Last week I was in Las Vegas for the International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE 2022). Note: I have a love – hate relationship with that city. With nearly 1000 global exhibitors, it’s the first international baking show in North America since 2019. More importantly, we know a lifetime has happened in those three years. From the sourdough craze in home baking to the supply chain disruptions, the industry has weathered the global pandemic and remains resilient today as we continue in complex times. Tasting, learning and networking. Let’s explore my IBIE wrap-up with the top three highlights that resonated with me the most.
Donuts and coffee
I usually cover nutrition and health updates at these events. However, I’ve been covering those trends the past three years and nothing new or novel jumped out at me at IBIE. As a result, I’m going old school with the Dawn Foods exhibit which baked donuts each morning served up with coffee (regular and decaffeinated). And those donuts did not disappoint with flavours like lemon old fashioned (my favourite), carrot cake and dark devils’ food cake. My IBIE wrap-up recommendation is networking and celebrating with colleagues I haven’t seen in three years. Why not over a donut and coffee?
In addition to hitting a home run on the exhibit floor, Dawn Foods did a good job in their sponsored speaking session about Consumer Trends. What I really enjoyed about their presentation – it was based on global data. The four trends highlighted in the presentation included: 1) Tech Transformation – embrace the omnichannel paradigm; 2) Experience Exploration –emphasis on nostalgia; 3) Daily Delights – focus on treats to be delicious and be worth it; and 4) Mindful Matters – think clean label, sustainability and planet forward practices. The presenter also identified how all four trends are interconnected. A worthwhile educational session!
In general, the food industry has been slow to automate. With the baking sector lagging in AI, automation and robotics, it was great to see several solutions at IBIE. Currently, there is a tight labour market in the baking industry. The flexibility of robotics is one of the automated solutions most in demand when fewer people apply for jobs. I met up with Peter Rasmussen of FESTO Corporation for the soft gripper demo. That’s Peter’s hand in the photo!
Peter did a great job of explaining and demoing. This new generation of soft customizable, hand-like grippers from Festo allows robots to be deployed in applications where individual baked goods are handled. The grippers are designed to meet the requirements of the modern bakery. They can pick and place all sizes and formats. Advancements in design allows for handling odd-shaped items with icing like muffins and cupcakes. The grippers’ finger like movements are ideal for end of the line packaging. Food safety and ease of cleanability, quick and simple changeovers, and low energy consumption are all part of the design. Very impressive!
Social Consciousness – Justice
In the food industry, we have been talking social responsibility for a while. The past three years has accelerated the meaningfulness and measurement of the topic. A long-time enthusiast of Puratos, I wanted to understand more about their Bakery School Foundation. The Bakery School Foundation was founded in 2014 to provide a path for highschoolers to build a career in the baking industry. This initiative is part of Puratos’ commitment to making life changing social contributions that move the planet forward and support future generations. The program provides critical training and life changing opportunities for young people and introduces more skilled baking expertise into an industry that needs a sustainable pipeline of talent.
I sat down at the show with Puratos North America President Paul Bakus. Paul explained to me Puratos has opened six Bakery Schools across the globe. The bakery schools have graduated 258 students to date. Most recently, the first U.S. Bakery School program was open in partnership with Pennsauken High School in New Jersey. There are 59 students enrolled in the first class and they will graduate in four years – in 2026. The students will have two years of vocation and two years of internship (real world experience). They will graduate with skills suited for immediate employment in both artisan and commercial bakeries. Also, they will receive a Certificate in Baking Pastry and an industry recognized certification from the Retail Bakers of America. I absolutely love this initiative!
IBIE wrap-up special mention
Talking LOVE…I am a Cirque du Soleil fan and a Vegas visit would not be complete without seeing a performance. This time it was LOVE at the Mirage. And I loved it. It was colourful, upbeat, dancing along with acrobatics. Coincidentally, Healthy Food Ingredients (HFI) booth display had a similar camper van to the one in the LOVE show. I’m a supporter of HFI, especially the work they are doing with ancient grains and seeds for the baking industry. The HFI van was a fun way to capture an IBIE photo!
Photo credits: Puratos images supplied, all other images are credited to Jane
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