and being the best Association we can be. So you’ll see that theme throughout every program at the Convention – that is, giving back, talking about how we’re going to give back and helping our communities.

“One thing I have learned about the baking community is they are so giving and are humble about it. They give back more than almost any industry I’ve ever seen, to their communities, to their customers, their employees and their teams.”

Another highlight is the business session focused on Promoting Grain Nutrition to Consumers, which underscores the ABA’s and the wider industry’s commitment to education and nutrition.

Members of the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF) Scientific Advisory Board – including Michelle Kijek, Siddhartha Angadi and Glenn Gaesser – will run attendees through grain-based nutrition research and how those fact-based resources can reach consumers.

The American Bakers Association (ABA) is the US’ largest, longest running and most inclusive baking industry community. Its 2024 Annual Convention is being held at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, from April 14-17.

“It’s no big surprise that cost and inflation is really front of mind for consumers right now in how and what they’re purchasing in baked goods,” said Dell.

“We have a great partnership with GFF, both with a mission to educate around nutrition in the bakery space. I think we complement each other and don’t duplicate efforts, so this will help to grow the category.”

The convention promises to be an enriching experience, combining education, networking, and advocacy to propel the baking industry forward.


I’ll see you there.

Related news

Show more

Follow us


View more