World of BakingAt iba 2009, which runs from Oct. 3-9 in Germany, bakers will be searching for technological innovations that can provide practical solutions to the complex challenges facing the industry as a whole.
By Dan Malovany
Around the world, the baking industry remains in the midst of change that’s providing a flurry of golden opportunities and stubborn challenges for every company serving the marketplace, according to the organizers of iba 2009, which runs from Oct. 3-9 in Düsseldorf, Germany.
It goes beyond the collapse of the global markets last fall. It’s a more of a long-term issue than the current credit crunch, which is not only debilitating cash-strapped companies, but also the entire financial systems of some nations as well. Even as the world economy slides into a severe recession, the ongoing winds of change are fundamentally modifying the way most bakers - both large and small - are approaching their businesses.
Like their U.S. counterparts, European bakers are seeing a slump in the amount of conventional bakery products being consumed at home during the last few years. Such a decline, however, is being offset by increased purchases of on-the-go breads, easy-to carry sandwiches, between-meal snacks and bite-sized sweet goods. Increasingly, for example, sliced breads are becoming components of prepared foods to make paninis that are sold in the deli, in restaurants and even in the freezer case as a microwaveable snack.
On the other hand, food processors and restaurant chefs are incorporating an international battalion of flatbreads ranging from tortillas and pita breads to Indian naan and Italian-style pizza crusts to not only add an ethnic flair, but also provide an assortment of handheld foods for today’s mobile culture.
In the traditional bread-eating countries in Europe, an appreciation for Old World artisan breads is being counterbalanced by use of frozen fully baked and parbaked products to compensate for what’s generally seen as a worldwide shortage of skilled labor. In Asia, however, the consumption of baked goods continues to skyrocket in many markets as more and more consumers fancy to the taste of European-styled breads, rolls, sweet goods and desserts.
It’s fair to say that globalization is no one-way development. Throughout Europe, American-style donuts, bagels and muffins are sold next to croissants and other traditional pastries. Although many bakeries sport their country’s most famous products, nearly all of them are selling products that are traditionally home to one or two other nations.
Take pizza, for instance. Every European city now has its share of Italian restaurants selling it by the slice. In some countries like Germany, sales of frozen pizza continue to surge as a greater number of consumers buy into the convenience of making restaurant-style, frozen pizza in their homes. Likewise, tortillas - better known as wraps - have become that “staple from the Americas” in the United Kingdom, Scandanavia and in many parts of mainland Europe. Who would ever thought the day would come when a “veggie wrap” was listed on the same menu as “fish and chips” or “bangers and mash” in a British pub?
Global Technological ChallengesAccording to show organizers, iba 2009 will reflect the internationalization of the markets of baked goods. More than 50% of nearly 1,000 exhibitors will come from abroad, and many of them will share common problems and can provide unique solutions.
For instance, when it comes to mixing, bakers like to have it both ways. On one hand, value-added baked goods filled with blueberries and other delicate inclusions will be obliterated if too much power is added to the mix. Slow is the way to go.
On the other hand, the momentum for hearty, premium and better-for-you breads poses new challenges for producers of more conventional sandwich breads. That’s because, on average, the typical power requirements for mixing have increased for a given batch size. As the result of this trend, the baking industry has seen the drive sizes for mixers move up.
Additionally, with rising energy costs and companies looking for any way to lower overhead, most new mixers come with variable frequency drives compared with energy-eating, two-speed drive systems.
Juggling balls can be as entertaining as a circus act, but inside the bakery, juggling production involves anything but a ball. With the barrage of new baked goods bombarding the bread aisle, changeovers have become the norm and operators need versatile equipment to schedule everything in one day.
Consequently, bakers require new makeup systems that gently handle everything from sandwich breads and hearth rolls to watery ciabatta dough and tempermental pastry dough. Proofers and ovens now must offer greater durability and the ability to produce a wider variety of baked goods around the clock. Many of them also are modular, which allows bakers to expand capacity easily as their businesses grow.
Furthermore, the latest generation of depositors must feature technological advancements that help them to handle the most delicate of fruits without turning them into slimy, slurry or puree. At the same time, bakers and other food manufacturers demand that systems be able to deposit everything from stiff frozen cookie doughs chocked full of nuts to a Quattro Formaggio, brick-oven pizza topped with five types of meat for the biggest eater in the house.
The industry, in no uncertain terms, is seeing a convergence of technological paradigms that provide solutions throughout the global bakery market.
What's Driving Innovation?In many ways, the internationalization of the global consumers’ diet has brought ethnic baked goods - whether they’re Mexican, Japanese, Polish or Moroccan - to the mainstream. As a result, today’s equipment suppliers must be aware of global food trends so they can design systems that can produce the increasingly diverse array of products.
At the same time, foodservice operators are asking for custom-designed breads and desserts that differentiate themselves from the competition. Although foodservice sales are expected to slide in 2009, consumers are not eating out less frequently. They’re just not spending as much money on their sandwiches, snacks, sweets and meals.
Over the last few years, most European countries have reported a decreasing consumption of bakery products at home while the consumption of baked goods outside the home increases significantly. This development is partly from the proliferation of single households and dual-career couples who find themselves unable to sit down together during traditional eating times.
With more convenient foods on the rise, retailers are opting to build smaller or medium-sized shops. The mega-stores and warehouse clubs that were popular in the early 2000s are being replaced by neighborhood stores that sell fewer packaged products and more freshly prepared, entrées-to-go and other meal solutions, especially in urban areas where most career people have little time to cook.
Simultaneously, as the baking industry consolidates, more bakers rely on freezing technology to distribute their products to broader markets. They’re also using enhanced information technology and more sophisticated enterprise structures that provide real-time data as well as suggestions to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs.
Ironically, the baking industry is one of the most fluid in the food industry, where dozens of upstart companies emerge in the market each year with innovative products that capture consumers’ imagination. As a result, the industry always is looking for the new technology that can solve problems and create new products that never even existed five or 10 years ago.
This year, iba 2009 provides the forum where new product innovation and the advances in technology meet. That’s why bakers across the world are marking their calendars to be in Düsseldorf from Oct. 3-9.
Besides, it’s October in Germany. What better time to cozy up with a few friends and share a tall stein of beer?
Editor’s Note: For more on iba 2009, visit www.iba.de. Or visit www.snackandbakery.com throughout the year for the latest updates on the show.