This year’s Dairy-Deli-Bake Seminar & Expo was a hit all around, according to Executive Editor Marina Mayer, thanks to high attendance, a bevy of new bakery products and, oh yeah, that Joe Montana guy.

Often times when I attend tradeshows, I tend to skip the pre-show seminars and head straight to the show floor. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that I enjoy meandering from booth to booth, meeting new people and learning about new products versus sitting in a stuffy room listening to someone I don’t know talk about things I know nothing about.

However, the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA)’s 2011 Dairy-Deli-Bake Seminar & Expo, which is hosted by the IDDBA, Madison, Wis., and took place June 5-7 in Anaheim, Calif, is known for bringing the best of the best to the center stage, delivering presentations on everything from management and vision to supermarket merchandising tips and brand positioning. This year’s conference was no exception to the rule. Between Condoleezza Rice, Guy Fieri, Sinbad and Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, to name a few, this all-star cast took turns wooing the crowd and driving home key remarks about life, business and the future of tomorrow.

Yes, even I succumbed to putting my handmade Excel spreadsheet of appointments and contacts on hold to get up close and “personal” with the “cast of this year’s IDDBA.”

On the last day of the show, I, like most of the attendees, headed into the conference room early to score prime seating to see the most talked-about celebrity to grace the stage at this year’s show.
Mr. Joe Cool himself, Joe Montana (yes ladies, he is just as good looking in person as he is on paper and TV).

While strategically moving from row to row, I finally nabbed a front-row seat, perfect for taking pictures with my Blackberry and posting on Facebook (primarily to make the men in my life-husband, brother and father-jealous).

Halfway through his speech though, after the shock and awe wore off, I began to really listen to what he had to say. Montana spoke of the fundamentals of business, trust and preparation. He believes that “sports teach life lessons without saying words,” and that “people are more motivated by losing because winning is what you’re supposed to do.” I learned that he’s turned down ABC’s Dancing With the Stars four times, saying that the show would need to be renamed “White Guy Dancing Ugly.”

While I was unsuccessful at tackling him for an autograph (or even a hug would’ve sufficed), I thought to myself, you know what? He’s right. Nobody likes losing. In fact, yes, we’re all programmed to do the right thing, and that’s win. Not the Charlie Sheen kind of “winning,” but being the best we can be at all times.

As my late grandfather would say, “life is a game; play to win.”

That being said, I gathered up my chicken-scratch spreadsheet (and my composure) and headed out to the show floor to win at my own game, otherwise
known as my job.

In addition to sparkling commentary and an outstanding host of famous faces, IDDBA 2011 was home to 1,500 exhibitors, more than 8,000 attendees and a 10,000-sq.-ft. retail merchandising center featuring new products, innovative merchandising ideas and action themes.

The show provided competitive insight on new products, packaging and services, enabled visitors to interact first-hand with businesses and displayed the Show & Sell center, which encourages attendees to seek out new ideas and products, create merchandising programs and teach retailers how to use these concepts to sell more products and satisfy customers. It’s no Joe Montana, but nonetheless, is still a pretty cool creation.

The expo also helped bakers introduce a slew of developments, including Cookiehead Snacks’ Grainy Brainy Wakey cakes, produced by The Top Food Co., Inc., Housatonic, Mass.; YoGo Greek yogurt cakes made by Metsovo Baking Co., Bloomingdale, Ill.; Oven2Table, a shelf-stable, bake-at-home bread that comes in a modified atmospheric package (baked by Oven2Table, Oak Park, Ill.); Rye, N.Y.-based Sara Snacker Cookie Co.’schipn’etzel,a buttery, shortbread-based cookie, baked with crunchy potato chips and pretzel bits; and Panellini little breads from IHB Italian Home Bakery, Canada.

From the looks of the home-run attendance and the onslaught of new products, Mr. Joe Cool isn’t the only one winning. This year’s IDDBA was a hit all around, and yes, it even enticed me to attend a few seminars along the way. I’d say, that’s winning.